Interview with Paul N. Ylvisaker

What do you think the movement meant, what did it do for the country?


It hit me the other day what this movement had done for the country. I got a letter from an Italian scholar who asked whether America could recover the idealism that made it a magnet for peoples around the world. They had seen us go through two decades now of cynicism and selfishness, and they began to wonder would we lose what we had at the time of the '60s? And I think the movement, symbolically, said what this country was all about. What it did to this country was when it became involved in the Vietnam War, when we began to see that rising expectations sometimes led to violence, in the student movement as well, the country began to go negative and defensive and went into its corner. This is one of the tragedies that I see, that it was the idealism of that time and what the movement gave this country was submerged, was, was turned to acid. But I still think that this is cyclical, and again, I think this country is beginning to change. Now, we'll wait to see if it will be a gentler, kinder America, but I sense that the residual of the movement is very deep and very powerful and it isn't limited just to the Black community.