I take the following from the Harvard Magazine of Januaary-February, 2012.
My “pick” of Fred Shapiro’s pick of choice Harvard words:
We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.
—Louis D. Brandeis, LL.B. 1877, quoted in Labor, October 14, 1941
There may be said to be two classes of people in the world: those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not.
—Robert Benchley, A.B. 1912, Of All Things (1921)
Nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from.
—Margaret Atwood, A.M. ’62, Litt.D. ’04, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)
I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce, and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelaine.
—John Adams, A.B. 1755, LL.D. 1781, Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780
In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is.
—Gertrude Stein, A.B. 1898, The Geographical History of America (1936)
When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.
—J. Robert Oppenheimer ’25, S.D. ’47, quoted in In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: USAEC Transcript of Hearing Before Personnel Security Board (1954)
Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., A.B. 1861, LL.B. 1866, LL.D. 1895, Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue (dissenting opinion), 1927
Go to where the silence is and say something.
—Amy Goodman ’84, on accepting an award for coverage of the 1991 massacre of Timorese by Indonesian troops, quoted in the Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 1994
What religion a man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as what language he shall speak.
—George Santayana, A.B. 1886, Ph.D. 1889, The Life of Reason (1905)
A democracy—that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people.
—Theodore Parker, Divinity School 1836, speech at Anti-Slavery Convention, Boston, May 29, 1850