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An E.R. the national educational radio network presents special of the week from WG you see the University of Cincinnati station. We present Dr. King than Brewster Jr. president of Yale University. He will discuss the campus and society in a talk given as part of this year's forum series sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Cincinnati Ohio. Here is Dr. Brewster. I was about to say. After paying their respects to my contemporaries but I made very nervous by the presence of the head of the student body of the University of Cincinnati I thought. I was coming here you know once again. To. Show. My contemporaries and my elders what the students really think. Now that is made impossible. By having a real live student.
On the platform not to mention students in the audience. But I'm still going to take that risk because it seems to me that the greatest disservice now being done to this country is on the part of those who overgeneralize about students. So if I run the opposite risk being somewhat overcomplicated about students it is because I do think that the current stereotype the current campaign of epithet insults caricature or. Is doing a great disservice not just to the young. But to the country which they are bound to inherit. Now the first qualification an over generalization applies to me. Even if I knew my own students which I probably don't. My perspective is limited to the experience of two or three institutions and even within that
perspective of two or three institutions of which I've taught. I realize that there is no such thing as the stereotype of students. Students are unique individuals who disagree violently and passionately with each other as well as with the rest of us. Now the second distortion. In any clear eyed focus. Upon the student as a species of life is the overwhelming dominance of the issue of the Indochina War. This overwhelming dominance of this generation of students by the South Vietnamese War of course has been compounded by several very specific but unusual. Circumstances. First they grossly inequitable system for deciding who shall serve in that war. Secondly an appalling official in military conduct. From the dealing with massacres to the dealing
with graft. And the seeming self serving military justice whether you're talking about the pueblo inquiry or talking about the apparent army cover up of small and large military crime. Third the simple fact that under the leadership of two national of ministrations students have been repeatedly exposed to leaders who were wrong in their predictions and not infrequently were deliberately misleading in statements about the promise and of intention. Now all of this has been compounded by a style in two administrations which too often has raked with non credibility and has sought self justification by castigating those who disagreed with them as nervous Nellies copouts effete snobs and dishonorable unpatriotic if not treasonous dissenters.
And finally. This student generation has currently been dealt with by crude epithets bums by the president bastards by the attorney general and the few cretinous purple pejoratives by the household word. But more important. Than the style or even the credibility or even the competence of government. This student generation has been in college. Each one of them in their turn for four solid years in the shadow. Of being drafted to risk their lives and to kill others in a war which even their elders don't believe in. And a war no one seems to believe in to the extent of urging old fashioned victory. It is hard to overstressed and easy to underestimate the unbelievable moral tension. Which This
experience has imposed on a whole generation of students in the shadow of this draft. For a war which no one believed in facing the moral tension of the obligation to serve and the obligation of conscience. I think that it is hard to predict what the enduring consequences of this tension will be. But it is not a tall hard to observe that it has been the dominant factor and without precedent and necessarily defying the understanding of the rest of us who have not lived in the shadow of that tension. And all of this makes it very difficult to discern the more fundamental attitudes which will outlast Vietnam and which would pertain to the United States position in the world generally and will influence their day of responsibility long long after Vietnam. Johnson and Nixon are relegated to history. But it is that.
With which I would like to deal this evening. There is no sense talking about unrest. There is no sense talking about institutions if we do not have some perception of the the restlessness which pervades the majority of students undistracted in under stored by that very small disruptive destructive splinter group on the far left or the far right. First of all contrary to the occasional impression of headstrong self-righteous dogmatism which some leaders of student protests create. I would assert that above all. This is a generation of doubters not dogmatists angry doubters often. But made angry. Not so much by disagreement as by when their questions are brushed aside. Now this would not surprise us shouldn't anyway. Their
experience after all is a course of startling. Contrasts. And dramatic reversal. They were born into a world heady with the optimism of global victory and conventional forces. Their own country. The time of their birth had an overwhelming superiority on sea and in the air and they were almost completely demobilized at civilian recruits after World War 2. The Last Days of War had unfolded the horrifying power of nuclear fission and we were told that we had an unbreakable monopoly on its science and technology for decades to come. And without resort to this atomic threat the United States could leap frogged the Berlin Brok blockade with the left hand of its civilian and military air transport. The threat of it since you are could call a halt. To major powers invasion of Egypt and Suez the peaceful landing of Marines in the Lebanon quelled an Arab war whose adversaries have since
become allies and the threat of retaliation could deter the mainland Chinese from persisting in the attempt to recapture islands only a stone's throw. From their shore. Then. Just as this student generation came into political consciousness in their teens. Miscalculation and indecision result in appalling humiliation on our own offshore island at a spot ironically called the Bay of Pigs. The cornerstone of European security for. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is unceremoniously evicted from its French headquarters. For the last five years of their student lives they see their nation's power stymied not only in the jungles of the hinterland but in the Tet offensive in the streets and buildings of the cities of South Vietnam. Official hopes. Of imminent end of this long dark Indochinese tunnel have been so often disappointed. That no signs of light.
