ROTC is back at Harvard after a four-decade absence
dating back to the Vietnam war.
The White House welcomed the announcement bringing the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps back to the Cambridge campus, saying it sent a "message that Americans stand united." The decision "is an important step in moving past the old divisions that often kept many Americans from seeing what we share with one another, including love of country and a profound respect for our brave men and women in uniform," Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The breakthrough was enactment of a law repealing the Pentagon's don't ask, don't tell rule, which barred openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. Harvard's policy prohibiting discrimination against gays had prevented ROTC's re-introduction to the campus.
Harvard President Drew Faust said the "renewed relationship affirms the vital role that the members of the Armed Forces play in serving the nation and securing our freedoms, while also affirming inclusion and opportunity as powerful American ideals," the Harvard Gazette
reported. "It broadens the pathways for students to participate in an honorable and admirable calling and in so doing advances our commitment to both learning and service," Faust said.
At the height of the conflcit in Vietnam, ROTC was forced off many college campuses, often due in part to the fervor of student-led anti-war protest movements. For years, Harvard students wishing to enroll in ROTC had to travel to the MIT campus where they were permitted to participate.
Times have changed. Navy Secetary Ray Mabus said Thursday that ROTC's reemergence at Harvard "is good for the university, good for the military and good for the country." With "exposure comes understanding," Mabus said, "and through understanding comes strength."
The formal return will come this summer, the Gazette said, when repeal of the don't ask, don't tell law takes effect.
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