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Medical difficulties forced author Ron Kovic to cancel his scheduled Class Day speech yesterday.
Late Tuesday night Kovic informed the 1990 Class Committee through a spokesperson that he was too ill to make the six-hour airplane trip from Los Angeles to Boston. Kovic is a parapalegic, having been wounded while fighting in the Vietnam War with the Marines.
"A chronic condition that flares up occassionally" kept Kovic from coming to Harvard, according to spokesperson Ellie Dugan. The stress of travel likely would have forced Kovic to be hospitalized upon his arrival in Boston. Dugan added that Kovic's condition is related to injuries he sustained while in Vietnam.
"He was heartbroken," Dugan said. "Speaking at Harvard was something he wanted to do so badly."
Kovic wrote Born on the Fourth of July, a semi-autobiographical account of his experiences in Vietnam and of his return home. The book, later adapted as an award-winning movie, charts the change in Kovic's attitude toward American society and illustrates how a gung-ho patriot transforms himself into a passionate protester for peace.
Most seniors did not know that Kovic would not speak until Radcliffe First Marshal Jennifer E. Brumage made an announcement during her welcoming address.
Students expressed regret that Kovic cold not attend, while wishing him a speedy recovery. "I was just sitting her waiting for him," said Marilena Barletta '90. "People are so disapointed."
Kovic is the first scheduled Class Day speaker to cancel. In 1968, an assassin killed the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. a little more than a month before King's scheduled Class Day appearance at Harvard. King was the first class Day speaker to be chosen by members of the sneior class.
King's wife spoke in her husband's place, and used the occasion to criticize President Lyndon B. Johnson's response to the murder both of her husband and of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy '48.
John David Brewington, Jr. '90, a class marshal, spoke in Kovic's place.
Kovic also cancelled a scheuled appearance in Somerville.
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