In Defense of the Quinquennial

The following is the now-storied defense of Beertown’s Quinquennial, written in 1976 – just days before the 13th Quinquennial – by Bugle General Editor Leonard Fishman.


My fellow Beertonians,

We assemble here today in respect of a tradition begun 65 years ago.  Not all traditions deserve respect.   And many among us have—through grumbling, discontent, or outright protest—argued that Time Capsule Day is one of those quaint relics of a naïve era that would best be left to fade away with so many other illusions, intentions, and nostalgias.

We suffer today a growing sense of suspicion under any shade of authority—even the authority of the archive; a wearied confusion about our identities as Americans, Beertonians, citizens of the world; a crisis point occasioned by warfare’s casualties abroad and the specter of inflation and unemployment here at home.  In a world such as this, why be gullible in the face of our history?  And given the pressing urgency of our present troubles why waste time on all this bother with the past?

To the critics among us, I say, “Why not?”  More still: “What would you have us do instead?”  Shall we leave our past buried—unexamined, undebated?  Or shall we let our totems surface under scrutiny of the light of day?

We come here to interrogate the past, not to enshrine it, and as we glance backward to view where we have been, we also glimpse forward to see where we are going.  What would you have us do instead?

We come here today to question, to debate, to learn, to grow, and, yes, to leave our mark in the record so that future generations may share the privilege of learning who they are by remembering who we were.  What would you have us do instead?  How else would you have them remember us?

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