Lot 83: Unsigned autograph manuscript draft of a piece about Harvard University, titled at the top "Let Us Praise Great Men," four pages, 8 x 10.5, no date but circa March 1957. Penned on the reverse of the last four pages of a ten-page photocopy of his speech on labor racketeering given on March 21, 1957, Kennedy jots down his thoughts on Harvard and its professors at the behest of editor Brooks Atkinson. In full (bracketed portions struck through): "Let us praise great men—[the teachers of Harvard] Professor Kittredge is supposed to have stopped one day, pointed to the Harvard Library, and stated that the entire college could burn down and if that Library continued to stand, the essence of Harvard would endure. I am inclined to think however that even the Library could have gone up in the general conflagration, and if Kittredge and his fellows had endured, [Harvard would have endured] for the essence of Harvard is not the buildings—the Library, however important their supporting functions may be. It is the teachers and the students and the interrelationships [with] between them. It is the teachers not the Library who are the organ of memory, distilling the knowledge of the past, and [passing] I knew many great teachers at Harvard [stimulating] who [effort] have [laborious] patiently attempted to show their [young charges] the enchantment of thought to young men who were more enchanted with life itself in this spring time of youths. But one teacher [standing out] known to generations of Harvard men stands out—Arthur Holcombe. [A teacher in American government he strives] Under his direction in a course in American Government, I discovered for the first time the distractions of the Congressional Record, as I studied for one term the progress eventual political extinguishment of an obscure junior Republican Congressman from upstate New York. But Prof. Holcombe's greatest impact was not his vast erudition, but in personality and character. Dispassionate, [slightly] reserved, self-restrained, without illusions but idealistic, he [combined] all these qualities and principles, that made him ideally equipped [for] to meet his responsibilities, as a teacher, and as a citizen. He taught my father, and forty years later my younger brother, and to them, and to all, he set a standard [that the] to which in later life, they all could repair. Deeply moved by the things which he thought important, he refused with wry detachment those debates over trivialities which are incidental to our limited imagination and harbor too closely around loneliness. One day he said to me after the 1946 election he said to me with cheerful pride, 'I had the pleasure yesterday of voting for three of my former students, one for Senator, one for Governor & one for Congressman, and they were all elected.' It did not matter to him that the party labels may be different, they had been his students and graduates of Harvard and that was enough." In fine condition, with rusty staple holes to upper right corners. Accompanied by the six additional pages of Kennedy's photocopied speech.Asked to write a short piece about Harvard for the 1957 book College in a Yard: Minutes by Thirty-Nine Harvard Men, Kennedy took the opportunity to honor a professor who changed his life. Credited with establishing political philosophy and theory as basic disciplines in Harvard's government curriculum, Arthur Holcombe taught some of America's best and brightest from 1910 to 1955, including Joseph Kennedy, Sr. In the midst of hot-headed and energetic young men, ready to argue their side and stand their ground, Holcombe displayed many of the more mature qualities that Kennedy would carry with him as he began his political career: "Dispassionate, reserved, self-restrained, without illusions but idealistic…all these qualities and principles…made him ideally equipped to meet his responsibilities, as a teacher, and as a citizen." On November 5, 1946, Henry Cabot Lodge, Robert Bradford, and John F. Kennedy were elected to serve as Senator, Governor, and Congressman, respectively, no doubt partly due to their wise professor's contributions. A touching and extraordinarily lengthy tribute to a man who helped shape the future president.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 460
Wednesday, 16th September 2015
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