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June 2, 1968

While rain pelted the campus, strong opinion rang in the Chapel at Commencement. In his address New York Mayor John V. Lindsay told the 1,400 guests and members of the Class of 1968 he was “disheartened” by the “irrationality” of the 90th Congress’s response to the report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—the so-called “riot commission”—of which he was vice chairman. The report had urged strong efforts to help African Americans get jobs, housing and education, but Congress, Lindsay said, “has been moving in the opposite direction.”

“Typical of the response by Congress,” he said, “was the recent action of the House Appropriations Committee in cutting by fully 50 percent the amount of funds requested by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, was awarded the entire appropriation it submitted. This divergence of values, this irrationality of national purpose, is indicative of a nation that has lost its way. It confuses the need to maintain our society with the need to rebuild our society.”

Frequent applause interrupted Lindsay’s 30-minute address, and many of the 413 members of ’68 who had been holding daisies or carnations as they listened handed the blooms to him as they walked past to receive their diplomas, some whispering “Flower Power.” At the end of the ceremony, Mary Lindsay ’47 approached her husband, “who looked a little sheepish sitting with his little bouquet in the lap of his blue and black academic robe,” saying, “John, you look just like a bride.”

Richard Reeves, The New York Times

The Years