Web Exclusives: PawPlus

Posted July 7, 2004:

This is the text of a talk given by J. Stewart Dill ’70, of Milwaukee, Wisc., President of Princeton University’s Senior Class, at the Annual Meeting of the Princeton Alumni Association, Saturday, June 6, 1970, at 3:30 p.m. on Pardee Field. The meeting followed the traditional Alumni P-Rade from Nassau Hall in which members of some 70 Princeton Classes participated. )


President Goheen, Fellow Princetonians, and Friends:

On behalf of the Class of 1970, I extend warm greetings to all of you.

I’m sure all alumni today recall their graduation and the numerous festive activities that accompanied it, including the Steer and Beer Party, the Step Sings, Class Day exercises, and the Senior Prom. At a meeting on May 6, the seniors elected to forego these traditional functions. In their place, the class has erected a Peace Tent, has sponsored addresses by Senators Goodell and McGovern, and has conducted symposia, lectures, and seminars on the war in Indo-China.

Similarly, the senior class has traditionally marched in the P-Rade to this meeting. Although many of us are here, you probably have already noticed that most of the seniors did not march with you in the customary fashion. The class has asked me to march alone and convey to you the reasons for our absence.

The decision not to join our fellow Princetonians in the P-Rade was a most difficult one. We recognized that by not marching we might alienate the very alumni whose support and counsel have made Princeton University an institution of which we are all proud to be a part. Yet we felt, if properly conducted and explained, this gesture would be viewed as a dramatic symbol of our conviction that time-honored practices must yield to more urgent business.

There are a number of seniors who will not agree with what I will say today. Some of those have chosen to march in today’s P-Rade. (And I see many of my best friends among them.) In the true tradition of an open university community, we respect their rights to hold and to express different opinions. But, for the most part, I believe I speak for the majority of the class.

Let me try to clear away any possible misconceptions concerning our motivation and purpose.

Some might conclude that we have refused to join the P-Rade merely to antagonize those who do not hold similar political beliefs. Others might view our absence as symbolic of our intent to separate ourselves from Princeton alumni and, ultimately, even from the University. Still others might see our behavior simply as irresponsible overreaction to recent events.

Such charges would be erroneous and unjust. Our decision was carefully considered. It should be received with the same sense of concern and urgency in which it was reached. Our actions today, as well as the strike itself, should not be interpreted as anti-alumni or anti-Princeton. In fact, our class is probably as proud to be a part of Princeton as any other class present here today. I know I am. We are proud to join with Princeton men led by our fathers in the class of 1945 -- class composed of men who fought in total opposition to the evils of fascism and struggled to establish an international forum in which all nations of the world could unite and resolve their differences in peace. We are also proud to join our grandfathers in the class of 1920 -- class composed of men who fought for ideals of international freedom and harmonious world community. Nothing could lessen the respect and admiration we hold for these two classes who have returned for their 25th and 50th reunions. In their pursuit of these ideals, they exemplify Princeton’s best tradition. We, the Class of 1970, are proud to join them and all alumni in a Princeton commitment to peace.

Though our class takes great pride in being a part of the Princeton family, we have chosen by our approach to this year’s Reunions, and more immediately by our absence from this P-Rade, to demonstrate our total opposition to some practices of our society which we consider to be immoral, wasteful, and cruel. Our refusal today to “go along” with “business as usual” is an effort to symbolize our break with a past which has too often destroyed and exploited our world’s resources, both human and natural, at home and abroad. We can no longer condone these practices by our silence or by joining this year in a P-Rade and other Reunion activities which seem to many too passive an acceptance of a past many now question.

So our class has chosen this time to demonstrate not against Princeton or its alumni but against certain national policies and their tragic consequences.We repudiate American foreign policy, which seeks to impose America’s will and way of life on people around the world. Such national arrogance has recently crystallized in the tragedy of Vietnam. Our military involvement there, justified by the Cold War principle of extending democracy and containing communism, has resulted in not only our support of South Vietnam’s regressive and unrepresentative military regime, but also the wanton destruction of Vietnamese people and their homeland.

Our belligerence abroad has served only to increase strife at home. U.S. involvement in Vietnam has radically realigned this country’s priorities, diverting attention and necessary resources from pressing domestic needs.

While millions of dollars are spent daily on the war effort, our environment continues to deteriorate, our cities steadily decay, our economy suffers, and our poor remain confined to an existence on the margins of society.

In addition, the war in Indo-China has alienated a substantial segment of the nation’s youth. Within our senior class, many will soon be called to fight a war in which they can not believe and for which they see no moral or political justification. For these seniors, the imminent demand by our government that they serve in this war provokes a personal dilemma of the utmost urgency. Under these circumstances, normal reunion activities, for us, lose their importance.

It should be unnecessary but, sadly, it seems necessary to say, that we have not lost faith in our nation or in our university. In fact, we have more faith in them, for our future depends on their humane development. We know they can be better. We are committed to seek a better world.

We are grateful for the education we have received here. We recognize our responsibility to help make the same opportunity available to future generations. The Class of 1970 will remain true to its pledge to give to Princeton University both from our hearts and from our pockets. In a time of much political dissent and controversy, our Memorial Fund Drive was conducted most successfully. I am happy to announce that over two-thirds of my classmates have pledged to invest nearly $8,500 per year in a fund which will return $400,000 to Princeton at our 25th reunion in 1995. 1 hope you will accept our projected class gift as proof that we do believe in Princeton and in its future.

As we leave Princeton in the next few days, in addition to our pledge of financial support, we pledge the devotion of our lives to carry on and advance the ideals we have learned here. Following the model of Woodrow Wilson “In the Nation’s Service,” we will dedicate ourselves to creating a society committed to peace for all the peoples of the world. We do not believe these are utopian pipe dreams. We know these are hard goals, very hard -- and that the struggle to achieve them will require all our energies -- indeed, our lives. We also know that this struggle will require far more human energy and resources than any one class can muster.

Thus, as we commit ourselves to working with you in furthering the ideals of the University, we hope you will join us; as dedicated alumni, may we always work together for Princeton, together for community, together for peace.