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John Harvard's Journal | Commencement 2007

“Listening will be the hardest part”

July-August 2007

Let me introduce you to a couple of my ghosts. As I stand here, I think of my two grandfathers—Lawrence Crowder and Robert Styles. Lawrence was English, Robert Irish. Both fought in the First World War: Lawrence in the trenches outside Ypres, Robert in the dust of Palestine. We still have a wrinkled photograph of Robert standing in the Garden of Gethsemane after British forces entered Jerusalem in November 1917. I didn’t know either of them personally, but I carry their names in my own, and those images, along with fragments of family stories, have followed me through my life.…

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Richard Lawrence Robert Crowder

[T]here is a sense of possibility which pervades this place, and which can make us each rise to the call of our ghosts.

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For me, that vocation is the work of a diplomat. I leave here for Brussels, to [work on] the European Union’s collective foreign policy. As it happens, I will be working just a few miles from Ypres, where my grandfather fought. When I contemplate the job ahead of me, I realize Harvard has taught me that listening will be the hardest part. It is all too easy to react to what others are saying with our own views. But finding the space in which to digest, and moving to a response which heals rather than perpetuates conflict, is a much harder task. It forces us to accept that there is no monopoly on the truth.

~Richard Lawrence Robert Crowder, M.P.A. ’07, in the Graduate English Address during the Commencement Exercises, June 7