Are credibly believed. America's role in the world economy during this younger generations lifetime also marks a reversal perhaps even more complete. Than the partial setback in military strategy. After all a strategy of deterrence still does contain and even makes inroads on the power. Of the Communist alliance. But the dollar deficit is global in its effect. Yet when this generation was born. The dollar surplus or from the rest of the world's point of view the dollar gap brought forth the Marshall Plan. Billions were given billions more were lent on easy terms for the participating European nations directly into the sterling area directly imports crucial to the maintenance of a decent standard of living. Where thereby subsidize exports crucial to the maintenance of a decent standard of living where thereby subsidized by gift and massive capital projects in Europe were financed to reconstruct and modernize. The industrial base which had been ravaged by
war and scarcely 16 years after the terminations of the European recovery program. It is the United States which has had to restrict the flow of its capital abroad. And which has had to seek grace from its European depositors and creditors. Now the economic and social scene at home has been a canvas of contrasts and reversals also. I guess it was not more than six years ago that the president's chief economic adviser Walter Heller was worried that the federal internal revenue receipts would so greatly exceed the federal expenditures that drastic remedies would be needed if this efficient resource for public improvement were not to be forfeited or wasted. He proposed You may recall that this perspective federal surplus. Should be redistributed without strings to the states to supplement their budgets or to relieve the burden of their own regressive tax system. Now six years later there is not enough federal revenue to fight the
war. Keep the lid on inflationary pressure and sustain let alone increase the current level of commitment to the federal interest in health education or welfare. But the domestic crisis is not. Primarily in the Help for the growth of the economy in general. So much as it is in the allocation of opportunity to share in its bounty. This is a crisis not just of money but of unfulfilled. Political social economic expectation. Well this was a generation which came to consciousness politically under the slogans of the Great Society and the gap between slogans of promise and the realities of performance has left its residue of bitterness not only among the dispossessed but among the highly motivated and among highly motivated students that has made all slogans. And all political salesmanship suspect. Such contrasts such reversals such fortification of estimates by events have left their mark upon the outlook and the
character of those whose life is measured by the last 20 years or so and whose social and political awareness. Is limited to the last five or ten. Never has kept a system of ideology been more deeply rooted I believe than in the present American student generation. Students do not talk much about let alone embrace the isms. Whether communism or fascism nationalism or internationalism pacifism or militarism capitalism or socialism. But their scepticism does not stop with the traditional anti philosophical anti ideological bias. But this generation really has no sacred cows and accepts no assumptions as being beyond question. They are far more open minded far less dogmatic than my generation where at the same age in my time. At college at least the overwhelming majority of us were rather smugly satisfied with the assumptions we inherited from the pre-depression were
we knew that education would make democracy work and wealth would make people happy. Free private competitive initiative would assure both. The depression merely called for a repair job. And a major overhaul. The relatively few very few radicals among us in the thirties were equally unquestioning in their conviction that somehow in the indexes of the Marxist homes would be found the answer to every problem. Today's student generation is different. The contrasts in their own experience. The gap between expectation and events in their own time. The paradoxes of today between affluence and poverty between absolute power and strategic stultification all of these make it natural that this generation of student Americans might best be described as a generation of reappraisal. And precisely because there is a generation of almost unlimited certainly uninhibited reappraisal even their doubts sometimes seem inconsistent to those of us whose assumptions were conditioned by a different
