Charter Day 1962: JFK on Soviet-American cooperation, space science, state support for higher education

Fifty years ago, on March 23, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed a Charter Day crowd of 88,000 in Memorial Stadium that included Gov. Edmund Brown, UC President Clark Kerr and the newly inaugurated third chancellor of UC Berkeley, Edward Strong.

Barely a year into his term as president, Kennedy spoke on that sunny afternoon of his hope for “a cooperative Soviet-American effort in space science and exploration,” and his belief that “cooperation in the pursuit of knowledge” might lead to “cooperation in the pursuit of peace.”

The young president noted that the University of California’s very first graduating class had included a future governor, a future congressman, a judge, a state assemblyman, a clergyman, a lawyer and a doctor — “all,” he added, “in a graduating class of 12 students.”

“This college, therefore, from its earliest beginnings, has recognized, and its graduates have recognized, that the purpose of education is not merely to advance the economic self-interest of its graduates,” Kennedy said. “The people of California, as much if not more than the people of any other state, have supported their colleges and their universities and their schools because they recognize how important it is to the maintenance of a free society that its citizens be well-educated.”

An online recording of the speech is available via the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.