First, I think about the very existence of Harvard. It was founded in 1636, just 15 years after that desperate first Thanksgiving. It said something about the people who created our nation that they gave education such a prominent role: Even in the wilderness of the new nation, knowledge and reason were to be the guides.
It’s fashionable with the Sarah Palin set to attack Harvard and treat its graduates as elitists. But if you spend any time on campus, you see students from all over the world – an astonishing number these days with roots in Asia – whose chief assets are brainpower and hard work. You can’t “fix” a Harvard degree the way you can most things in life. The reality of the place is brute meritocracy.
That’s why students from other countries want to come to American universities so desperately – not just Harvard but hundreds of other fine schools that put learning first. This is a universal human dream – that brains, not brawn, will rule – and the fact that America has the world’s finest institutions of higher education may be our greatest single national asset. So be careful, Sarah Palin, when you trash the Ivy League. This is a national-security issue.