A Competition to Revise "Fair Harvard"

Two verses of the college song, Fair Harvard, are sung traditionally as the University’s alma mater.

Lyrics to "Fair Harvard"

Fair Harvard! we join in thy Jubilee throng,
And with blessings surrender thee o’er
By these Festival-rites, from the Age that is past,
To the Age that is waiting before.
O Relic and Type of our ancestors’ worth,
That hast long kept their memory warm,
First flow’r of their wilderness! Star of their night!
Calm rising thro’ change and thro’ storm.

Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!
To thy children the lesson still give,
With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,
And for Right ever bravely to live.
Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,
As the world on Truth’s current glides by;
Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,
Till the stock of the Puritans die.

Samuel Gilman, Class of 1811
[Revised 1998]

Written in 1836, the alma mater ends with the line, “Till the stock of the Puritans die.” The song was revised in 1998 to make the lyrics more gender-inclusive, but they left the final line as it was. We think it’s time for a change.

The Alma Mater is a living symbol used to welcome each incoming Harvard College class, and to celebrate the conclusion of each class’ journey at Commencement. The Taskforce on Inclusion and Belonging launched this competition to affirm that Harvard’s motto, Veritas, speaks to and on behalf of all members of our community, regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint.

In order to replace the final line, the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging is holding a competition. We invite members of the Harvard community to update our alma mater for the 21st century by submitting a rewrite of that final line.

 

There is also a second competition. In addition to replacing the final line, we also propose to expand Harvard’s symbolic repertoire by inviting submissions for a new musical variant or new performance mode for the alma mater. The traditional music (which comes from an Irish folk song) would remain the official music of the alma mater, but the competition-winning variant would henceforth be preserved by the University as an endorsed alternative mode of performance. Think of this as an opportunity to help expand the University’s symbolic repertoire.

All genres and performance modes are welcome (choral, spoken word, electronic, hip-hop, etc.). The goal is to affirm what is valuable from the past while also re-inventing that past to meet and speak to the present moment. The inspiration is Hamilton. The point is to use your imagination.

In other words, there are two competitions: a text-only competition and a text+performance competition. All projects will be submitted online, the Task Force will select long lists, and a panel of distinguished campus community judges will nominate three finalists from each competition to move forward to the University to select the winners!