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The Long View

From its very first day, the Harvard College class of 1950 has been remarkable. Its ranks swollen by the tide of returning veterans, the 2,000 members who registered in September 1946 were the largest entering group in College history. Connoisseurs of class reports relish the 1950 cohort’s twentieth-fifth anniversary edition, where the occupations of fellow summas and Harvard Ph.D.’s (1954 and 1956, respectively) Henry A. Kissinger and James R. Schlesinger then appeared as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. So it seemed fitting that this year, preparing for its fiftieth reunion at the 2000 Commencement, the class has showcased members’ expertise at symposiums around the country—none more remarkable than a discussion of international affairs featuring Kissinger and Schlesinger. The panel was “mediated” (as he put it) by their former national-security colleague Brent Scowcroft (B.S., West Point; Ph.D., Columbia).

The event, held February 4 in the great hall of the Harvard Club of New York, attracted some 150 listeners, primarily members of the class with spouses or companions. Before the panelists began, one could overhear reminiscences from another era—for instance, returning from the Pacific and rushing through a teachers’ college refresher course to prepare for Harvard’s entrance examinations. Kissinger recalled his appreciation to Harvard for admitting him even though he had not applied until May 1946—in contrast to the “snotty letters” he got from other colleges. He remembered bunking in the gym for four weeks, until he was assigned to a room in Claverly Hall, and a run-in over the dog he had brought with him: which was, perhaps, an early lesson in diplomacy—the dean, he noted, “said they would start disciplinary proceedings, which he thought would take to the end of the academic year,” unless the dog were sighted again.

The echoes were doubly amplified as the evening’s serious business began: the issues in play arose with the first tensions of the Cold War; and the discussion could well have taken place in a Harvard seminar led by particularly forceful professors.

The United States, Scowcroft said, is now the world power—perhaps the most dominant one since imperial Rome.
Absent the Soviet Union, “we have the cleanest slate ever to write on,” so the question becomes, how are we doing?

Not very well, said Schlesinger: “The good news is that no one out there can challenge us militarily. The bad news is that no one can challenge us politically,” so the United States has lost focus. “We change our mind on what are the important issues on a daily basis,” and so are “driven by external forces”—the images on television, the momentary passions of domestic politics.

Saying that “Jim and I represent every point of view from A to B,” Kissinger painted a similarly broad canvas. During the Cold War, he said, “There was no fundamental debate about the national interest of the United States.” After Vietnam, American policy focused on managing the relations among America, China, the Soviet Union, Europe, and Japan to effect moderate behavior at the outset of arms-control negotiations and against a background of recurrent conflict in the Middle East. Within the government, he said, there was no disagreement on this strategy although—alluding to the cool relations he has since had with Cambridge—“there were huge disagreements between us and 98 percent of the Harvard faculty.” The result, he said, was that the United States “demonstrated its superior resilience and strength,” and the Soviet Union disintegrated, “which none of us expected.”

Taking an even longer view (albeit not all the way back to Scowcroft’s Roman imperium), Kissinger discerned two contending strains in American policy. The first, tracing to Theodore Roosevelt, he described in terms of pursuing the national interest. The second, a Wilsonian theme, he defined as driven by the sense of the United States as a morally superior nation, bent on improving other nations. Of the latter, Kissinger the realpolitiker said, “It’s not as simple as was thought in those days, and is thought in many circles again” today.

As an example, he pointed to “the trend in both political parties” to confront China. “To what end?” he asked acidly, maintaining that a more prudent approach would be to manage the inevitable strains arising from China’s emergence as a world power. He portrayed that confrontation as emblematic of another belief current in American politics, “that we have the capacity to spread democracy by some kind of dispensation,” and alluded to the difficulty of doing so in Russia and Indonesia, for example. Americans naively wish for instant democracy abroad, Kissinger said, even though “it took 400 years in the West, with an Enlightenment, religions separate from the state, and a whole series of other things.”