experience in domestic matters. Most students do not think that competitive private enterprise is the answer to every problem. The same time they are disillusioned. With the welfare state. They know perfectly well that many markets are no longer disciplined by free competition so that their performance may not be in the public interest unless some other public discipline is imposed. They also know very well that there are many social needs which will not be met unless the incentive of profit is buttressed by subsidy or replaced by direct public enterprise. And this is not new to their fathers who experience the new unfair deals what is new or relatively new is that this generation by and large. Which does sense the shortcomings of the free market. Is also disenchanted with the indignities the red tape the regimentation which are imposed in the name of local state and federal welfare welfare paternalism. Is
now the Anathema where a mere short generation ago. Welfarism was the lodestar of most socially motivated reformers. In the place of centralized administered welfare as a riven risen a deep concern for individual and local and private self-determination. And these have become values which rise higher than the claims of administrative efficiency or of the planners blueprint and rationality. I may be wrong but I would wager that before they are done. This generation will be identified with the effort to recreate what might better be called The Opportunity state just as their immediate predecessors were identified. With enthusiasm for the welfare state. On the foreign side there is skepticism of course sweeps all targets they most certainly reject the more imperial tradition of the manifest destiny of the United States to bring the blessings of democracy to a waiting world in their view of the vision of a Pax
Americana does not fit the facts of either the world's desire or of America's resources. However American students are not infatuated with communism. Nevertheless there is a new questioning of the assumption that all communists are alike. Or that all communists are equally bad or that communism has the same impact means the same thing wherever wherever it appears. The split between China and Russia the split between China and Cuba the loosening of bondage in some parts of Eastern Europe the persistent independence of Tito the loss of the ideological steam by the Western European communist parties all of these have falsified the image of the Master Minded centralized Communist monolith. This is especially so in the eyes and minds of those who are not even 10 years old. When Budapest was brutally suppressed or of a generation which never knew Stalin's cruelty in the headlines of the morning newspaper.
And it's true that the Czechoslovakia an invasion has awakened them to the persistent reality of Soviet imperialism. But even that. Can be characterized in terms of regional Monroe Doctrine type self-defense. There was also a realisation. That the majority of the world's population after all has always known. Degrading inhuman poverty and has never known freedom in our sense. So that the promise of democracy or of free enterprise may have no meaning for such people and to this of course is added the mood of passionate anti-colonialism anti racism. And finally I think there is very little taint of pro communism in the current agony of reappraisal motivated as it is by concern for individual human dignity. Also I think that. Probably religious pacifism is no more widespread now than it ever has been I say religious pacifism to differentiate it from what I would call
rational or scientific pacifism which stems from the realisation that the more frightfully indiscriminate weapons do become the less likely it is that their user can rationally serve even his own self-interest by their use. Student skepticism of course is changed with a fear of what President Eisenhower called the Military Industrial Complex and the fear that it may have a vested interest in excessive armament and that this may result in the maintenance of a global scope. Of American commitments and a level of overkill capacity which exceeds the necessities of national security or which distorts the priorities for the use of a limited national capacity. So on this latter score immensely practical not ideological. But the new American generation's reappraisal perhaps bears down. Most heavily. There is a fear that we are overstretched way beyond our resources. Now the conservatives this is a matter of
fiscal and budgetary improvements to the liberals. This is a matter of forfeiting the wherewithal. To eradicate poverty. You can compensate for educational disadvantage or to seek to remove other barriers to equal opportunity. After all the House of Representatives would not vote the tax increase to help finance the war until the budget was slashed. By billions of dollars. And even then the surtax was not renewed. Whatever one's feelings about vindicating our commitment to the South Vietnamese or whatever one thinks about the importance of preventing a retreat which might invite further aggression. There is a haunting feeling that we have spread our commitments indiscriminately that if they were all to be drawn on it once we would not be able to honor them or even worse perhaps we could honor them only by an unthinkable resort to massive retaliation. This was you remember the strategy of the architect of these commitments Mr John Foster Dulles. He died when this undergraduate generation was not yet in its early teens.
