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There is a lot we need to consider and we should be focused and deliberate about it. What do we want for Harvard and Devens? Do we maintain our traditions? And which ones?

Is it the tradition of Amos Bronson Alcott? To paraphrase the alcott.net website, he was a writer, philosopher, schoolteacher, visionary, dreamer, hoper and perhaps the most abstract, metaphysical, impractical, quintessentially-transcendental Transcendentalist of all the New England Transcendentalists and the founder of “Fruitlands” as it was called on the then-Wyman farm. We would all do well to consider the lesson of “the single summer and autumn that dissipated the hopes planted there, and with them the faith that the world could be refashioned by artificial arrangements of circumstances.” It is relevant to note that while Mr. Alcott failed at almost every material endeavor he undertook, his domain and success were with the soul and ideas. I for one would want to maintain the tradition of the development of the soul and dissemination of ideas.

And the tradition of Harvard that is sustained in our local farms? As I understand it, the Willards moved to the area in the mid 1600s, some 80 years before Harvard was incorporated and if we have any luck at all there will be farms here for another 350 years. Farms in Harvard are a tradition we should maintain.

What about the tradition of Bromfield with its history of academic excellence? A visit to the Bromfield Web site will tell you a little and those words hardly begin to describe the affection and attachment most feel for Bromfield. Perhaps it is the affection and attachment, this sense of coming from someplace and belonging there, that is the tradition of Bromfield; certainly that is a tradition we should maintain.

However, we also have a behavior that threatens to become a tradition. Personal attacks are a discredit to us all. They occur in conversations, letters to the editor, meetings and elsewhere. At town meeting, we witnessed an attack that was clearly an unfortunate display; it is equally clear from the subsequent and abject public apology that the speaker realized this. Such events are a reflection of the passion of the individual and the complexity of the issues, not an indictment of character. A recent letter to the editor had a scathing attack on a selectman of the town, the Harvard Conservation Trust and its chairman, an informal group of concerned citizens, and anyone who would consider that Devens should remain with Harvard. It is hardly arrogant, selfish, or self-serving to consider with focus and deliberation an issue that will affect us for generations to come. An unfortunate word spoken, while damaging, seems less mean-spirited than the written word conceived, edited and published.

In the days ahead we must grasp the reality that our community cannot be refashioned by the artificial arrangements of circumstances or information, and that keeping Devens within the towns possibly presents a far better hope for our future, and theirs, than other alternatives. Let us attend to the continued discourse about this issue in public meetings, social gatherings and the newspapers that serve our community. The better of this discourse will provide insight and clarity, tending to open our eyes, our minds, and our souls. The lesser of it will not and that is how we can tell the difference between what we should consider carefully and what we should not.

As we move forward in this discourse can we please agree to focus on the idea and the goal? It would be great to have this approach as a hallmark of Harvard, its residents, its officials, and all they do.

JOHN MARSCHALL

Harvard

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