The curious result is that Americans behave as “isolationists who are seen as imperialists” in their zeal to export U.S. norms, he continued. “I am frankly, and perhaps a little hysterically, more worried about our foreign policy than I was when we were in office,” amid the traumas of Watergate and Vietnam.

Saying that he and Kissinger actually spanned the spectrum of opinion only “from A to A,” Schlesinger denounced inconsistencies in American behavior: demanding democracy in one situation but not in another (Saudi Arabia, for example), or reversing course on intervening in the Balkans, based on contradictory interpretations of when nations’ rights of self-determination were at stake. “We make pronouncements about what is going on in other countries, including China,” he said, and then demand quick changes in behavior, and promptly “demonize” those who do not respond. That “hubris,” he said, would come to haunt the United States in the future, when the country’s military superiority ebbs. He and Scowcroft suggested that the state-centered structure of international relations, in place since the seventeenth century, was under attack by the President, the United Nations, and NATO.

Anticipating questions from the audience, Kissinger said that “humanitarian intervention” in another nation’s affairs, though sometimes justifiable, was not always “benign.” In early modern Europe, he argued, such interventions were based on religious grounds, not on the claims of democratic governance or political ideologies—and the results were “catastrophic” crusades that cost millions of lives. Accordingly, like the other panelists, he was particularly skeptical about the prospects for success in the Balkans, and about the precedent set by NATO in Kosovo but not applied in Chechnya.

Summarizing the sense of drift the panelists perceived with the passing of the Cold War, Scowcroft said, “We think the U.S. is in danger of losing its way, and as the only leader in the world, that could be a catastrophe.”

And then came the questions, with a force and confidence that might rouse current undergraduates. Should the United States and the European Union impose sanctions on the new government in Austria? Absolutely not, the panelists thought—it was democratically elected, and had not committed any proscribed behaviors. Should Augusto Pinochet have been arrested in Europe? Again, no—that way lay chaos in international affairs. Should there be arms inspectors in Iraq? Yes: oil was a national interest, and Saddam Hussein had behaved unacceptably, in invading Kuwait. What about Taiwan? A perfect example, Kissinger said, of the cases where an attempt to achieve “a clear-cut solution will produce an explosion.” Here the challenge to statecraft is to “navigate” toward a workable formula like the present one, where Taiwan will not declare independence unless attacked, and the People’s Republic will not attack unless Taiwan declares independence.

And so the discussion went, passionate and informed—an intellectually challenging seminar returning to global issues at the century’s end, consistent with the class’s origins in a world-transforming war. Far from typical reunion fare, it seemed wholly in keeping with who the class members were, what they had learned, the service they had rendered, and their youthful determination to remain engaged.

Illustration by Tim Foley

 

Read All About It

Beyond its reunion symposiums, the class of 1950 has elicited reviews of the state of knowledge—and the state of the world—from a baker’s dozen of its members. The resulting essays—ranging from the global economy (George C. Lodge) and public education (Robert Coles) to information systems (Robert L. Ashenhurst), integration and Harvard admissions (John Dwight Ingram, Frank S. Jones), and investments (John Train)—have been collected in a 272-page volume entitled Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Edited by George S. Mumford and privately published—in hard covers with a suitably crimson dust jacket—the book will be available for sale at reunion registration for $20, or in advance for $24 postpaid (make the check out to Harvard Class of 1950) from G. Mumford, P.O. Box 267, Dover, Massachusetts 02030.

a-mumford

George S. Mumford, editor

 

The New Gutenberg?

If Jerome Rubin ’44, G ’46, LL.B ’49, has his way, the morning newspaper of the future will look a lot like it does now—except that we won’t toss it in the recycling bin at the end of the day.

“On your breakfast table, you’ll have one broadsheet, the size of the New York Times,” muses the longtime pioneer in electronic publishing and chairman of the Cambridge-based E Ink Corporation. “It would look like an ordinary sheet of paper. You’ll turn a little switch at one corner of it as you begin to pour your orange juice and, within a second or two, the front page of the Times—or the Harvard Crimson or whatever you want—will pop up. They are all delivered wireless."

