LBJ's Speech Too 'Corny' for Harvard
As Lyndon Johnson launched his administration at the Inauguration last Wednesday, expounding his conception of the "American Dream" and the Great Society, not very many Harvard and Radcliffe students were listening.
And most of those who were, or who have read the address, termed it "uninspired."
Students used words like "sentimental," "political," "nice-sounding," "paternalistic," or just plain "Johnson" to describe the speech. And over and over again, they used the word "corny."
Radcliffe women emphasized the "corny" aspects of the speech more than Harvard men. "Cliffies don't like Texas-sort of things," said one girl operating the phones at Holmes Hall. "He is not dynamic; his personality is boring."
Radcliffe students continually drew a contrast between former President Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. "We're sort of resigned to it now," said another Cliffie, "that we have a president who is just a good politician."
At Harvard, only a little more than ten per cent of those interviewed volunteered a contrast between the two presidents.
Most people were unable to pick out one specific point in the speech which they found more interesting than the rest. "Nothing really stood out; it was just a lot of nice-sounding things," one Yardling said.
Several students, however, both at Harvard and Radcliffe, voiced concern that the president had sluffed over a discussion of foreign policy. "He mentioned foreign affairs once, and I was hopeful," an upperclassman noted, "but then he skirted the whole issue."
On the other hand, there were a few who thought the speech was "good," that its tone was "optimistic and hopeful," and that the president had delivered a traditional inauguration speech," but virtually no one admitted that the speech had either moved, inspired or uplifted them.
The keynote of most opinion seemed to be indifference, and if not indifference, then irration or disappointment. "I just expected more from a presidential inauguration, that's all," said another freshman.
Only about one Harvard freshman in three have read the address, and among upperclassmen, the percentage rises to about 40.
So the Great Society is on its way, with the Lord and 61.2 per cent of the American people behind it, but by in large Harvard was unmoved by the President's style. One Cliffie stated flatly that the thing that bothered her most about the Inaugural Address was "his continual references to God." The President mentioned God four times.