Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon, speaking before The University of Rochester, amid protests against his appearance, denounces historian Eugene Genovese for his vocal support of the Viet Cong rebels: "Any teacher who uses the forum of a university to proclaim that he welcomes victory for the enemy in a shooting war crosses the line between liberty and license. If we are to defend academic freedom from encroachment, we must also defend it from its own excesses." Signed only four years before the Kent State shootings would galvanize the nation against the Vietnam War.

Typed letter signed, “Dick ," 1 page, 7.25” x 10.5” on his personal letterhead, New York, June 6, 1966, to publisher James Copley enclosing a copy of his June 5, 1966 commencement address before the University of Rochester. Accompanied by a 8 page copy of Nixon's typescript address, 8.5" x 11" and headed, "Commencement Address by Richard M. Nixon University of Rochester... Sunday, June 5, 1966." Both the letter and the enclosure bear file holes at top, a few minor staple holes at the top left corners, and the expected mailing folds, a few minor corner creases, else fine condition. 

Nixon writes to Copley in full: "In view of recent protests against American policy in Vietnam on college and university campuses, I thought you might be interested in my remarks on this subject at the University of Rochester on June 5."

University of Rochester President, W. Allen Wallis' announcement that Richard Nixon had been invited to deliver the 1966 commencement address was met by protests from both faculty members and students. (New York Times, April 15, 1966) The previous year, Rutgers history professor Eugene Genovese had been quoted as stating, "I do not fear or reject the impending Vietcong victory in Vietnam, I welcome It." (New York Times Magazine, December 19, 1965). The comment set off a firestorm, leading New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Wayne Dumont to call for his ouster and criticized the sitting governor, Richard J. Hughes, for not pressuring Rutgers to do so. Campaigning with Dumont in October, Nixon asked a crowd of Legionaries, "Does an individual employed by the state have the right to use his position to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States in wartime." The crowd shouted back emphatically, "No, No, No!" (New York Times, October 25, 1965). Governor Hughes, despite his refusal to have Genovese fired, won re-election by a large margin. The announcement of Nixon's appearance at the University of Rochester in April 1966 provoked protests among faculty and students not only because Nixon was invited, but that he would receive an honorary degree—a customary courtesy bestowed upon commencement speakers. Nixon managed to diffuse the situation within a few days by announcing that he would not accept the degree—as he adhered to a policy to refuse such honors. 

Nixon's appearance on June 5, 1966 proved somewhat anti-climatic. In his speech, he advocated the concept of "The Four Academic Freedoms," (which echoed Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms) and offered a nuanced and fairly balanced critique, even going as far as advocating a professor's right to advocate positions that were politically unpopular, including communism. "I believe also that academic freedom should protect the right of a professor or student to advocate, marxism, socialism, communism, or any other minority viewpoint provided he does so openly and is not in violation of the law of the land." However, he believed that these freedoms did have limits: "Should academic freedom protect a professor when he uses the forum of a state university to welcome victory for the enemy in a war in which the United States is engaged? I know than in answering 'no' to that question I am expressing disagreement with many of the faculty ty and graduating class... However, since academic freedom includes the right to espouse an unpopular cause... To those who would welcome victory for the enemy I would respectfully suggest that they do not know the enemy... If we are to defend academic freedom from encroachment we must also defend it from its own excesses." 

According to contemporary press accounts, Nixon's reception at the University of Rochester was quite cordial and many of his statements were met with applause from the audience. Nixon was quite proud of his achievement and forwarded copies of his speech to numerous friends and colleagues. Some of Nixon's statements drew fire from his old boss, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who wrote, "I am a bit skeptical about the assertion that teachers and students possess a special freedom in America." He especially objected to Nixon's assertion that a professor had a right to advocate communism. (Stephen E. Ambrose, Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972, 2014) 

The speech, in many respects, reflects Nixon's thinking concerning some of the most critical issues facing the nation in this critical period in American history. Sadly for Nixon, his Presidency would further galvanize popular opposition to the war, resulting in violent protests. Nixon's expansion of the conflict with the bombing of targets in Cambodia provoked an enormous wave of protests, one of which, at Kent State University, resulted in the deaths of four students at the hands of National Guardsmen.


Item: 58535

Price: $1,750.00
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Richard Nixon
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