Alumni-rubin

Jerome Rubin: envisioning the future of information and the delivery of the printed word for three decades.

Photograph by Stu Rosner

 

If Rubin’s vision of movable ink on permanent paper sounds like science fiction, his dreaming has practical foundations. He has already revolutionized the technology behind what we read; now he has his sights on how we read. He created and brought to commercial success Lexis, the computer-assisted legal-research service launched in 1973, and Nexis, the on-line news-research service launched in 1979. Combined, these services constitute the largest on-line text-information service existing today. The introduction of Lexis (and later, Nexis) was, Harvard Law professor Arthur Miller once told American Lawyer, “an in- trepid move that contributed substantially to the ways in which legal analysis and the practice of law have changed.”

Rubin didn’t set out to be the new Gutenberg. A consulting team at Mead Corporation in Dayton was attempting to transform the company’s fledgling database of Ohio state law into a national service that would enable lawyers to type queries into a computer and receive a comprehensive listing of all relevant case law; Rubin was hired to provide the perspective of a practicing corporate lawyer. But his vision and practical sense soon made him president of the new Mead Data Central Inc., with the task of launching its interactive free-text service of 2 billion characters—a database system of a scope and capability never built before.

With his Harvard undergraduate and graduate physics training, Rubin understood the technical limitations of mass-data storage using 1970s computer technology. But his longstanding faith in the practicality of the system—and his ability to negotiate the social complications of getting lawyers to use it—were his greatest contributions. Even when members of his own team doubted the project’s viability, Rubin believed in the system because it made lawyers’ jobs easier. “Lawyers were very practical about it,” he says. “If it worked, they were happy to use it. I remember that when we demonstrated Lexis to a subset of the faculty at the Harvard Law School, Austin Scott brushed me aside and said, ‘It is so damn simple, you don’t have to show me how to use it.’ He immediately went over and used it very effectively.” Within four years of its launch, the system was profitable. Two years later, Rubin added the Nexis news and information systems.

He left Lexis-Nexis in 1980 to run the Times Mirror Company’s professional information and publishing group; in 1992 he joined MIT’s Media Lab as chairman of its “News in the Future” project. Even in the late 1980s, when technological dreamers were pondering what kinds of information could be tailored through a personal computer, Rubin was already trying to think beyond the glass monitors and keyboards that made access to information cumbersome. In 1987 he told the New York Times Magazine that he was dubious of projects focused solely on organizing—personalizing—text in new ways. “I still find books and newspapers to be more congenial than cathode ray tubes, or any other kind of electronic display,” he asserted. “People prefer paper for lots of reasons—it’s portable, it’s flexible.”

Through contacts he made at the Media Lab, he’s since focused, literally, on how we read text, not just what we read. Once again, he sees possibility in a seemingly “far-out technology” to create electronic paper, and is applying his practical experience in the publishing world to making it commercially viable.

“One of the great potentials of electronic paper is that it will give you all the advantages of an electronic book—the ability to manipulate the data—without having the discomfort of reading off a glass screen,” Rubin says. “I don’t think it’s just a matter of being used to paper—paper is simply a better medium: you have higher contrast, better resolution; you’re not tied to something rigid in front of you. You can fold the pages, move them, pick them up, and put them down.”

He’s looking first at an electronic paper book, which he says will be commercially available in about three years. The “cultural” problems e-ink will need to overcome, he says, are similar to those that faced Lexis. “I think people are so used to receiving information electronically today that it should be fairly easy to get them to use it. I think it is going to boil down largely to two issues: cost and convenience. The convenience is easy—it’s not a question of changing habits. And the cost is something that we want to make sure we can deal with.”

In fact, he says, the greatest hurdle e-ink faces isn’t with readers. “Publishers are fairly conservative and slow to act,” he explains. “There’s a kind of ‘bury-your-head-in-the-sand’ quality to lots of them. That’s why someone who was not a publisher started Lexis, and that’s why a lot of what’s happening today is being done by people who are not publishers.”

