200 Scientists and Engineers Descend Upon Washington

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200 Scientists and Engineers Descend Upon Washington

by Britta Fischer

Science for the People’ Vol. 2, No. 2, August 1970, p. 8

People who go to Washington to speak up against the war? Of course they are all unwashed long-haired hippie freaks and student types who are so affluent that they cross state lines to make panty raids.

Well, on June 4, over 200 of them from N. Y. and N. J. donned short-haired wigs, the dignified looks of the over-thirty generation and the obligatory gray flannel suits as well as IBM, General Electric Research, RCA, Xerox, Kodak, and Brookhaven badges. And in these way-out get-ups they went to Washington to visit their Congressmen.

They were obviously not recognized as hippies because they got to speak to the President’s Science Advisor, Lee DuBrigge, who is apparently even straighter than his boss (if that’s possible) because he was described as “a well-prepared out-and-out apologist for the President.” 1 They also made it into the almost inner sanctum of the Pentagon where they spoke to Deputy Secratary of War, David Packard. He appeared to them as “an old-fashioned businessman with old-fashioned ideas” 2 but he obviously was hip enough to tell them that the administration also very much wants peace in Vietnam. They are busy working toward it, he said, through eliminating herbicides and having the defense budget cut by lower appropiations and inflation. 3 (That might be called passive action, and a DoW invention.) The group also met with some twenty senators and forty representatives whom they urged to pass the amendment to cut off funds for the war altogether.

Since they got to meet so many dignitaries we have to reconsider. Perhaps they were not hippies after all. Perhaps they were just well-paid suburban familymen; scientists and engineers “who are deeply troubled,” who “see our nation frustrated in its drive toward social justice and general economic well-being” and who “shudder at the atmosphere of hysteria and anti-intellectualism that the war and its byproducts are engendering.” 4 For many of them this trip to Washington was their first involvement in politics. It is remarkable indeed that some of the country’s most highly educated and emulated men are shedding their traditionally apolitical role. One of them said, “We have nothing new to say—we are merely taking our turns at the barricades.” 5 Different political groups may be perceiving the barricades differently, but it is important to realize that in the arena in which blacks and students first began to struggle the spectators of yesteryear are now getting in on the act.

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  1. “Scientists Report on Washington Mission” by Dr. Richard Orgass in Yorktowner, June 18, 1970
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. “Dissent Spreads to Nobelists, Industrial Scientists” by Philip M. Boffey in Science, June 12, 1970
  5. ibid.