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NDE are the national educational radio network presents special of the week. Senator Jay William Fulbright of Arkansas Law made his first major address following the November elections at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in late November. He talked of those elections the war in Vietnam the poor education and the future. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a Democrat from Arkansas William Fulbright talking on is American society worth saving every day. Not so long ago when I thought I had a fair idea of what was wrong with America and what might that drive. The core of our troubles it seemed to me was Viet Nam. And the intoxicating arrogance of power which is had so much to do with our involvement in that wretched. Recalling a hopeful start toward domestic reform in the first two years of the Johnson
presidency. It seemed to me that if we could but extricate ourselves from the war. It should not be too difficult to get the country back on a healthy and decent course. I still think there is validity in this but it now all of. There are domestic difficulties are so much greater than I had supposed. So much more fundamental in character. Going to the very root values of our society. That it is far from certain that even when we are freed of the burden of Viet Nam. We will be able and willing especially willing. To do the things that need to be done to build a just society in America. So deep and extensive has become the sense of impotence and out against the government but seem unable even to understand. Much left to respond to the opposition to the war. That a significant number of Americans have begun to harbor doubt about the validity of our political system.
Although the war has been the catalyst of alienation this new and deep opposition has drawn beyond the war. To all of the deeply rooted ills of our society. And there now seems little reason to expect that the end of that war will bring with it an automatic. Into alienation. In the last few years Syria's Royce's have been raising contest in the two uncontested premise of a basically healthy society contending indeed that far from being a mis carriage of the American system. War and social injustice are indigenous to it and surmountable by means short of radical alteration of the system itself. That the inner nature of one's own society is corrupt. Is not on. An hypothesis. That most people will accept with open minded economic. Quite naturally the idea shocks
and offends us and more so because many of its exponents clearly want to shock and offend. That alone however does not prove the hypothesis for. When all is said and done. When history passes judgement on our society and its adherents. If ever indeed history does pass a definitive judgement. It may conceivably turn out that our system or are inherently irrational and unjust. Literal is that idea may appeal to us or commanded it will do us no harm. To keep an open mind on the matter. If indeed the American system is incapable of social justice that is presumably something we ought to know. If it is not it will have done us no harm. You are seeing an intellectual process through to our own vindication.
The only thing that can be said for certainty now is. That in the present atmosphere of crisis and despair neither that passionate attraction or the fervent defenses of American democracy can be taken as definitive forest fire. Until recently I shared what I take to be the prevalent view of poverty in America. That is one of the regrettable imperfections of a good and improving society. Like the great majority of Americans who do not have to worry about where the food and rent money is going to come from. Iraqi division where and this of the animal in the struggle for existence in the urban ghetto. Are the tragedy of hungry children in the rural South. Still last an idea fraught to the possibility that perhaps social injustice was something more. Than an imperfection in a steadily improving society. Conceivably there might be something about our society.
Something central to it that permitted or even promoted. Social injustice. If most of us have been spared such distress and. It has been in part because of the obliging docility with which the poor. Until recently kept themselves out of sight. Sparing our breeder our sensibilities and in so doing enabling us to retain our faith in an ever improving society. Then came the negro. And the student movement and the writers such as Michael Heron and I knew my actors and I ride. Most of all there are. No longer docile no longer invisible. The American poor have been making their presence known. Causing the comfortable majority is easier discomfort. How many of us really feel reproach by the suddenly of truth the face
of poverty and not just the question is a critical one because it goes to the heart of the rising crisis of American democracy. The American poor whether they know it or not. And I would guess that much of their angry frustrated arises from the fact they know that they know it quite well. You. Have no recourse beyond the conscience of the affluent. Majority. The great achievement of the American economy in liberating the majority. From Poverty has at the same time. Created a new kind of challenge to a capitalistic democracy. Being a minority. The poor can have no assurance. That the democratic process will reject redress their grievances. On the contrary. The majority.