Not a publisher, not a physicist or computer scientist, Rubin relishes his ability to think outside the box. “I guess, subconsciously, I do look for that,” he says. “I would not be happy running a shoe company.” He prefers instead to reinvent aspects of our lives that we take for granted.

~Geoffrey Fowler

 

In Honored Company

The harvard medals awarded annually since 1986 by the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) honor extraordinary service to the University. President Neil L. Rudenstine will lead the applause for this year’s recipients—Charlotte P. Armstrong ’49, LL.B. ’53, John G. Caulfield ’50, and Louis I. Kane ’53—at the HAA’s annual meeting on the afternoon of Commencement day.

As a member of the Board of Overseers from 1993 to 1999 and its president in her final year, Charlotte P. Armstrong played an important role in the consolidation of Harvard and Radcliffe while honoring the history and identity of both. The former HAA elected director and president of the Harvard Law School Association now serves on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ task force on women and leadership.

John G. Caulfield, once a Harvard assistant baseball coach, recently retired as assistant director of operations in the Harvard Athletics Department, where he supervised spectator accommodations at Soldiers Field for 50 years. Says senior associate director of athletics Fran Toland, “He knows ‘Ten Thousand Men of Harvard’ and then some.”

Louis I. Kane has made fundraising for Harvard his second job. In addition to his successful tenure as cochair of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee for The University Campaign, he was vice-chair of the Harvard College Fund and currently serves as its cochair. He has also been an active member of his class and served as an elected and appointed director of the HAA.

 

Pride of Place

By honored custom, each year’s twenty-fifth reunion class elects one of its members chief marshal for Commencement. The class of 1975 has chosen former Radcliffe College trustee Gloria Wu, an ophthalmologist from Brookline, Massachusetts, as its standard-bearer this June. Her duties include hosting a luncheon for dignitaries on Commencement day.

Members of the class of 2000 elected their marshals last fall, giving them lots of time to plan festivities. Scheduled to lead their classmates into Commencement week events are first marshal Justin M. Krebs, of Mather House and Highland Park, New Jersey; Christopher Amar, of Cabot House and Lexington, Massachusetts; Adam Davis Colvin, of Currier House and Edgewood, Kentucky; Sameera Fazili, of Winthrop House and Buffalo, New York; Terrence (Terry) McGovern, of Leverett House and Newtown, Connecticut; Terrence Murphy McNeil, of Quincy House and Winthrop, Massachusetts; Robert Scott Schwartz, of Eliot House and Swampscott, Massachusetts; and Gwen Yih-June Shen, of Kirkland House and Hillsborough, California .

 

Comings and Goings

Not everyone can get to Cambridge for an HAA-sponsored Alumni College, so the HAA speakers bureau helps local Harvard clubs lure University speakers afield —as far as Anchorage, for example, where historian John Coatsworth will talk about Latin America’s place in world affairs on June 13. Also scheduled this spring: historian Akira Iriye discussing globalism and American policy in Dallas on May 5 and in Hingham, Massachusetts, on May 23; government professor Paul Peterson examining public-school reform and school vouchers at the Harvard Club of Central New York on May 3; University marshal Richard Hunt describing "Harvard on the World Stage" at the Harvard Club of Western Pennsylvania on May 9; astrophysicist David Layzer pondering "Chance and Choice" in Kansas City on May 11; and Bach scholar Christoph Wolff addressing Harvard club members in St. Louis on May 20.

 

Alchemist’s Ink

What alchemy makes images on paper move? The secret, Jerome Rubin explains, is in the ink: “an ink that will enable you to turn any surface you coat it on—paper, plastic, fabric—into the equivalent of a computer screen.

