Dear President Gay:
As a Harvard alum, I add my voice to those troubled by your recent comments on Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorist group. Your predecessor, Dr. Larry Summers, spoke for many when he wrote, “Why can’t we give reassurance that the University stands squarely against Hamas terror to frightened students when…(other) students appear to be blaming all the violence on Israel?” I also question your exquisitely nuanced response: “We will all be well served in such a difficult moment by rhetoric that aims to illuminate and not inflame.” https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2023/10/11/president-gay-condemns-hamas/
During an exquisitely teachable moment – and with the whole world watching – you chose political correctness rather than fortitude, standing in solidarity with self-described justice warriors while real warriors were already delivering the first body-blows to Hamas. With an office located only yards from where General George Washington first commanded a nascent American Army, you might have called in the leaders of those student groups officially sympathizing with Hamas. And demanded: “What sort of education are we providing you within these walls when you cannot even distinguish latter-day Nazis from their hapless victims? Why are you even here?”
I was able to study at Harvard only because the Army selected me (a former draftee) for advanced studies before joining the West Point faculty. Combined with my early training as an ordinary soldier, those hard-won lessons served me well during my military service and subsequent career as an on-air military analyst with NBC News. But four decades later, even the atmosphere of Cambridge seems changed, tough-minded critical thinking replaced by your statements excusing the inexcusable.
Your academic career, like mine, began with degrees in political science and government. Can you see that the bedrock paradigms that arose during World War II have finally expired? Today, the land wars in Europe and the Middle East, as well as the likelihood of a naval conflict in the Pacific, are creating new realities that will fundamentally transform our future. In this defining moment for our critical institutions, what do Americans see when contemplating where their children and grandkids might receive a worthwhile education? Sadly, our educational establishment is a bureaucratic monstrosity, layered with multiple Departments of Silly Walks, slavishly dependent on government handouts and managed by consensus-builders terrified of enraging academe’s all-powerful pharisees.
But the day of reckoning is fast approaching, from Harvard to your state university counterparts, all dependent on government largesse. When financially strapped American parents finally understand that their tax dollars are essentially funding the left-wing indoctrination of their children, how long before the rebellion now sweeping the nation’s high schools also affects colleges? While President Biden might still entertain the fantasy of cancelling student debts, it is only a matter of time before profligate college presidents get their come-uppance.
In the interim, Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus of Harvard Law, has a fine idea about placing on the record the names of your Hamas-sympathizing students so that future employers can more easily avoid hiring them. While the faculty pharisees will surely have much to say about coddling those fighting oppression, I would be grateful if you would simply tell them to shut up. It’s a tough world out there and many people are already convinced that a Harvard degree is at best a mixed blessing.
To illustrate my point: While teaching at West Point, Army’s quarter-back was one of my students, a hard-working cadet from the classroom to the field. But one morning, I pulled him aside. “Rob, I didn’t graduate from West Point so Army-Navy leaves me a bit cold. But I did graduate from Harvard and you’re playing them here on Saturday. Need I say more?” The next day, Army triumphed over Harvard 44-6 and Rob later graduated with distinction!
Colonel (Ret.) Kenneth Allard is a former member of the West Point faculty, Dean of the National War College and military analyst with NBC News.