Harvard Latin Commencement Oration 2012

Been looking for this one and it suddenly turned up … Michael Velchik delivers (with Classical pronunciation) this year’s Harvard Latin thingie:

(keep your eye out for the guy in the background who doesn’t seem to get/like the humour; keep your ear open for “Linsanitatem” too!). Those of you with senior Latin classes might like to show this one (it has subtitles) as it’s rather really easy to understand.

Some background on the speaker from Harvard News (inter alia):

Latin has long been a part of Michael Velchik’s life. A native of Oakton, Va., he studied the ancient tongue at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., competing in Junior Classical League competitions throughout his teenage years.

“One thing led to another, and now I’m addressing 6,000 soon-to-be alumni,” Velchik said. “It’s quite a curious quirk, this tradition that Harvard’s preserved, and one I’ve certainly embraced.”

That’s something of an understatement: Velchik’s submission to the orations committee contained footnotes (“entirely excessive and gratuitous, perhaps pompous”) that ran longer than the speech itself. His address is bookended by the inscription on Dexter Gate — “Enter to grow in wisdom/Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind” — and modeled on the rhetoric and style of his favorite authors and orators, including Caesar, Isocrates, and Cicero.

“The speech certainly repays a learned listener,” the Dunster House senior said.

At Harvard, Velchik, 22, has embraced the polymathic scholar-athlete label with tongue firmly in cheek. Though he concentrated in the classics and served as editor of Persephone, the undergraduate-produced classics journal, math and science came more naturally to him than the humanities. “I always hated papers,” he said. He picked up a secondary field in astrophysics, which he chose for its mix of the theoretical and the hands-on.

“As long as you have a telescope and some gung-ho spirit, you can get something accomplished,” he said.

As a freshman, Velchik tried crew on a lark and ended up rowing with the varsity lightweights all four years. “It’s a fun way to incorporate the ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ maxim: ‘a sound mind in a sound body,’” he said.

This summer, he’ll travel to Greece and Italy on an Alex G. Booth ’30 Fund Fellowship, an award for graduating seniors, to further his studies in Greek. For now, he’s not too worried about the long-term future — or the immediate one.

“I’m giving a speech in Latin!” he said, incredulous at the suggestion that he might be nervous. “If I mess up, who would know?” […]

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2 thoughts on “Harvard Latin Commencement Oration 2012

  1. I love history and am curious about everything. I should love to just have enough Latin to be able to get a sense of some of those lovely inscriptions at the sites in Italy. Also can you recommend any good books on my fav bloke Cicero. Thank you from a Great Gran in England. xx

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