Harvard Magazine reports, "In his 3,600-word address in Tercentenary Theatre on the afternoon of October 5, Harvard’s newly inaugurated twenty-ninth president, Lawrence S. Bacow, powerfully restated, and amplified, the University’s commitments to truth, excellence, and opportunity that he emphasized upon his appointment last February. In face of unprecedented public doubts about the value of higher education and the contributions colleges and universities make to society, he made the case for representing higher education more forcefully to the public—while looking inward to ensure that educators live up to their institutions’ values and commitments. In the address (published in full below), Bacow said:
We need, together, to reaffirm that higher education is a public good worthy of support—and beyond that, a pillar of our democracy, that if dislodged, will change the United States into something fundamentally bleaker and smaller.
“Higher education,” he maintained, “has not only supported our democracy, but in some sense it has created it—and we are nowhere near done.” To proceed, universities must embrace “both reassuring truths and unsettling truths,” which arise from those “who challenge our thinking.” Harvard must model the behavior it hopes to see elsewhere, “For if we can’t talk about the issues that divide us here, on this extraordinarily beautiful campus—where everyone is smart and engaged—where the freedom to speak one’s mind is one of our defining precepts—where we are blessed with abundant resources and no one goes to sleep in fear for his or her life—there is no hope for the rest of the world.”