Contemporary icons come to U

Raiza Beltran

On a warm spring afternoon, nearly a year before he was assassinated on his hotel balcony, Martin Luther King spoke to 3,500 University students on the St. Paul campus.
“You can’t change the heart but you can restrain the heartless,” King said, raised on a platform in the St. Paul mall while students held anti-war and end-racism signs. “The law can’t love me but it can prevent someone from lynching me … and that’s pretty important too.”
King was only one of the many famous speakers who came to the University in the 1960s. The speakers — many of them contemporary icons — reflected the disparate and changing views of the decade.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke on campus for a peaceful end to the Vietnam War. “(The war) is an immoral evil and politically suicidal course,” King said.
April 18, 1968 was King’s third and last visit to the University of Minnesota. He also came to campus in 1959 and 1963.
Dubbed as the “unofficial poet laureate of the United States” by a Daily reporter, Robert Frost — then 87 years old — drew 5,000 students and three standing ovations when he visited the campus on Oct. 19, 1961.
“He removed a rumpled gray felt hat and a burst of wonderfully white hair fell over his left eye,” wrote the a Daily reporter who met Frost in the airport.
Reading several of his famous poems, Frost commented on how he created his pieces. “I make these up when I wake up at night,” said Frost.
Twenty-seven year old Mohammad Ali came to the University on Feb. 12, 1969 at the height of the Black separatist movement. As the commencement speakers for the Black conference, Ali urged unity among Black Americans.
“(We’re) still looking for the master to give us a job, to give us a house in his neighborhood. What we’re asking for are crumbs,” said Ali to about 500 students. “We must become an independent people.”
Ali, however, did not support violence to achieve such goals but rather through gaining economic stability for black Americans.
On March 27, 1968, actor Paul Newman came to campus, also with a political agenda. Campaigning for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, Newman spoke to a record crowd of 6,000 people in Northrop Auditorium. Newman said he believed McCarthy was the only candidate who could end the Vietnam War.
Pop artist Andy Warhol also visited the University in February 14, 1968. Described by Daily reporter Yvonne Thayer as a “wide-eyed curly headed blonde dressed in a long tan suede coat and boots”. Warhol appeared for two workshops in Coffman Memorial Student Union. Warhol donated his silk screen print of Marilyn Monroe to the University Art Gallery.

Raiza Beltran covers student life and student government and welcomes comments at [email protected]