A Princeton Degree For a Yalie: George H.W. Bush Visits Princeton, 1991

On May 10, 1991, President George H.W. Bush came to Princeton’s campus to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and dedicate the University’s Social Science Complex. This $20 million dollar project included the newly constructed Bendheim and Fisher Halls, as well as a renovation of Corwin Hall. This Reel Mudd blog post includes video of both of these events, along with other scenes related to the President’s visit.

President Bush’s visit was notable for several reasons. This ceremony was Bush’s first appearance outside of Washington DC after suffering atrial fibrillation while jogging at Camp David. In addition, Bush’s speech (beginning at 00:50:26) was expected to be a major policy speech, though a report indicates that the president rewrote the address en route to Princeton in order to tone down direct attacks on Congress (Daily Princetonian, Volume 115, Number 65, 13 May 1991). While still peppered with criticism of Congress, the President’s talk was mainly a discussion of the Executive Branch’s policy making role compared to that of the Legislative, and Bush’s personal opposition to creating new bureaucracies. The speech is also peppered with humor about the Princeton/Yale rivalry and the President’s place within it (51:42), as well as Bush’s health(50:39), the Nude Olympics (51:22), John F. Kennedy (52:02), and the Princeton allegiances of Secretaries of State George Shultz ’42 and James Baker ‘52  (52:28).
Bush Receives his honorary degree from President Shapiro *64.
Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series, Box MP2

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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, An Overview

Since 1951, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has conducted research aimed at developing controlled nuclear fusion as an energy alternative to fossil fuels. Founded by Lyman Spitzer *38, the PPPL is a joint project of Princeton University and the US Department of Energy, located on Princeton’s James Forrestal Campus. This 1989 publicity film highlights the PPPL’s history, projects, and progress toward its mission of developing sustainable nuclear fusion.

The film’s focus is the PPPL’s main experiment in the 1980s and 1990s, the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR). This device used magnetic fields to contain a plasma made of hydrogen isotopes which were heated to a temperature so high that their nuclei fuse together into a new molecule, generating energy as a byproduct. TFTR’s goal was to develop a process of generating more energy through the fusion than the amount of electricity required to power the reactor containing the plasma. By 1989, TFTR’s successes included achieving a then record-temperature of  200 million degrees Celsius and confirming existence of a so-called “bootstrap current” within plasmas.

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Are Wiretapping Laws Helping Criminals?

The recent debates over wiretapping are not new, as this film “Are Wiretapping Laws Helping Criminals?” demonstrates. Broadcast as an episode of All America Wants to Know, this segment features a debate about an issue that is as relevant to the ACLU today as it was during this 1962 broadcast.

All America Wants to Know was a monthly debate show which focused on current events and legal issues. Presented by The Reader’s Digest and the Freedoms Foundation, this program was created and moderated by Theodore Granik, best known for creating several other radio and television panel discussion programs including “Youth Wants to Know,” “Women Want to Know,” and perhaps most famously, “American Forum of the Air.”

The inspiration for this episode was the March 1962 Reader’s Digest article by Senator Kenneth Keating (R-NY), called “Change the Law that Fosters Crime.” Keating, a long time advocate of expanding federal surveillance powers, was known for having introduced a 1954 bill that sought to allow the FBI and military intelligence services to intercept telephone conversations in national-security cases, as well as Senate bill S. 3340 (86th Congress, 1960), which aimed to make it easier for state law enforcement to place taps.

In addition to Senator Keating, this episode’s panel featured Senator John A. Carroll (D-CO), Virgil W. Peterson, the Operating Director of the Chicago Crime Commission; Frank O’Connor, Queens County District Attorney; and Lawrence Speiser, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C. office.

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Traveling Hopefully, 1982

Robert Louis Stephenson once wrote that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive. And the true reward is to labor. I have travelled hopefully for all these years. So has the ACLU. Some day, some time, but the goal is clear, the road is hard, and progress painful. We are approaching — we are beginning to approach —  a tolerable world of peace, order, and justice.

-Roger Baldwin, 95th Birthday Celebration, 1979

Reel Mudd’s showcase of the audiovisual materials from the Records of the American Civil Liberties Union continues with Travelling Hopefully. This 28 minute documentary tells the life story of Roger Baldwin, the ACLU director from 1920 to 1950. The film intersperses interviews of Baldwin by Gail Sheehy and Norman Lear with praise for Baldwin’s actions by Ira Glasser, Andrew Young, Norman Dorsen, Ted Kennedy and others. Much of the praise for Baldwin comes from a 1979 dinner honoring Baldwin’s 95th birthday.

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Operation Abolition and Operation Correction

This week Reel Mudd brings you a double feature with Operation Abolition and Operation Correction! Perhaps the term double feature is inaccurate — each film contains the same footage but tells a different story. Operation Abolition describes how Communist infiltrators led riots while the House Un-American Activities Committee convened in San Francisco. Operation Correction, however, talks of misrepresentation by a government agency desperate to remain relevant while its raison d’être faced public scrutiny.

Operation Abolition, a 1960 documentary produced by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (a.k.a House Un-American Activities Committee or HUAC), focused on an incident on May 13, 1960 when the Committee convened in San Francisco’s City Hall. While the committee met, students protested in the hallways and outside the building, leading to clashes with the police and the arrest of 64 students. Operation Abolition shows footage of the incident taken from subpoenaed San Francisco TV station newsreels, using that footage to allege that the students were Communists and/or instigated by Communist agents. The film’s narrators, Representative Francis E. Walter, Chairman of HUAC, and Fulton Lewis III, son of a prominent anti-communist radio commentator, suggest that the protesters were members of and/or “duped” by groups whose ultimate goal was to destroy the committee, weaken the FBI, and reduce the enforcement powers of the Federal government. Despite being a newsreel produced by a government agency, Operation Abolition was surprisingly popular. According to Time Magazine, an estimated 15 million people saw this film.

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The Challenge

This Reel Mudd highlights a 1955 television pilot known as The Challenge. Intended to be the start of a weekly series highlighting controversial social issues, this episode was co-produced by the Fund for the Republic and noted TV producer Worthington Miner. This pilot shows the story of a school bus driver who is fired from his job and brought before the school board to justify his refusal to sign a loyalty oath.

The program’s co-producer, the Fund for the Republic, was an organization spun-off from the Ford Foundation. The Fund issued grants, commissioned studies, and created original works seeking to explore social issues such as racial discrimination, blacklisting, academic freedom, and the legality and effectiveness of loyalty oaths. As part of these activities, the Fund created a variety of documentaries and shorts for radio and television aimed at helping educate the American public about these issues.

The Challenge’s exploration of loyalty oaths mirrors the arguments raised in Fund for the Republic studies of the issue. It questions whether loyalty oaths were effective in their efforts to prevent Communists from subverting American institutions, whether they were constitutional, and if they led to additional rights or ethics violations.

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