The Luther-Roosevelt Stone
Steeped in tradition—and superstition—the Luther-Roosevelt stone on the Long Walk has become a catalyst for connecting students who remind one another that a premature step on it may possess the supernatural power to prevent one from graduating. The stone, in front of the Fuller Arch at Northam Towers, marks the spot where former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech to 5,000 people at an open-air ceremony during which he explained how American military arrogance had reinforced the German will to pursue World War I. A little-known fact is that Roosevelt spoke the day before the 1918 Commencement, where he received an honorary degree. In 1919, not long after Roosevelt’s death and stemming from a student request in a Trinity Tripod article to create a suitable memorial to Roosevelt, the stone was created and laid. Its Latin inscription, an Old Testament verse from 1 Kings 20:11, translates to: “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.” The marker also commemorates the friendship between Roosevelt and then-Trinity President Flavel S. Luther, who were both Progressive Republicans, according to Ward S. Curran, Ward S. Curran Distinguished Professor of Economics, Emeritus. History has it that the tradition of avoiding any contact with the stone before graduation began sometime after 1974, when the orientation of the Commencement ceremony was “flipped” to face out from the Bishop Brownell statue, as it does today, rather than toward it. The tradition of seniors stepping on the stone as they walk at graduation day—and not a moment earlier—has become an important part of the journey ’neath the elms. Do you have any information about when the don’t-walk-on-the-stone tradition began? If so, please contact Sonya Adams at email@example.com.
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