Some years ago, a group of aging men planning their fiftieth college reunion decided to do something more than drink beer and share old stories. They had heard President John F. Kennedy deliver his last major public address less than a month before a shot fired in Dallas suddenly ended his life. He had delivered a direct, personal call to civic engagement, linked to an appeal for the liberal arts and their role in questioning and humanizing the use of power. The president’s words, and the events following that speech, changed their lives.
THE WORLD WE INHERITED; THE WORLD WE WILL BEQUEATH
In discussions surrounding their 50th Reunion, The Amherst Class of 1964 considered the changes that had occurred in the previous 50 years. What had been the impact of their generation? They chose the theme, “The World We Inherited; the World We Will Bequeath” to stimulate both discussion and action.
Growing out of the reunion there was a strong sense that despite the many significant advances that had occurred in those 50 years, serious issues had developed, particularly within the areas of politics, environment, and education. President Kennedy’s words heard by the Class of ’64 became a call to action.
Just 27 days before his death, in what is now viewed as his most “majestic” speech, President Kennedy spoke at Amherst College at the groundbreaking for the Robert Frost Library. He challenged students to a life of public service, extolled the importance of the arts and reflected on the work of Robert Frost and the relationship between poetry and power. Kennedy spoke of privilege, of inherited wealth and inherited poverty. “Unless the graduates of this college and other colleges like it who are given a running start in life – unless they are willing to put back into our society, those talents, the broad sympathy, the understanding, the compassion – unless they are willing to put those qualities back into the service of the Great Republic, then obviously the presuppositions upon which our democracy are based are bound to be fallible.”
Members of the Amherst College Class of 1964 are shown in one of several discussions concerning the issues with our political system. Other major topics considered were how to address environmental issues, fix our educational system, and repair our healthcare system.
Standing in the rear: Peter Wintersteiner, Rip Sparks
Seated around the table and facing forward: Bob Benedetti, Neil Bicknell, Mitch Meisner, Mark Sandler, Joe Stiglitz, Charles Stover.
Reunion ’64, Inc. Committees and Board of Directors and Management
Robert Benedetti (Director and President), Neil Bicknell (Director and Vice-President), Charles Stover (Director and Secretary), Stephen Smith (Director and Treasurer), Roger Mills (Director). Other committee members include: Judy Bicknell, Dick Joslin, Jan Worth-Nelson, Ted Nelson, Mark Sandler and Rip Sparks.
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Neil & Judy Bicknell
Stuart M. Johnson
Charles A. Lewis
Stephen & Elizabeth Smith
Richard & Ruth Sparks
Unni Cooper in memory of R. John Cooper ’64
Cyril M. Hetsko, MD
George de Rizner
Dwight & Kristen Poler in memory of R. John Cooper ’64
Sandler Family Fund
Charles & Katharine Stover
Steven F. McWhorter
Daniel L. Weissberg
Bernard Witholt & Renske Heddema
David Lake Jr.
Sommers Family Charitable Trust
V. Jane Schneeloch
“The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.”
– President Kennedy at Amherst College
Gene Palumbo and Steve Downs. Judy Bicknell photo.
Charles Stover and Steve Smith. Judy Bicknell photo.
Democracy Group Discussion. Judy Bicknell photo.
Group at “Poetry and Politics” Program at Amherst. Jan Worth-Nelson photo.. Pictured left to right: Neil Bicknell, Ted Nelson, Jan Worth-Nelson, Roger Mills, Kit Stover, Judy Bicknell, Charles Stover