If I were Colin Powell, I would decline Harvard's offer to speak at Commencement. Not because of the agitation and protest that my opposition to gays in the military has provoked or the possibility that ACT-UP radicals will try to disrupt my speech. After all, Powell has seen real combat--the kind most Harvard folks, like me, hopefully never will. When compared to grenades and aerial bombardment, the harangues of malcontents seem rather harmless.
No, Powell should stay home during Commencement and do something worthwhile--like go fishing. In my opinion, the Class of '93 just isn't worth his time. And I'm in that class.
Ever since our rebellious ancestors threw the Reversed Officers Training Corps (ROTC) off campus amid the upheavals of the '60s, Harvard has grown increasingly scornful of the military. While the current flap concerns the compatability of homosexuality and combat, the real issue here is Harvard's total detachment from--and in some instances, barely concealed distaste for--the very institution of the military itself.
It's ironic, because no one owes a bigger debt of gratitude to people like Powell than members of the Harvard community. We're fortunate. Most of us didn't have to join the military for financial reasons, and none of us have yet had to because America needed us. For that, we can thank the volunteer force which Powell leads.
While its invitation to Powell is commendable, the administration bears part of the blame for Harvard's current relationship with the military. It was their arrogance, one must remember, that has kept ROTC from returning to campus. They wanted to "make a statement." Some statement.
When Harvard's collection of liberal snobs and effete professors gather for Commencement, they should take a walk inside Memorial Church, dedicated to the men and women who died in World Wars I and II.
And perhaps, if Powell follows my advice and declines the offer, they can listen to Professor Barbara Johnson speak about the importance of tolerance, diversity and mutual respect.