TCNJ Magazine Fall 2018

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12 The College of New Jersey Magazine My Tumultuous Senior Year The Vietnam War. The assassination of MLK Jr. Goose-stepping soldiers in East Germany. Could an education get more epic? By Constance Alexander '68 P R A I R I E E S S A Y GETTY IMAGES TIMES SQUARE on New Year's Eve shimmered with snow and sparkle as the crystal ball de- scended into 1968 with an explo- sion of light. On January 28, I boarded a plane at JFK to spend my last semester abroad at the University of Copenhagen. Two days later, the Viet Cong and the People's Army of Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive. For me, higher education beyond central New Jersey really began in Copenhagen, where news of the world was delivered each day via the International Herald Tribune. One of my courses — taught by the Danish equivalent of Walter Cronkite — was about the history of Europe during World War II. Another explored the idea of a future Europe as one economic community. My art professor had joined the Danish resistance YOU CAN'T TALK ABOUT the Class of '68 without referring to the paradox of 1967's Summer of Love. While flower children gathered in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury to celebrate compassion, awareness, and love, American support for the war in Vietnam fell below 50 percent in opinion polls for the first time. News of racial clashes in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Detroit blazed in the headlines. Not far from my hometown of Metuchen, New Jersey, Newark suffered some of the worst riots. Amid the unrest, my senior year began that fall as my roommates and I settled into our apartment on Stuyvesant Avenue. We mostly ignored the course work we had in favor of celebrations of our 21st birthdays. I dimly recall trips to the Extension, a bar near campus where we duly exercised our right to risk the aftereffects of beverages by Bud- weiser and Bacardi. To the beat of the Stones, the Supremes, and the Beatles, we spent hours talking about our hopes for the future. Vietnam veterans were on campus taking courses in increasing numbers. We were all near the same age, but they seemed old to us as they sat in the "U," or student union, veiled in clouds of smoke. Our naïveté amused and frustrated them. They said that the world was a dangerous place, but we didn't believe them. We learned about war from movies that romanticized farewells and promised new beginnings once the boys got back home. The civil rights movement had not reached our hometowns, so it was easy to overlook societal inequities from within our insular world.

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