Fifty Years Ago This Spring: Millions of Students Struck To End a War in Vietnam
President Richard M. Nixon prided himself on the accuracy of his political prognostication. Nixon was never more prescient than fifty years ago this month, in a remark made to his secretary, just before delivering a White House address that announced a U.S. military invasion of Cambodia. “It’s possible,” Nixon told her, “that the campuses are really going to blow up after this speech.”
Blow up they did, as Nixon’s unexpected escalation of an already unpopular war in Vietnam triggered a chain of events culminating in the largest student strike in U.S. history.
In May, 1970, an estimated 4 million young people joined protests that shutdown classes at 700 colleges, universities, and high schools around the country. Dozens were forced to remain closed for the rest of the spring semester.