Image of UCSF students protesting in San Francisco street.

Throwback Thursday: Revolutions Old and New

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fifty years ago in 1965, a headline on the front page of Synapse read, “Revolution, Response: Viet Program Here.” On this day, the UC Medical Center (UCMC) presented an international symposium titled Revolution and Response in the Millberry Union Lounge, broadcasted from the University of Toronto via special telephone hook-up.

This presentation on the Vietnam War was sponsored by the UC Medical Center Committee on Problems of War and Peace and included the following distinguished guests: Patrick

Gordon-Walker, former Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, representatives of Saigon, Cambodia, the National Liberation Front and representatives of Washington D.C. and/or Hanoi.

Earlier that spring, hundreds of college and university campuses across the nation had tuned into or broadcasted the National Debate on Vietnam held in Washington, D.C. As this controversial international event incited action at other academic institutions and across the nation, a committee of UCSF faculty members, researchers and graduate students gathered in support of educating the wider UCSF campus on issues surrounding governmental action.

Additionally, this group also formed the UCMC Committee on Problems of War and Peace and opened its membership to the campus community. The committee served as a campus forum for active study and debate on current international policy, voicing constructive criticism on matters of this sort and stimulating interest in foreign affairs within the community. The committee worked with similar groups at Stanford, San Francisco State and UC Berkeley in this effort.

In this next year leading up to the 2016 election season, it is just as critical now as it was in 1965 for our community to stay informed about our government’s agenda and its role in international affairs. It seems appropriate that this past week, global leaders visited the United Nations Headquarters in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly. Expectedly, one of their greatest concerns was the conflict in Syria and the resulting refugee flight that has turned into a global and humanitarian crisis.

If the UCMC Committee on Problems of War and Peace existed today, they would likely turn their attention to this international convention. With current technology available, the committee could easily organize a live-stream of the speeches at the U.N General Assembly and hold a discussion within the campus community. Though originally written half a century ago, the committee’s aim to strengthen America’s commitment to peace and human dignity by careful reappraisal remains relevant to this day.

While UCSF’s mission is to develop world leaders in healthcare, research and education, it is also important to cultivate well-informed American citizens with the voices and power to affect change in the world. Hopefully, with the current political arena and international climate, students, staff and faculty will be inspired to follow in UCMC’s footsteps and address today’s international problems by sponsoring speakers on campus to discuss in detail possible solutions to the refugee crisis, arranging meetings with Bay Area's Congressmen to discuss foreign policies and debating political solution to our international difficulties.