Cuba Protest Meeting

The Diarist

24 October 1962

10:00 Every seat filled in New Lecture Hall (Lowell to those who don't understand); 1000 reported waiting outside. Tocsin types dash around looking vastly important. A janitor walks up to the microphone, intones "testing, one, two, three." The crowd applauds; one man shouts back "No Testing." Cheers. Marty Peretz walks in and out--some twenty times in five minutes. A small, restive block of freshmen in the balcony brandish furled umbrellas. An air of contained excitement and considerable expectation. The CRIMSON has infiltrated: at least 15 editors scattered throughout the hall. Faint rhythmic applause; let's get something started--and then, for no reason, complete silence. Hughes himself has not yet arrived. Nash will moderate.

10:12 Nash has introduced the meeting, pleading for "calm reasonableness." Todd Gitlin, Tocsin's chairman, talks of "Harvard's air of complete isolation." He is interrupted by thunderous knocks on the firmly closed outer doors. The audience giggles happily, but it has calmed down: it is that part of the service where the curate pauses to read a few comfortable parish announcements. Meanwhile the Macbeth-like knocks continue.

10:32 Professor David Cavers of the Law School, whose voice is a soothing drone, is the first speaker. He thinks the UN must act as a peacemaker, and not as a prosecutor. The CRIMSON editors have decided he sounds like a personification of an AP machine. Much of the audience has become faintly restive. Hughes has not yet shown.

10:35 Barrington Moore is speaking. He has warmed up the freshman, who hiss vigorously. Moore tells them that if they can't do anything except sound like geese they ought to leave. They hiss again, and stay. The rest of the audience applauds, and stays too. "This situation did not arise last Tuesday; the moment was deliberately chosen," Moore declares. "All this rallying behind the President is the utter abdication of democracy." Thunderous applause. His manner is calm, almost hesitant, highly academic.

10:47 Hughes arrives to substantial applause. Moore is in the middle of saying that protests are silly and ineffective. "Leave the constructive alternatives to Bundy," he says. "He has at least as strong a will to survive as we do. If there is to be any protest against a destructive system." Damn you all. He jumps off the lectern and leaves the building.

10:53 Hughes begins to speak--the fourth time since the President's speech, he tells us. Half the audience rises to its feet. He is, as ever during this last month of the campaign, quite collected, increasingly sure of himself. "It is the others who are extremists and irresponsible," he says forcefully. The usual half-smile seems to be teasing his mouth towards laughter. And he is still, in his rhetoric, very much the precisionist and the academic. Nevertheless, he does seem in some indefinable way to have grown greatly in stature since last spring: standing flanked by the American and UN flags, he says he wants to be a beachhead of responsible opposition in this country. And he does seem very responsible: he stands tall and serious, and his quiet voice carries very well. "The moment for hope has not passed." Prolonged applause.

11:14 Nash asks for a show of hands: how many people at least don't want to invade Cuba? Most of the audience seems agreed--except, of course, those freshmen. Telegram blanks are handed round by the Tocsins. The freshmen march outside, their black umbrellas aloft, chanting in unison, "We have secured peace in our time." "Well," says one boy walking home, "it was a choice between this and the Bob Hope Show --and I'm glad I came to this."