One of those moments from my University of Rochester life comes to mind as we approach inauguration day 2017.
Many, if not most, members of the NROTC unit of the University of Rochester were given the opportunity to march in Lyndon Johnson’s Inauguration Day Parade on 20 January 1965. Given the passage of 50 plus years since then, my memory is hazy, perhaps even invented in some ways.
I remember our unit being among three NROTC units invited to participate in that parade. The others were, I think, Ohio State and Penn State. I think we marched near the end of the parade. It seemed we had lots of horse poop along Pennsylvania Avenue to avoid. But it was a seriously memorable event.
As I thought about it in recent days, I looked at CBS coverage of the event, posted to YouTube by the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, but I couldn’t spot our unit, let alone me. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVCfRm-0_DM). Lots of grainy footage in black and white, with, early on, brigades of cadets from West Point and then the Naval Academy. Maybe we trailed behind the Mids from Annapolis.
The event was, in any event, a proud moment, a once in a lifetime moment. At the same time, in January 1965, the moment was unlikely to have spoken to our futures as participants in the war in Vietnam–at least for this marcher.
But the memory has led me to look at New York Times coverage of the event. The Times banner headline of the 21st read: “JOHNSON, TAKING OATH, PLEDGES EFFORTS TO BRING AN END TO TYRANNY AND MISERY; BOTH PARTIES’ LEADERS ACCLAIM ADDRESS.” (Need I say in this age that the phrase “Both Parties’ Leaders Acclaim” is unlikely to appear in print any time soon?)
And then there was James Reston’s commentary on the speech. I have attached it. JamesRestononJohnsonInauguralSpeech.
I think Reston’s column was prescient and nuanced, identifying the tensions of our time–beginning with the idea that we, the United States, was a beacon and symbol for good, one that nations of the world would see as such.
It was the idea those of us in uniform took into the war zone in those years., rightly or wrongly.