A Guide for Recovering the Wisdom of the Past

In June 1978, the Russian novelist, dissident, and exile Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn delivered the commencement address at Harvard University. The day was one of heavy rain. The stormy weather proved mild, however, in comparison with the words the author had for the young American elites and their families who crowded the Yard to hear him.

Some years earlier, Solzhenitsyn had been welcomed to the United States as a hero, a witness to the tyranny of communism, and a refugee who found freedom in the West. While he accepted the refuge, Solzhenitsyn was unimpressed by the spirit of Western freedom. Private persons, lawyers and judges, and the media, he said, were all exploiting the doctrine of “individual rights” at the expense of the integrity of society and culture and, above all, at the expense of the spirit.

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