Finally there was a natural misgiving about a political process which is committed the nation to a war. Without ever confronting the people or their representatives with a single clear conscious choice. This is not a question of personal blame. For no good no two historians seem to agree about when the commitment was in fact first made. That fact itself that historical ambiguity itself. Is the subject of misgiving. Whatever one thinks of the merits of the commitment the weapons of frightfulness make the stakes so high. That there is a desperate desire. To devise some way by which individual man particularly the president of the United States and the secretary of state can be made more accountable to some higher authority. Lest their fallibility or stubbornness or misguided aim should trip the trigger of no kill or destruction. Generation after all whose hero president launched the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
And whose whole mature experience has been dominated by a reluctant war. Cannot be expected to feel comfortable. When the head of the world's strongest power seems to be free to go it alone. President Nixon's insensitivity to this concern led to the frightful misjudgment of campus response. Not so much to the decision but the style of the decision of the Cambodian adventure. Now many of you this recital of symptoms of malaise from an excessive dose of world responsibility may recall the epidemic of American isolationism of an earlier day. Almost 30 years ago I was a student then it was then my turn to paint my name on public fences magazine articles radio programs college newspaper editorials. I was an isolationist. I can see the parallel between that and now because I can see the parallel. It scares me because if isolationism was wrong it is much more wrong now. However as a veteran isolationist even more than as
an amateur student of students I would assert. That in spite of all the symptoms reminiscent of an earlier bout with this disease of isolationism the generation of reappraisal will not return to the classic American tradition of isolationism. Classic American isolationism even in its 20th century incarnation in the late 30s and early 40s is best understood in terms of George Washington's farewell address the prescription was simple one part supreme confidence and the nobility of the American experiment. One part disdain for the farmer and his vicissitudes and one part confidence in United States immunity from disruption or destruction by external influence or alien intrusion. Serene aloofness. It was really the essence of these pre these three prescriptions and these truths seem self-evident to the isolationists the student isolationists of the later 1930s. And then the American experiment seemed all the more unique
more important to preserve from the risk of war by the inability of Europe to deal with the Great Depression without resort to socialism communism or fascism. So we felt we should not jeopardize mankind's last best hope merely to retrieve the chestnuts from a fire of internees science. Which had been plaguing Europe for untold centuries before the American public Republic was bestowed upon a suffering mankind. Anyway I would confidently asserted that even the triumphant axis could not conceivably launch a successful attack upon the Western Hemisphere. How different this generation's perception is. Fortunately the current generation of re appraisers is very different from my generation of students. Isolation they have departed in all three respects from the persistent threat of American isolationism. First woven by President Washington. They most certainly do not believe that America has all the answers even for itself let alone for the rest of the world.
They are not turning their back on their heritage particularly the heritage of individual freedom but they are distinctively and refreshingly free of smug self-congratulation about the American way of life. Social economic or political. Second they are more genuinely imbued with enthusiasm about as well as understanding of peoples cultures and nations other than their own than any preceding generation ever has been. One result of being cast loose from inherited credos religions national or social dogmas. Is to put a higher value on the human being as such without prejudgment on the basis of familiarity friendship or common language or appearance or tradition. This is fostered too by the migratory nature of the present student generation and the Peace Corps motivation of many of them. Third and finally they are more painfully aware than we. We elders are. But the shadow of destruction extends round the world and has
not escaped by distance or speed nor height nor depth. Nor any living creature. Perhaps because I hope so. I think of this generation may seek to use the power of their country to try to move forward problem by problem to the establishment of an authority which truly transcends nation sovereignty of the person is what is important to them and they would not allow national sovereignty to stand in the way of personal sovereignty. If a particular problem. Requires a transnational solution so I am full of hope full of wish. I have only one fear and that is that their anti chauvinism their humanistic idealism their sense of the imminent risk of civilizations destruction might make them incapable of hard headed analysis of the national
interest and hard headed appraisal of the role of force in its protection. But if I had to choose between a generation which was all means and no end for a generation which is all I know mean I suppose for students who will never be as free again to find their sense of sustaining purpose I would prefer the ends without me. I think our greatest fear is not our power our greatest fear is that that power might have no rational direction but an even greater fear is not. That our power might be irrational. But that our power might be heartless. I think the thing that makes me most encouraged about this generation is that
Special of the week
Issue 3-71 "The Campus and Society" Kingman Brewster
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 3-71 "The Campus and Society" Kingman Brewster,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 27, 2022,
MLA: “Special of the week; Issue 3-71 "The Campus and Society" Kingman Brewster.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 27, 2022. <>.
APA: Special of the week; Issue 3-71 "The Campus and Society" Kingman Brewster. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from