Macalester College, then and now

I grew up in St. Paul a few miles down the street from Macalester College. I have a vivid memory of seeing students stream in to hear Richard Nixon speak at the college fieldhouse on Snelling Avenue in September 1960. I recall seeing the young men dressed in coats and ties and the young women in equally formal attire. Nixon’s appearance came of course in the run-up to the presidential election that Nixon lost by a hair to Kennedy.

Macalester has long since turned into a garden-variety hothouse of academic leftism. Macalester is so transformed that I wondered if it might somehow have erased the memory of its normality in the not so distant past, within the memory of living alumni and other witnesses.

Not to worry! Only last year Mac Wire recalled the event in a bemused note: “[A] post-election issue of The Mac Weekly points out that Nixon would have won by a landslide if the Macalester students of the time were the sole electors; Nixon received 626 votes from the Macalester student body, whereas Kennedy only received 218.”

Was Minnesota really in play in the election of 1960? Indeed it was. Nixon narrowly lost Minnesota to Kennedy, by a mere 20,000 votes. Excerpts of the speech Nixon gave that day are available online here. In his speech at Macalester Nixon was rightly defending Eisenhower’s record against JFK’s assault.

That was then, this is now: “My alumni weekend at Macalester College.” In the linked column Mac ’64 alum Robert Spaulding provides a colorful snapshot of the bizarre world Macalester has created for undergraduates on campus today.

As a newly minted freshman Spaulding might have seen Nixon’s speech and heard Nixon defend the status quo against Kennedy’s critique. He might have heard Nixon observe of the contrast between the defense and the critique: “Strange indeed this difference in pictures.” Strange indeed!


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