The hype over this year’s presidential election is palpable on Penn’s campus. Whether students are bumping into voter registration tables on Locust Walk, getting a photo with Penn alumna and Hillary Clinton advocate Elizabeth Banks or playing a debate drinking game, reminders of the rapidly-approaching eighth of November are everywhere. But has campus always been this energetic during times of political significance?
When Ben Craine — 1965 Wharton graduate and 2007 Alumni Award of Merit recipient — recalls Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide win against Barry Goldwater in the 1960 election, his most vivid memory includes his seminar with the honored Professor George W. Taylor. Taylor, who also crafted General Motors’ first employee/union contract and advised the preceding six presidents of the United States, developed the “Taylor Law,” which is considered to be the model of public sector labor legislation.
When Craine was in Taylor’s Industrial Relations seminar at Penn, Taylor was summoned to assist in solving the looming national rail strike. Craine says, “I remember being at a party on Friday night when someone ran in with The Philadelphia Inquirer. There was a huge headline: ‘Taylor Called to Washington.’ Johnson had personally called him and asked him to come.”
Craine and his classmates received weekly updates from Taylor’s assistant until Taylor finally returned at the end of the semester. On the last day of lecture, Craine says, “Dr. Taylor spent the entire time telling us what he had done to help settle the dispute.”
According to Craine, Taylor told the class that President Johnson gathered all involved parties in one of the White House living rooms and said, “Gentlemen, for the sake of your country, we have to settle this here and now,” and that is exactly what the former Penn professor did.
Craine also remembers dropping off his dry cleaning just around the corner from his Hamilton Court apartment when learning the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Craine recalls, “You could not help but cry... As you would expect, that day, and for days beyond, there was a pall, a depression, on campus. You could not, and would not want to, escape it. It was a terrible sad time, as we had lost a great leader.”
Jon Copaken, a 1989 College graduate, was on campus during the 1988 election of President George H.W. Bush. Copaken notes, “Right now we seem to have two strong, bulldog type candidates who yell and scream and name call, and Bush and Dukakis seemed like two wimpy candidates but very civil and respectful.”
Of Dukakis' campaign, Copaken said, “it seemed that his campaign that was pretty weak was even weaker. It was funny.”
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