They say James Bryant Conant (1893-1978) had a plaque with above quote on this desk for years.
Brilliant Conant, an educator, diplomat, and chemist was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. As president of Harvard University for twenty years (1933-1953), he was an advocate for common core and transformed the educational system.
According to Time magazine, under his leadership Harvard grew "increasingly national in its influence, interest, emphasis, and student body."
"A liberal education... frees a man from the prison-house of his class, race, time, background, family, and even his nation," he observed.
An inspiration to his contemporaries, his books celebrated the power of teaching and learning and called for schools to be an instrument of national purpose.
A visionary and advocate for the Scholastic Aptitude Test developed by Princetonís Carl Campbell Brigham, Conant said that with standardized testing, students could be ranked by ability.
"Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based upon excellence of performance," he said and called himself "one of the outstanding kibitzers of the age."
Also a pioneer in organic chemistry theory, he was chairman (1941-1946) of the National Defense Research Committee, advised President Roosevelt in the development of the atomic bomb, and subsequently became an emissary of peace for President Eisenhower.
"Some of mankind's most terrible misdeeds have been committed under the spell of certain magic words or phrases," Conan said and "stuck his neck out" to help make our world a better place.
Take the risk. Help yourself and others.