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Remarks of Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers, Widener Library Rededication Ceremony

Tercentenary Theater, Cambridge, Mass.

Today, my task is simply to say “thank you” to all those who have made this project possible.

In particular, I want to thank those who have supported the Harvard College Library and the Harvard University Library in the last capital campaign and beyond.

I also want to thank the members of the library’s Visiting Committee. When I came to Harvard as president, I naively thought that what a visiting committee did was represent the central administration, visit a portion of the University, and report back to the administration.

I have learned differently.

What a visiting committee actually does is visit a portion of the University and report back to the central administration about the administration’s stark choice. The administration can be heroes of our civilization for all time by providing generous and substantial support, or it can be hopeless philistines who allow our civilization to wither and die. It is really just a choice of two options, and when the Visiting Committee for the library presented those options, I believe the right choice was made.

I want to especially thank Katherine Loker for her generous and dedicated support of this project and for our University. There is no one who has done more to make Harvard a beautiful place in recent years than Katherine Loker.

I also want to thank Bill and Julie Thompson, Paul and Harriet Weissman, Mike and Mary Gellert, Jim Needham and Florence Fearrington, and Sam Butler for their generous support of the library and this project.

All those who work in the library have already been acknowledged today for their creativity, and especially, for their fortitude in withstanding all that was involved with this five-year renovation.

In saying thank you, I want to acknowledge something different. This project has met what I think is the right standard. It is as good as the people who work in this library.

It is as good as the dedicated people who shelve the books and who assure the security of this library.

It is as good as the remarkable staff whose work in preserving books assures that ideas – texts that would have been lost to civilization for eternity – instead sit comfortably on the shelves, waiting to be discovered by scholars.

It is as good as the bibliographers at this library who ride bicycles through Asia or go into war zones to amass collections, so that the treasures of our civilization can be preserved.

It is as good as the reference librarians who show that you can actually learn anything in this building that mankind knows, and whose dedication to so many of our students is transformative of their Harvard experience.

To all who work in the Harvard libraries, I hope and believe that we have created a beautiful building that is as good as you are. Thank you very much.

Let the excellence of their work and let the beauty of these spaces serve as an inspiration to all visitors, students, and faculty who pursue their passion in this place.