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Vogel: Reunion Reflections

John Vogel
John Vogel graduated from high school in 1968.

In preparation for my high school reunion, I’ve been thinking about 1968, the year I graduated. The parallels with today are striking. In 1968 the country was dreadfully divided. As one reporter wrote “the country seems to be having a nervous breakdown as battles erupt over the Vietnam War, cultural values and race.”

Police violence has once again escalated. In 1968 tension between the police and anti-war protesters exploded in Chicago where police used mace and tear gas in what the Walker Report called a “police riot.”

In both 1968 and again in 2018, a President of the United States allegedly received help from a foreign country during an election. We now know that Richard Nixon negotiated with the government of South Vietnam through an intermediary to stall the peace talks until the election was over.

But there are also significant differences between 1968 and today. In 1968, cities across the country were in very bad shape and losing population. Today, those trends have reversed and many cities are once again highly desirable places to live.

In 1968, major U.S. political figures, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, were assassinated – tragedies that fortunately have not been repeated in recent years.

And although the country is still divided, the fault lines are not generational. Young people no longer shout slogans about not trusting anyone over 30.

As an idealistic 18 year old in 1968, I naively believed that the conflict and tumult might forge a more inclusive country and help us form a more perfect union. That didn’t happen.

But like many others, as I look back on the last fifty years I believe that I was fortunate to live in this country, as imperfect as it may be.

And each of us still needs to do our part in trying to make the world a better place or to follow the Jewish directive to repair the world or Tikkun Olam. But with the perspective of time, I hope that my children and grandchildren will someday look back on these tumultuous times as an aberration.

I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s observation that, “History does not repeat itself but it often rhymes.” And Winston Churchill who insisted that, “Americans Will Always Do the Right Thing — After Exhausting All the Alternatives.”


John Vogel is a retired professor from the Tuck School of Business. His tenure at Dartmouth began in 1992, where he taught Real Estate and Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector, among other subjects. He was named by the “Business Week Guide” to Business Schools as one of Tuck’s “Outstanding Faculty” members.
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