In a speech at the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Commissioning Ceremony Wednesday (June 5), President Lawrence H. Summers made it clear that the University can accommodate both intellectual freedom and patriotism.
“We venerate at this university – as we should – openness, debate, the free expression of ideas, as central to what we are all about and what we should be,” Summers said. “But we must also respect and admire moral clarity when it is required, as in the preservation of our national security and the defense of our country.”
Three seniors took the oath of office at the ceremony and received commissions as second lieutenants in the armed forces. Charles Cromwell became an officer in the U.S. Army and Brian Smith and Sean McGrath received their officer’s bars in the U.S. Air Force.
“I can say there are no students who are graduating this year of whom I am more proud than these three fine young men,” Summers said.
He also said that one of the proudest moments in his own life was when he took an oath of office – very similar to the one they took – to serve in the Treasury Department.
“All forms of public service make a great contribution to our society,” Summers said, pointing out that it was public servants in uniform who acted so heroically during the tragedies of Sept. 11.
“I believe there is a special grace and a special nobility to those who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate commitment to their country,” he said.
Summers is the first Harvard president to speak at an ROTC Commissioning Ceremony since 1969, when FAS voted to withdraw all curricular and academic status from the program in response to protests against the Vietnam War.