Justice in Allston (what would Obama do?)

Thomas Friedman, in his Wednesday column, interviewed Harvard University political philosopher Michael Sandel. Professor Sandel, who teaches Harvard students about justice and moral reasoning, claims that in Tuesday's election "the American public rejected these narrow notions of the common good."

A student of Sandel's explains that, "His aim was to expose to the students the extent to which these abstract philosophical questions really are relevant in our daily lives." Abstract ideas like justice deserve to be applied to how Harvard's expansion in Allston and its track record over the past 10+ years.

Obama's greatest speeches, in my opinion, are the ones that talk about uniting Americans and all humans. In one speech he said:
"We've always been at our best when we've had leadership that called upon us to look past our differences, to come together. Leadership that rallies us to a common purpose, a higher purpose... when we recognize the common stake we have in each other... together we cannot fail."
Harvard's plans in Allston embody a narrow and outdated notion what a campus and community can be. Harvard draws a line on a map and shows little interest in life on the "wrong side" of that line. "We are just building our campus" and "We are doing what the zoning code require us to do" they say.

Friedman concludes his column quoting Sandel:

“It must also be about a new patriotism — about what it means to be a citizen... Obama’s campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again.”

Harvard is been in Allston for 105 years. What would it do differently if it considered itself a citizen of Allston?


  1. Anonymous11:19 PM

    Ummm...I don't think that the election of the first African-
    American president is primarily, or even slightly, a lesson for Harvard-Allston relations.

    Surprisingly, sometimes it's not all about us.

  2. Of course this isn't all about us.

    If Obama's theme of unity is going to be more than a campaign slogan, if there is any hope that our society is going to make the positive changes described in his speeches, it is going to happen not only because our federal government adopts new policies. Individual citizens, huge corporations, and groups in between are going to have to embrace a major change in attitude.

    At the 2004 Democratic National Convention Obama said:

    "If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one."

    If you believe in this fundamental belief, why should it not apply here?

  3. Anonymous12:49 PM

    Harry. Your absolutely right and it is time to start making changes. Starting with the merging of the neighborhood ideas with the cities ideas and Harvards ideas. The problem is the neighborhood rarely gets the opportunity address the presentation given by the city and Harvard. They just present and move on with the one exception last week when we were able to discuss Harvards presentation. That of course remains incomplete.It is time for the task force to stand up to the city and Harvard. Its simple presentation one week discusion the next. Perhaps Karios will assist us with his staff style group discussion as suggested by someone in the last meeting. Of course Harvards staff should be there and provide us with individual paper slides for discussion Perhaps we can have a rare Saturday meeting so other neighbors can be there to provide their imput. If this does not work the we need to put together another petition for the Mayor but this time publish it in the newspapers.