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West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl will deliver the principle address at this year's Commencement Exercises, a source close to Kohl confirmed yesterday.
A major figure in the European political scene who is expected to be the principle architect of a reunified Germany, Kohl has accepted Harvard's invitation and plans to attend on June 7, the source said.
"It's been confirmed in informed circles that he's coming," the source said, adding that he did not know when Kohl had accepted Harvard's offer or the details of the chancellor's visit.
"All I know is that he's going to come," the source said.
A source close to the Commencement planning said last night that there had been "concern" among some University officials about the selection, and that as a result there was the possibility that Harvard could break with tradition and have more than one Commencement speaker.
The source declined to elaborate on the specifics of the planning process. Harvard spokesperson Peter Costa and University Marshal Richard M. Hunt refused comment last night.
In a year which has seen dramatic changes rock the area's political frame work, Kohl is the second major European leader invited to speak at Commencement. Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel was asked to speak earlier this year, but turned the offer down because it conflicted with the first free parliamentary elections in his country since World War II.
Kohl also becomes the fourth straight world leader--and the second German in four years--to deliver the Commencement address, following Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto '73, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and West German President Richard von Weizsacker.
With the rapid disintegration of Europe's bipolar division, a soon-to-be-reunited Germany is emerging as the linchpin of a new order in the region, symbolized by the European economic union slated for 1992.
Chief among the players in the restructuring process has been Kohl, who has accelerated plans for reunification between West Germany and its tottering sister regime in the East.
"There is no doubt that at this moment, with German reunification staring us in the face, Mr. Kohl is the man of the hour," said emeritus Stanford history professor Gordon A. Craig, considered one of the country's premier experts on Germany.
Kohl, a Christian Democrat, actively campaigned for the unification-minded Alliance for Germany in the pivotal East German elections last month, leading the conservative party to an upset victory over the Social Democrats.
Although not known for an engaging speaking style, the 60-year-old chancellor addressed hundreds of thousands of East Germans during the recent campaign, and many of them greeted him with chants of "Helmut! Helmut!" and "We are one people!"
Kohl, who took office in 1982, was considered a low-key political figure before the recent upheaval in Europe, known for his strong ties to the European Community and NATO. But in the last election, the conservative leader emerged as a strong nationalist, courting the popular vote with promises of a better life through German unity.
"He is a man who has been constantly underestimated," said Ford Professor of International Security Joseph S. Nye, who would neither confirm nor deny reports of Kohl's Commencement address.
But the West German has met with much criticism for the rapid pace with which he has pursued reunification, and political opponents have suggested that he is overeager to on go down in history as the father of a new Germany.
Kohl is the latest in a long series of major world figures invited to Harvard's graduation ceremonies, which on occasion have served as a platform for the unveiling of groundbreaking policy initiatives.
The most famous example was the 1947 speech by then Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who announced the "Marshall Plan" for rebuilding war-torn Europe.
The address by von Weizsacker three years ago was planned as the 40th commemoration of Marshall's speech.
Kohl came to Commencement last year to see his son Walter graduate from the College, but the German leader shunned publicity during the visit.
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