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Kingman Brewster, Parents’ Day Address, October 1967.
William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Adam Stempel ’11, William Sloane Coffin, Jr. and the War

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This exhibit narrates the story of an intellectual using his placement in society to publicize the importance of a given cause. By claiming the mantle of intellectual freedom and duty to one’s conscience, William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006) fought the Vietnam war and the draft.

The document to the left is taken from Yale President Kingman Brewster’s parents’ day address in October of 1967. William Sloane Coffin, then Chaplain, had for one weekend designated Battell Chapel a “sanctuary” for those dodging the draft. This action, although ineffective in attracting any number of draft-dodgers, created an uproar amongst many alumni and parents of current students. Brewster and Coffin, who were throughout their careers good friends, corresponded on the subject in early October of 1967. Brewster respectfully but firmly expressed his “general misgivings” about Coffin’s thoughts and actions on the draft, and Coffin respectfully but firmly disagreed, asserting his right and moral obligation to protest. Shortly after, Brewster delivered this address in an attempt to allay the concerns of parents about the war in Vietnam and the attitude towards the war on campus, and to simultaneously oppose the actions and support the intellectual freedom and integrity of his friend and chaplain.