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Kingman Brewster, Speech for the Yale Daily News annual banquet, 1964.
Kingman Brewster Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Bharat Ayyar ’10, Kingman Brewster’s Leadership

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As Yale’s president from 1963 to 1977, Kingman Brewster (1919–1988) led the university through a profound national identity crisis. As the war in Vietnam reached its peak, and as racial tensions in New Haven grew to a head, Brewster was tasked with spiritually guiding America’s young leaders while judiciously managing the direction of the University. He did so by embracing two cardinal — and often conflicting — principles.

First and foremost, Brewster acted in the interest of the academics. To that end, he consistently tried to preserve the purity of the educational environment by defending free speech and an open forum of ideas. Second, although he sought to preserve institutional neutrality in order to ensure the unfettered intellectual growth of Yale’s students. Brewster himself was an opinionated man; when speaking for himself, not for Yale, he rarely tempered his words.

Brewster delivered a speech (an early draft of which is seen here) at the Yale Daily News’s banquet in 1964. As a former chairman of the News — Brewster graduated from Yale in 1941 — he wrote impassioned, and often controversial, critiques of ROTC, secret societies, and old money in his editorials. As president, he would hold standing meetings with the chairman to discuss editorials and news coverage. His speech here is light-hearted; Brewster mocks then-Chairman Joseph Lieberman for engineering negative stories merely to balance his otherwise glowing coverage of Woodbridge Hall.

Regardless of how much he valued the press, Brewster was a pragmatist. One night, in the final year of his presidency, the News planned to publish a story about Brewster’s troubled alumni relations. He called the News’s office late that evening; he said he felt no shame in asking them not to publish the article. It was printed the next day.