Ted Hammett

   Reflections on 60 Years of History – Harvard/Radcliffe 55th Reunion

Ted Hammett – June 2, 2022

 

It seems to me that two related transformations underlie the changes in all of the other dimensions listed in our call for classmates’ reflections on 60 years of history.

The first is our loss of faith and trust in our government and for one another. Clearly, the Vietnam War and Watergate – events during and shortly after our time at Harvard – were critical early drivers of this erosion.

They fueled a secondary but equally important sea change: a loss of commitment to learning, understanding, telling, and acting on the truth for the benefit of all our people. I am certainly guilty of this, going back to my muddled and passive “opposition” to the Vietnam War, which I describe in my forthcoming memoir 

History, the discipline in which I’m trained, should always be about truth-telling rather than mindless self-congratulation or baseless demonization. We have seen the wages of this distortion in many conspiracy theories and culture wars. There are a few promising signs amid this dismal picture. An example, close to home, is Harvard’s powerful Legacy of Slavery project and the university’s commitment to atone for those painful truths in its history.

Can we recapture our commitment to the truth and thereby rebuild our faith and trust in our nation, our government, and each other and our commitment to caring for our communities? I only know that we must if we are to survive and leave our grandchildren a world and a country worth living in.