“Fair Harvard” anthem has been used at key events since the 1800s. The final verse states:
Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!
To thy children the lesson still give,
With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,
And for Right ever bravely to live.
Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,
As the world on Truth’s current glides by,
Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,
Till the stock of the Puritans die.
There should be nothing wrong with a song that reflects the long and proud history of Harvard. The faculty and students are now thankfully more diverse and that is something to celebrate. However, you can celebrate your diversity while maintaining your history. Written by the Reverend Samuel Gilman (class of 1811) for the university’s 200th anniversary in 1836, the song is filled with dated references.
Yet, Danielle S. Allen, a professor in the department of government insists that the last line makes the pursuit of truth only a matter for one group. That is, in my view, ridiculous. I doubt seriously that anyone at Harvard identifies today as a “Puritan.” It is an archaic reference that captures the period of the writing of the song. Indeed, the song itself makes clear that it is referencing the history and “relics” of the institution in the very first verse:
Fair Harvard! we join in thy Jubilee throng,
And with blessings surrender thee o’er
By these Festival-rites, from the Age that is past,
To the Age that is waiting before.
O Relic and Type of our ancestors’ worth,
That hast long kept their memory warm,
First flow’r of their wilderness! Star of their night!
Calm rising thro’ change and through storm.
The school released a statement that “The Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging launched this competition to affirm that Harvard’s motto, Veritas, speaks to and on behalf of all members of our community, regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint.” However, Veritas means truth and the best path to truth is not the denial but recognition of the institution’s history. The song captures the historical roots of Harvard while the faculty and students reflect its future.