Letters to the Editor: I protested Reagan in 1967. Today’s criticism of ‘woke’ students is a cliché

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To the editor: Some six decades ago, I surely would have welcomed Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth’s insights in his op-ed article, “College students were ‘woke’ in the ‘60s, annoying to elders and drivers of social change. Meet their successors.”

In the spring of 1967, busloads of us UC Santa Barbara students left our “normally sleepy campus” (per Time magazine’s report) to travel overnight to join a protest in Sacramento.

What provoked us to temporarily abandon our studies? Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan had proposed steep tuition hikes, widely seen as his pandering to conservatives who denounced UC Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement.


Gathered at the state Capitol building’s front the next morning, we anxiously awaited Reagan’s appearance. While we waited, one of his cranky old (well, 50ish) staff members loudly rebuked us: “No wonder you kids don’t learn anything — you never study!”

Roth nailed it: Criticism of today’s protesters “is all part of the long, cliche-ridden history of accusing the young of failing to live up to an older generation’s idea of the student.” Too bad Reagan never learned that compelling truth.

Edgar M. Martinez, Orcutt, Calif.


To the editor: Roth missed a few things in his look back at 1960s protests.

Then, males were subject to being drafted into the military at age 18 yet could not vote until age 21. Females suffered near-universal expectations to marry soon after high school and thereafter to remain dedicated homemakers and mothers.

Such fundamental issues triggered popular protest songs that served to galvanize demonstrators. Young men touted Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction,” with its lament that resonated during the Vietnam War era: “You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’/ You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’?”

And young women loved “Harper Valley PTA,” as Jeannie C. Riley’s narrative called out the rampant hypocrisy of conservative townspeople who criticized a young unmarried mother whose social mores unduly concerned them.


Having grown up listening to music that helped promote enlightened political and social changes, I hope today’s young protesters can sing similar tunes.

Rona Dolgin, Los Angeles