Glassboro Summit 1967

LBJ & Kosygin

The year was 1967. I was an undergraduate student at Glassboro State College in Glassboro, NJ, at that time. Glassboro is a little hamlet in Southern New Jersey. I was a history major and was planning to teach.


The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union appeared to be thawing a bit, for President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Premier Andrei Kosygin agreed to have a meeting. Kosygin was in New York at the United Nations and Johnson was in Washington, DC. Diplomacy dictated that they meet approximately halfway between the two cities, so Glassboro State College was selected to be their meeting location.


Excitement filled the air as the campus prepared for this historic event. The college president's home, Hollybush, had air conditioning installed, the local theater played "The Russians Are Coming," and so many other preparations were made. The media was everywhere and people lined the streets as Kosygin's limousine drove by.


I was able to see both of these leaders up close. The most exciting part was to realize that these two men, who had never sat down to talk before, were having a conversation. Communication is so important in every relationship, including the relationship between two presumed enemies. I'm sure they both discovered that they had things in common as human beings.


After the Summit Conference, the members of our senior class asked President Johnson if he would come to deliver the commencement address for our class in June. It was an election year in which Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy were runnning against Johnson. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated earlier that spring.


Until graduation day it seemed that our commencement speaker would be NJ Governor Richard J. Hughes. In fact, his seal was on the podium that had been placed in front of College Hall. When the President of the college, Thomas Robinson, announced a change of location for the graduation to this location, everyone booed, because they liked the usual site beneath the shady trees. President Robinson said, "Glassboro family, please understand that this change had to take place. Believe me when I say this may be the most momentous graduation we've ever had." This statement caused us to start believing the president would be coming.


Though the White House Press Corps had taken over the campus radio facilities, the college president kept saying that he had no knowledge of Johnson coming. It was another exciting time for us. As we sat on our chairs awaiting the graduation ceremonies to begin, we noticed that someone rushed up to the podium and removed the seal of the NJ governor. The band struck up, "Hail to the Chief," as a helicopter whirred overhead and landed in the baseball field that was adjacent to the main building. The Presidential Seal replaced the Governor's seal.


State troopers with rifles lined the roofs of nearby buildings. The atmosphere contained a mixture of joy and fear.


Yes, President Johnson was our commencement speaker--an historic and exciting day for us at Glassboro State College. There was as much excitement and wonder over his appearance as there was for the Summit Conference. I wonder if those same feelings will prevail when the King of kings returns. He said, "'Surely I come quickly.' Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).

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