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Remarks at Football Banquet

Harvard Club of Boston

No team since 1913 has gone 9 and 0. I’m told that no team ever in Harvard history has scored at least four touchdowns in every game. Congratulations to the Harvard Football team.

And it is not every football squad that has a punter who can run 40 yards. And when we needed it, our defense came through. Andy, have you put the ball down yet after that last interception? Way to go.

Saturday was my first time at The Game. As is traditional, I was interviewed alongside the President of Yale for the Harvard and Yale clubs. The President of Yale started off nice enough but then he ambushed me with a bunch of stuff about the Red Sox and how Harvard had never been undefeated since the Red Sox had won the World Series and it had been a long time since the Red Sox had won the World Series – blah blah blah and the futility of the Red Sox and the futility of Harvard. And I looked at him and I said, “You know, I would have done research on New Haven’s professional sports teams” (laughter) I don’t even have to finish the line for you guys. This really was a wonderful victory.

Let me tell you seriously, this is important in many ways. All players here have been a part of something that is very, very important. You know, an education is about intellectual development. An education is also about character development. And a lot of character development takes place on our athletic fields.

Let me say on behalf of all the players here: thank you Tim, and thank you to all of your staff for your leadership and your example, and the differences it makes.

I’m often asked what the role of athletics is at a great academic institution like Harvard. What I always say is that athletics has a crucial role, never to the exclusion of the academic side, but if you talk to Harvard alumni 25 years later, 35 years later, 50 years later about their experiences at Harvard University, if you talk to many of the alumni who have been most accomplished and most successful, and you ask them what experiences at Harvard made a very big difference, it’s often their experiences on the football team, or in the athletic area. This is an important part of what being a university is all about.

It is important to the athletes and those who are part of the team, and it is important for all of us as well. These past several months have not been an easy time in the United States or in the Harvard community with all that has happened in the wake of the events of September 11th. Part of the way in which Harvard has contributed and Harvard has responded is by continuing to do the important work of scholarship and research that is the mission of the university. But we have also responded by carrying on with our daily lives. And I think that it has been very clear these past few weeks that carrying on with our daily lives, going to football games and cheering our team along, has been an important victory in its own right. That was something that was very clear in the way that 5,000 undergraduates responded today when Ryan presented that jersey to President Clinton – and I dropped that pass. That showed what a difference the football team makes to the Harvard community. So on behalf of the entire community, thank you. Now coach is it really true that you let some of these guys take the trophy home? If you have that much confidence in them, how much confidence should I have in you?

To the seniors who will graduate and who have played their last game: thank you for the memories that you have given all of us and I know that those of us whose role it is to sit in the stands will be pleased to have you join us in future years.

To those who will return next year: you have a very tough act to follow. A very tough act to follow. Carl, probably the hardest thing you have to do is teach me to catch the ball so I won’t repeat the embarrassment of this afternoon. But there is one way to top the 9 and 0. And I know that’s what we’re going to see next year. And that is a 10-0 season. Go Harvard!

Thank you very much.