Politics & Media
Jan 31, 2024, 06:27AM

In the Weeds at Harvard

Knaves forsake the light.

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Before the evergreens of wisdom and truth comes the devil’s ivy of ignorance and pride, the shoots stretching from every residential house at Harvard to every building in Harvard Yard. Before this threat comes a warning from the first president with a Yale education and a Harvard degree, enjoining us to act; for we have no choice but to act, because the noxious weed of anti-Semitism has no place in America and no right to exist at Harvard. And yet the weed grows.

Before the weed invades Massachusetts Hall, the oldest building at Harvard, interim president Alan Garber should protect the clock on the building’s western wall. He should go to the wall, not to wail or wax indignant, but to act: to take positive action—affirmative action—and turn back the clock on the “progress” of the last several decades. He must save the soul of this building, in whose rooms the memory of the men who founded and fought for this nation endures, or lose it forever.

At stake is an ideal more valuable than all the wealth Harvard owns, based on faith in God and fidelity to two words: sacred honor. This is the light of conscience, the beacon light inside every window of Massachusetts Hall. The good walk in this light, with all gates open to them, because nothing—not even all the gates that surround the Yard—can shut out a light so strong. But the light can still die.

Seeing nothing but themselves, knaves forsake the light. They ignore the crowd of spirits, the long train of ghosts, that reaches back to Ralph Waldo Emerson and the inscription on Meyer Gate. Doing nothing to help themselves, fools block out light. So much for the sons of fair Harvard, and of “Fair Harvard” with a new final verse, as the last line—the one that references the university’s first ancestors—is gone, the herald of light is dead; but the Father of lights is everlasting.

His message is in Emerson Hall, where the inscription on the north side of the building reads: “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” The answer is in what 500 Harvard students did there on November 16, 1938, in defense of the Jewish people.

The 500 stand in opposition to the enemies of the Jewish people, saying: “It is fitting that we should protest against the torture of a people who have contributed so much to the culture of the world.”

It’s hard to imagine that a 10th as many of today’s students, or even 10 students, would stage a similar rally. It is, however, easy to understand what someone would say about any of these students: “What kind of Harvard man is this, that no one respects him!”

History requires that Harvard drive out the darkness of the present danger. Honor requires that Harvard not stop until the darkness is gone. Only then will Harvard reclaim the light. Only then will Harvard be a great institution. May the light shine on Harvard again.


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