“Imagine a huge number of microcapsules,” he says, “maybe 40 microns in diameter, each half-filled with tiny particles of titanium dioxide, which are white, and half-filled with dye—black, blue, whatever. Then you have an electric charge on the surface, provided, typically, by a thin film transistor. The electric charge rotates the capsules, depending on whether it is positive or negative. Normally the white sides are up and you have what looks like a piece of white paper. When a new charge draws the black sides to the surface, you get an image, a pattern of letters and drawings.

“The tricky thing about developing true electronic paper is developing a flexible back-plane—which would probably sit on a piece of plastic about the thickness of a sheet of plastic wrap. Some coating might be necessary to protect the ink, but the whole thing probably wouldn’t be much thicker than a piece of coated paper in a magazine.

“An electronic book with electronic paper would have multiple sheets, 40 or 50, so you could read multiple pages and flip around. Inside the spine, you’d have a tiny microprocessor that would deliver instructions to the separate pages. You could receive the texts either over the Net or by wireless—of course, the Net will probably be wireless in 10 years, anyway—or you might have some flash memory to slip into the spine of the book. That way you can go on a holiday with 50 books loaded onto your card.”

 

 

Vote and Be Heard

Ballots listing this year’s candidates for the Board of Overseers and for elected director of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) went into the mail early in April; they must be returned by noon on June 2 to be counted. All Harvard degree holders (except Corporation members and officers of instruction and government of the University) are entitled to vote for Overseers; all degree holders may vote for HAA directors. The election results will be announced on the afternoon of Commencement day, June 8, during the HAA’s annual meeting.

All of the nominees this year were selected by the HAA’s nominating committee. The candidates’ photographs appear at right in alphabetical order, but the listing below presents their names in the order in which they appear on the ballots. More complete information about all the nominees appears in the materials mailed with the election ballots.

 

For Overseer (six-year term, five to be elected):

Aida Alvarez ’71. Washington, D.C. Small Business Administration.

Barbara Schultz Robinson, HRPBA ’52; A.B. ’51 Wellesley College. Cleveland, Ohio. Chair, Ohio Arts Council.

Steven A. Schroeder, M.D. ’64; A.B. ’60 Stanford University. Princeton, N.J. President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

M. Lee Pelton, Ph.D. ’84; A.B. ’74 Wichita State University. Salem, Ore. President, Willamette University.

Andrew K. Ludwick ’67, M.B.A. ’69. Palo Alto, Cal. Founder, former president, and CEO, Bay Networks Inc.; private investor.

Patti B. Saris ’73, J.D. ’76. Boston. U.S. district court judge.

Franklin W. Hobbs ’69, M.B.A. ’72. New York City. Former chairman, Warburg Dillon Read.

Anne M. Sweeney, Ed.M. ’80; A.B. ’79 College of New Rochelle. Los Angeles. President, Disney/ABC Cable Networks and Disney Channel.

O V E R S E E R

alvarez hobbs ludwick pelton
Alverez Hobbs Ludwick Pelton
robinson saris schroeder sweeney
Robinson Saris Schroeder Sweeney

 

For HAA Director (three-year term, six to be elected):

John C. Yoo ’89; J.D. ’92 Yale Law School. Berkeley, Cal. Professor, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley.

Felicia D. Phillips, S.B. ’88. Atlanta. Sales operations manager, BellSouth Business.

Eva M. Plaza ’80; J.D. ’84 Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. Washington, D.C. Assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Victoria Hamilton ’75, M.B.A. ’79. New York City. Acting COO, Source Media Inc.; Principal, Washington Advisory Group.

Walter H. Morris Jr. ’73, M.B.A. ’75. Washington, D.C. Partner, Ernst & Young.

Susan M. Williams ’77, J.D. ’81.
Albuquerque, N.M. Partner, Williams, Janov & Cooney, PC.

Scott C. Collins ’87, J.D. ’90. Boston. Principal, Summit Partners.

F. Barton Harvey ’71, M.B.A. ’74. Baltimore. Chair and CEO, The Enterprise Foundation.

Barbara J. Wu, Ph.D. ’81; A.B. ’75 Smith College. Chicago. Homemaker.