Through normal democratic procedures may refuse to accept the cost of greatly expanded public projects. And services in the absence of which the War on Poverty can never be more than mere rhetoric. Nor to reduce the matter to its rootlessness can the affluent majority be coerced. Into social justice by riot or insurrection. They are the ones who on superior force and the probable will to use it. The question therefore. Perhaps the central question of American society after Viet Nam is whether a frightened Madge already a majority losing model sense seems to have been. By a narcotic and purposeless affluence. Can still respond. To the demand for justice of an increasingly desperate minority.
The election of 1968 suggests. That the American majority is not really going to accept the sacrifices and sanction or social changes necessary to meet the just requirements of our under privileged minority. Fear was the dominant sentiment in America in 1968 at least among the middle class and fear precludes generosity and idealism. What is this fear that blights the lives of so many Americans. We are as we never tire of reminding ourselves that Rich's strongest nation in the history of the world. Our factories and farms are the most productive in the world our technology the most advanced. Except for the peoples of a few small countries our people are fed clothed and housed better than any other in the world. Even our poor for the most part are
poor by a very special American Standard. A standard which would pass for affluence in most of the world. We are the most favored of societies and quite possibly the most probably the richest and strongest. And quite possibly the most insecure. Wow. The major immediate source of our anxiety has been the war in Viet Nam and its consequences here at home. The war has totally alter the atmosphere of the early 1960s when under President Kennedy's leadership our hopes and confidence were hard. Domestic changes were obviously needed but the American people at that time seemed ready and willing to embark. Upon an era of social reform. And under President Johnson's competent leadership an excellent start was made with a landmark social legislation of 1964 1965 especially in the field of education.
Then teens yet. Not only once but by fake stages expanding step by step in scale and cost dividing the country and the Congress and diverting the economic resources and political energy which we had only just begun to apply to our domestic needs. Distracted by Viet Nam the Johnson presidency was ultimately consumed by. And the disappointment felt by the all those Americans who had anticipated a time of unprecedented progress. Toward social justice. In the 1960s was all the deeper for that I hope. With which the decade had begun. While the costly and frustrating in our leaders more distracted rising social and racial tensions at home. We're transforming the civil rights movement into one of angry black
militancy marked by scattered but ride spread violence whether racial violence was directly aggravated by the violent example of Vietnam cannot be judged by a certain but that seems quite possible to me. And there is little doubt that racial antagonism were exacerbated by the neglect of domestic affairs and by racial violence in any case deepen the divisions of the country and heightened popular alarm especially for some reason on the part of middle class people living in areas far removed from the urban riots. More conspicuous at first. Than the rising anxiety of the middle classes where the dissenting movements against the war and against racial injustice ranging expression from the presidential primaries and the more or less polite debates in Congress to the more colorful methods of protest employed by the hippies and the abuse.
But do dissenting movements for Prime to be a fair reflection of the national mood and temper and perhaps they were during the brief period when they were led and symbolized by respected national figures. But after the murder of our senator candidate Martin Luther King and the defeat of Senator McCarthy the anti-Vietnam am an anti-racist movement became increasingly to be associated in the prayer public mind with extremist groups advocating radical and violent reaction which had been associated with Democratic campaigning in New Hampshire. The Kennedy appealed to the ghettos and hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came to be symbolized by the mayhem of the demonstrations surrounding the Democratic convention in Chicago. This symbolism was just asked for reasons having little to do with the merits of their arguments. The dissenting movements lost much of the
respectability which they had begun to acquire in middle class mind. The result logically paradoxical. Though familiar enough in human terms was the great numbers of ordinary good citizens came to fear and detest dissent against the war are about as much as they feared and detested the war itself. I'm counting on aggravating all of these developments with the failure of moral leadership on the part of the Johnson administration for reasons of policy and personality that I would not presume to guess that. The president did not succeed in commending his policies in such a way as to inspire public confidence. Failing to speak plainly. And directly to the American people. It ministration acquire a reputation for secrecy a lack of candor and manipulation.
