Al Smith toast and 80th birthday remarks

Download the PDF of Whitehead’s toast of Al Smith here (click the thumbnail under “Files”). Note that the 20-page document contains three separate drafts of the same toast. The version at the end appears to be the definitive one.

Download the PDF of Whitehead’s remarks at his 80th birthday celebration here (click the thumbnail under “Files”). A PDF of a transcribed version of the remarks can be downloaded here.


Video of Discussion


Both of these documents were found in the Whitehead papers donated to WRP by Whitehead’s grandson.

As specified in the document itself, Whitehead’s toast to Al Smith was delivered at a gathering of the Harvard faculty on May 14, 1929, at the end of the spring term. The dinner was reported in the New York Times the following day, May 15. Whitehead had delivered his Gifford lectures in June a year earlier, and was still in the middle of turning them into the manuscript for Process and Reality; he would send the final set of proofs in to Macmillan on August 13, 1929.

Smith was an immensely influential politician at the time. After serving as governor of New York from 1919-1920 and 1923-1928, he had been the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1928, the first Catholic nominee of a major American political party. He lost the general election to Herbert Hoover. He would seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president again in 1932, but lost to the eventual winner of the general election, Franklin Roosevelt.

As for the second document–Whitehead’s notes for remarks given at his eightieth birthday celebration–it is prefaced by a short letter from William Ernest Hocking, Whitehead’s colleague in the Harvard Philosophy Department, with whom he had co-taught two seminars. More than fifty people attended the party, both friends and colleagues. A friend of Whitehead’s, Christiana Morgan, detailed the event in diary entry. At this point in his life, Whitehead had been retired for nearly four years, and was past writing all of his major publications.