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Letter from Benjamin Spock to Kingman Brewster, November 1, 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 letter from Dr. Benjamin Spock, a noted child psychologist, responds to Brewster’s Parents’ Day reprimand of Coffin. Spock and Coffin did not know each other well at that time, but Spock was a prominent Yale alumnus. Both he and the chaplain vehemently opposed the Vietnam war. Less than a month earlier the two of them, along with several others, had actively distributed a document entitled, “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” which would later be used against them in court. In this letter, Spock asserts that the principles of intellectual freedom and open exchange of ideas are unassailable, even by the university president. The doctor, already a public intellectual by means of his wildly successful book on child care, used his fame and credit with Americans to oppose both the suppression of dissent against the war and the war itself.