FOUR YEARS ago few members of the Class of 1971 would have believed that on their Commencement Day bombers would still fill the skies over Indochina, that the government of the United States would still attempt to keep the press from printing the truth about his immoral war, that thousands of Asians would still face death at our expense.
And one year ago few members of the class would have believed that their Commencement (at the University that gave us napalm, Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, William P. Bundy, John T. McNaughton, Leonard S. Unger, Henry A. Kissinger and a whole cast of infamous academies eager to discuss a brutal war in sterile, amoral phrases would pass quietly, without a murmur of antiwar protest.
But the quiet in the Tercentenary Theatre this morning, as everyone knows, does not indicate that the war is now more popular, nor that the University's means of repression have frightened Harvard students into abdicating their responsibility to judge this war and the men and institutions that made it.
No, the quiet in the Yard simply indicates that we know that by now almost everyone has finally come to see the depravity of the American involvement in Southeast Asia. There's little point in shouting and waving banners today. The student movement discovered last spring that no amount of shouting would move the Nixon Administration to stop the slaughter, that no amount of shouting would persuade Congress to step in and attempt to save America's soul. We had learned the year before that neither shouting nor reasoned arguments could persuade even this University to face the facts of the war's insanity and of the University's deep involvement in it.
The University and the nation keep their heads stuck in the sand, stubbornly refusing to face the fact that America picked a fight with North Vietnam and proceeded to cause the deaths of one million people. And so the Class of '71 has become grateful for small favors: We adore the liberal Democrats who cast futile votes for the McGovern-Hatfield amendment. But can those votes make up for the fact that the liberal Democrats-by duplicity and stupidity-got us into the war in the first place? We praise the New York Times for attempting to publish the truth about the war at this late date. But the Times' current series of articles can be only partial atonement for the thousands of times that newspaper took the government's murderous lies at face value and distributed them around the world. We are happy that the Faculty ordered ROTC, the uniformed symbol on campus of mass murder, to leave with our class. But the same Faculty still embraces those members of the Government Department who would love to play God if only they could get to Washington, and the Government Department holds a place open for Henry Kissinger, whose academic credentials are surpassed only by his credentials as a war criminal.
So the war goes on as the Class of '71 picks up its stack of diplomas. It is a class resolute in its hatred of the war and the sicknesses that produced the war, but it is a class still at a loss to know how to cure the sicknesses and stop the slaughter.
And the kids of the Class of 1975 who will arrive here in September are probably convinced that the killing will be over, surely, by the time of their own happy Commencement Day.