a digital library of Unitarian Universalist biographies, history, books, and media
the digital library of Unitarian Universalism
Home » Cambridge & Harvard » Harvard Honors Nelson Mandela: Introduction

Harvard Honors Nelson Mandela: Introduction

Photo by Mike Quan - Harvard News Office

Photo by Mike Quan – Harvard News Office

Edited by Herbert F. Vetter

 INTRODUCTION

At a unique special convocation during the American Revolution, in 1776, Harvard College conferred on George Washington an honorary doctor’s degree .

At a special convocation during World War II, in 1942, Harvard University conferred on Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

At another special convocation in the twentieth century, Harvard conferred the honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Nelson Mandela, the President of the Union of South Africa to be—the first African honored at an out of season special convocation.

The president of the university succinctly declared in the citation why this American center of higher education singled out the President of South Africa:

 Conscience of a People,

Soul of a Nation,

He has brought forth freedom from the crucible of oppression,

And has inspired by his courageous example

The better angels of our nature.

That public act of celebration, at which more than 25,000 people joyfully gathered together, is the durable visual theme of the Cambidge Forum national public television presentation of Harvard Honors Nelson Mandela.

Here now in this book is the first publication of the full text of the distinguished addresses delivered on that occasion. Moreover, here you will see a panorama of photographs selected from the forty rolls of film shot by the Harvard University Office of News and Public Affairs.

In addition you will find not only the reflections of an observer who was present at the convocation but four articles written by Harvard College students giving thoughtful critical and constructive historical perspectives concerning Harvard’s long conflicted struggle against apartheid. These selections were included in a Special Supplement of The Harvard Crimson issued the very day the honorary degree was awarded. Moreover, here you will find photos from the Crimson which visually dramatize the decades of disagreement within and without the university community before the issue was resolved.

My own role as a participant observer came partly through my having been for many years a member of the United Ministry at Harvard and Radcliffe, an independent association of Chaplains to the University.

-Herbert F. Vetter
 

Nelson Mandela at Harvard

Photo by Kris Snibbe – Harvard News Office

Series NavigationPart One: Convocation Events and the South African National Anthem >>
Categories: Cambridge & Harvard, Religion & Culture, Social Reform

Notable in UU History
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)

An important writer and abolitionist, Harper was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 24, 1825. A ... Read More
Reynolds with McDonald

Reynolds, Malvina (1900-1978)

Malvina Reynolds (born as Malvina Milder on August 23, 1900, died March 17, 1978) was an ... Read More
Richard Hildreth

Notable American Unitarians: Literature – Richard Hildreth

Richard Hildreth, 1807-1865 Born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, he is remembered as a journalist and author, whose ... Read More
Joseph Brenner

Joseph Brenner

Founded as Cambridgeport Problem Center in 1970, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC) provides free ... Read More