Solzhenitsyn at Harvard

Berman, Ronald, ed.

Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1980

pp. 23 - 24

At Harvard’s Commencement in 1978 Solzhenitsyn gave a fine and measured–but also piercing–speech that indicted Western godlessness and materialism. It was very far from Fundamentalist. It never used the word God. The New York Times editorial, in comment, June 13, 1978, scored him for being sure: he is a “religious Enthusiast, sure of [his] relationship to the Divine Will . . . he believes himself to be in possession of The Truth and so sees error wherever he looks.” He also sees “conflict between light and darkness.” The Times added this: “The trouble is, of course, that life in a society run by zealots like Mr. Solzhenitsyn is bound to be uncomfortable for those who do not share his vision or ascribe to his beliefs. Dissent was punished long before there was a gulag.”

But Solzhenitsyn said nothing of punishing dissent nor of making life uncomfortable for those with other views. He just articulated a vision–strongly and clearly. Nor did he, as The Times supposes, object to “a high place for law.” He just objected to the highest place for it.