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Keep the Sheet Flying


Those were the days when University Hall was invaded and cleared, politics as I guess they've done in other decades, took their place in the students' minds and on our coverage of the paper. It is evident to me tonight that things have changed somewhat by the official representation we have at this dinner which I don't think we could have mustered a couple of years ago. I don't know to whose change we should attribute that, (laughter). At the time we on The Crimson or perhaps me especially since I was getting angry phone calls from members of the Faculty. I was worried about the tone that The Crimson was taking and whether or not we were becoming excessively an irritant in the University's side. If we were, as some high University officials used to say, contributing to the downfall of liberal education in America. I was especially worried when during those times when my sister applied to Radcliffe and made the mistake of putting on her application that she had a brother at the College and was turned down. Since that time I have realized that(a) if we had had a sense of history we would have realized that The Crimson in past years had been through this same cycle and had survived and (b) if we had had any foresight at all we could have seen that our experience with the Harvard Administration was much like the experience which the national press in its slower way would follow a few years later.

We could have seen the isolated President syndrome which we came to know well, would have its duplicates in the national arena, (applause). We would have seen, too, that the press-buster figures which used to come out of Massachusetts Hall, talking about closing down the pinko-rags, would also show up in the White House and the Vice-President's offices. I think now that I have two-and-a-half years perspective on the whole occasion (laughter), I think what I can say is that all I regret about those years when we were running The Crimson is that we were or that I was excessively cautious, too afraid that being an irritant to the University was something bad, that if those running the institution were upset with the paper that was a sign that something was wrong in our coverage of the news. And I think that all of us who were there in those days and saw that there were things which had to be told which did not sit well with all the community, we've profited from that, I've profited from it, I think all the rest of us have too. Mr. Halberstam spoke several minutes ago about the lack of awe for figures in respect which The Crimson taught the people of his generation. Well, saying we learned a lack of awe is like saying that Spiro Agnew has overcome shyness in the White House. It was like a sense of awe was not the biggest trouble we had to overcome. I think that no matter what the bad consequences of those years might be, and I have in mind. The Independent, University gifts, etc. that it did keep The Crimson strong and showed that it was not afraid of being an irritant.

Now, I hate to end any seven generation or seven decade progression like this as the voice of youth or any such deadly thing, but I think I, am almost uniquely qualified among my class to say something about The Crimson since as far as I can tell I am the only one who is not in law school, medical school, graduate school, but simply trying to work as a journalist, and if any of you was upset, The Crimson is still basically the same place it was when you were here and still doing as well as it did, (standing ovation).

Robert Decherd: Thank you, Jim. So that some of our older alumni won't think that we have purposely miffed the third president in the Harvard progression from President Conant to President Bok, President Pusey was unable to attend, but did write that he had read The Crimson on and off over the past 50 years and regretted not being able to do so.

I want to thank our speakers for their well put words. I think their recollection, for me have been fascinating in a way, and I hope they were for everyone here. I had planned to make a small pitch about the press which we decided to buy this morning at our Graduate Board Meeting (applause), but the hour is a little late for that and I'm sure you'll hear from me soon enough. I'd like to end by doing two things. One, I'd like to read a short editorial that we're going to run on Wednesday, which is The Crimson's Centennial date. It begins with one sentence from The Crimson of January 25, 1943 which was the paper's seventieth birthday, and that sentence said--it was in the middle of the editorial that's in the Centennial Issue now--"The peace and war, prosperity and depression, cynicism and faith, liberalism and conservatism of those years are captured on its pages." And our editorial begins, "One hundred years ago today...[see page 2]...(applause).


One thing before I do conclude the ceremonies. Someone passed me a note a while ago that we never voted on the resolution which Dan Swanson put forth so I guess we should follow procedures and anyone who would like for that resolution to be passed should raise their hand. I for one will join. (Vote). I want to--is anyone opposed to it? Well this is a typical editorial board meeting. We've had many such close votes.

The last story I want to pass down is something I picked up third hand two months ago. It had to be retold to me because I forgot it. It may or may not be corrected, but the story goes, and I think it is a fitting ending, maybe in a sense a toast to The Crimson and to the Centennial that we've all been through the last two days. A Centennial which I might add I think from what people have said to me has meant more in an institutional way than any Harvard Reunion or office party every could. But the story goes that when The Crimson was celebrating its sixtieth anniversary in 1933, FDR who had been president of the paper in 1904, was being inaugurated--much the same problem we had when Casper Weinberg '38, couldn't be here tonight--was invited to attend the festivities by hopeful editors who were throwing a dinner. They awaited his response and it never seemed to show up, they were beginning to wonder whether they should leave a place for him at the head table. Soon before the dinner he sent a telegram woefully declining the invitation with some gentle advice that serves well today and maybe a good closing note: "I'm sorry that I cannot attend your celebration," Roosevelt wired, "Keep the old sheet flying." Thank you all for coming very much--good night. (applause).

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