Ronald Reagan vs College Students, 1967

Over at the Historical Society, Randall Stephens reminds us that the centennial celebration of Ronald Reagan has often ignored the Cold War cultural warrior that Reagan was in the 60s and 70s.

“NEW HAVEN, Dec. 4 [1967]–Gov. Ronald Reagan of California, who said he had never taught anything before except swimming and Sunday school, sat on a desk at Yale University today and conducted a class in American history.” So reported the New York Times on the Gipper’s visit to the ivy, where he was met with student protests and plenty of probing questions (December 6, 1967).

“Should homosexuals be barred from holding public office?” a senior from LA asked. The governor was surprised by the question. Rumors had been swirling that his administration had fired two staff members after their sexual preferences came to light. “It’s a tragic illness,” said Reagan, after a pause. And, yes, he did think that homosexuality should remain illegal. Some students earlier had demanded that the school rescind its invitation to Reagan. The governor, who visited Yale as a Chubb fellow, gave his $500 honorarium to charity.

The confrontation between the 56-year-old governor and Yale students in 1967 speaks to the culture wars that roiled the decade and continue to reverberate to this day. In the video embedded here the students, with haircuts that make them look like clones of Rob from My Three Sons, square off with Reagan on poverty, race, and Vietnam.

via The Historical Society: Ronald Reagan vs College Students, 1967.


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