Monday, May 9, 2011

Summer of Love

Glassboro, New Jersey

In early June 1967, the Six-Day War was fought by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. In response, President Lyndon Johnson proposed to meet with Aleksei Kosygin of the Soviet Union during his counterpart’s upcoming trip to the United Nations. In addition to the Middle East, there were other issues to discuss, such as nuclear arms control (China announced the explosion of its first hydrogen bomb that month) and the Vietnam War—Johnson was looking for ways to end the conflict in Southeast Asia. A menu from this meeting recalls a time when the superpowers engaged in a continuous process of summits and treaties called détente, trying to ease strained relations at critical moments.

The first order of business was to decide on a location. Kosygin wanted to meet in New York; Johnson preferred Washington where there was less chance of anti-war demonstrations. They finally reached a compromise, agreeing to meet at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in Glassboro, New Jersey, a small town equidistant between the two cities. Beginning on June 23, the leaders met intermittently for three days at Hollybush Mansion. The 1850 brownstone, situated on the rolling grounds of the tree-studded campus, was the residence of the college president. Johnson liked its homey atmosphere which complemented his unpretentious style. Kosygin also admired the old building, saying to Johnson as he stepped out of his limousine, “You chose a nice place.”

After the meeting concluded on Sunday, the president hosted a late lunch in the dining room where twenty summiteers sat around a cloth-covered, raw-wood table that had been hammered together by the White House kitchen staff. The menu below features one of Johnson’s favorite dishesstuffed eggplant. The straightforward name represented a departure from the Kennedy years when it might have been described in French, possibly as aubergines à la niçoise.

The Soviet delegation departed promptly at 5:45 PM so the helicopter taking them back to New York could avoid thunderstorms in the area. The cold spring in 1967 had turned into a long, hot summer. In addition to the searing heat, race riots were setting American cities ablaze. And there were other social forces playing out as the world was shrinking. A few hours after the summit ended, an estimated 400 to 700 million people watched the first worldwide satellite telecast. The live TV show called “Our World” featured the debut of the Beatles’ song “All You Need is Love.” Indeed, a hundred thousand hippies would soon converge on the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, fomenting a cultural and political rebellion known as the “Summer of Love.” In the end, neither the Smalltown Summit (as it was dubbed in the press), nor the youthful goings-on in the Bay Area, changed the direction of the Vietnam War.


Anonymous said...

Henry, I like how you build up to the summer of love. Good context!

Jeanne Schinto said...

Context is everything. Bravo!