At least as much as the war and the race crisis themselves. And perhaps a great deal more. This is Mara leadership frightening and a people who had come to regard the presidential office as preeminent for their place of Molly to see. All these facts. Or the race crisis disorderly dissent and the vacuum of moral leadership have had a devastating effect on the American middle class majority. Peaceful. Law abiding hardworking himself. The average American. Mr. Nixon's Forgotten Man. Saw the country threatened by a tide of violence in an Iraqi and he took fright. And he wrote idiocy that I would guess is the principal explanation for Mr Nixon and even more for the over 9 million votes cast for Mr. Maher who simply by appealing to fear created one
of the most formidable third party movements in American history. This is just say nothing of the additional millions. Almost all of it but watch. Who apparently planned to do so. But out of sympathy for the underdog. Lingering the lawyer did get a new deal first on this Mr. Vice President Humphrey at the last minute. All of the vice president almost equal next in popular vote from the president elect. With only 43 percent of the vote clearly lacks a national mandate it must be remembered that together Nixon and Wallace received a sizable majority of 57 percent. If any of the three candidates represented the dominant mood of the nation it obviously with Mr Nixon all but forgotten now the days really only a few months ago when he seemed by possible to get it or Senator McCarthy would be taking the presidential office in 1969 on
a platform of peace. And reform. The election in 1968 showed that middle class Fear is a far more powerful force in America. Than the combined forces. Of black and student rage of the NWC and the woman strike for peace. And of all the miscellaneous dissenters from the United States Senate for the Berkeley campus. Under the impact of middle class anxiety the reformist driver of the early 1960s has allowed. Notwithstanding the fact that the Great Society program had hardly begun. Notwithstanding the continuing indeed demanding need of social innovation in America the present atmosphere is unfavorable for reform. And that's a fact. Rather than our actual needs for the present. The controlling factor in American politics.
Social reform movements do not advance simply because they're neat. They prosper only when the comfortable majority. Have been educated or frightened. To awareness of the need for social responsibility. My premiss much more hunch than conviction is that the president really promoted the middle class majority will abate when it had has had its day but that it will not abate. Until you as at this day and United held back the ugly mood will swell like floodwaters behind a crumbling dam and come down on us all the harder with it damn it then surely burps. If this premise is sound. Prompt and effective alleviation of the fears of the majority of our people is called for. There is a more drastic aspect to our present situation than simply the need to
band to a conservative win. And that is not a national susceptibility to right wing extremism. For all the red scares of the last 50 years America has never provided fertile ground for socialist ideals. The late Senator Joseph McCarthy Barry Nixon and the Birchers notwithstanding. There has never been anything approaching a genuine threat of a red takeover within this country. But there had been a continuing and steadily rising threat to American democracy from the right. A threat manifested in our periodic Red Scare and more recently in the 9 million votes cast for Mr. Watt. Our whole history is a capitalist Republic has all but immunized us from socialism. But experience has shown that we do not have a comparable immunity to fascist. Taken together the right wing
bias. Of the American past the intense fear of communism the disruptions brought about by a spate of almost chronic war. And a vast military industrial labor academic complex which chronic warfare has long collectively have imposed an intolerable strain. On American democracy. We thank you. Thank you. We have not yet succumbed to the totalitarianism of the right. But if nothing else did the Wallace movement ought to have made us aware of our susceptibility. Mr Wallace is not a mere fluke of American politics. He represents an extreme manifestation of a significant current in American thought. Liberals may deplore the anxious and ungenerous side of our national temperament. But it
exists nonetheless. And unless we propose to expel a large minority of present perhaps a majority. From active participation in American society we have no choice but to bend somewhat in that direction dictated by prevailing pressures Do been in for say emphasize again so as not to break. In practice this of course would mean a period of more conservative domestic politics. If conservative is the right word especially in the area of law enforcement. I do not intend myself. I would like to make it quite clear. Either to support repression or to up optos reform in Congress. I would not release truth as it may seem to make an inevitability of a probability. But neither do I expect my own strong preferences to prevail in the current political atmosphere.
There is no choice for us here except to decide whether we will or will not bow to reality. The reality is that despite the human cost and the danger there is going to be a delay in the struggle for social justice in America. During this prospect of moratorium the most we can hope for is that the delay will be therapeutic. That fear will abate and self-confidence will be restored whereupon if we can manage to stay out of wars for our. It may become possible for American society to do those things for its poor and black minorities which it should have done a long time ago and which but for that tragic and costly involvement in Viet Nam it might well be doing right now. Most ominous of ah perhaps of the depersonalization of education at its best the classroom is a deeply intimate. Place in which students and teachers explore and generate ideas.
Passing them back and forth. Turning them over like a many sided prison. Asserting and responding questioning and criticizing but above all communicating. Communicating with words and communicating without. You know how great universities today including the most famous of them. The classroom is a cavernous lecture hall in which the professor is a remote eminence Jess's him self to a sea of indistinguishable faces from a lofty platform and then he's gone. No questions no answers and no communication. This of course is a mission. From Atlanta. It was first in all likelihood has bigger things on his mind than the adolescent enthusiasms of undergraduates. ATTN.
Thank the insurance of which in any case makes a suitable task for promising graduates. Enticed by a dazzling array of foundation grants by government contracts and the opportunity to influence policy. More than one professor has become a man on the moon. A scholar in the new sense in which the damage you referring not to a creator of ideas but good producer of salable day. Thank you. Thank you. I want to make it clear I'm referring to a hypothetical professor not anybody at university admission. But as this trend accelerates what the teacher teaches becomes as anonymous as the way teaches it.
Philosophy gives way to behavioral science imagination major insight prediction appreciation looks and so. No longer an end in itself the human mind becomes because of the computing that minus the anatomy the mind which thinks without knowing that it ranks the highest achievement of our civilization. The symbol of the age the car the age of animated death. You know our large American cities the supremacy of the machine over man is approaching complete living in an environment of steel an asphalt almost totally of man's own creation. The daily life of the individual is a losing struggle against man. Man made in that humans there is a tangible nastiness in the air in a big shit. A prevailing mood around friendliness renewed ability and a sense of isolation in the crowd of.
Loneliness without the luxury of being alone. Most of all there is a sense on the part of the individual of his loss of control of things after his problem to the things around him. The center of his need being denied and his nature violated. I'm speaking there under the daily lives of those who are well are not in the pool. Teeming slums of the true mark of the prime ministry. Of rockets and missiles over schools and on the true monument to the victory of the machine over man. I suspected there is an important connection between the loss of identity and harmony in an urban middle class life. And the attitudes of the material a comfortable majority toward the mere materially deprived mind. There is little room for generosity in the hearts of the spiritually deprived as Erich Fromm from points out depression and compassion
do not easily co-exists. It may well be there for. Now even the reassurance of a period of conservative government will be insufficient to elicit the deep and enduring central social responsibility on the part of the middle class majority. Without which there can be no social justice for our poor and black men are. It may be to put it another way that our prospects for eliminating the material prosperity of the few. Upon our ability to alleviate the spiritual poverty of the man. Whether that can be done or not I do not know. Some observers such as Professor alum. Seem to believe that the trend is reversed or that we are embarked upon a tech chronic age in which human conduct will be programmed. By computer
technology. That human innocently sent to depersonalize ation of life is a futile rear guard action against the weight of the future. At all we can do is to try to adapt to the new condition of life. And the piccy to successful adaptation is the changing of it. I had educated 80 highly educated that is in the technical sense who will operate the complex new social machinery while the rest of us are unemployed due to automation. Thrash around trying to amuse ourselves. Any nation have so many of our young people is I believe the law in large part a reaction against this Republican field is far from being the revolutionaries that they're fearful of elders. And they then south regardless how you need youth may well
be the last remaining group of deeply committed traditionalists in American society. Which you have been listening to Senator William Fulbright Democrat from Arkansas law speaking at the University of Michigan in late November and he ours especially of the week thanks WUOM in Ann Arbor for the recording of this address. This is n the e or the national educational radio network.
Special of the week
Issue 1-1969
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 1-1969,” 1968-12-12, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
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