John Foster Dulles ’08.
Princeton Alumni Weekly. November 26, 1954.

If political apathy is the rule, then the Princeton Debate Panel was an eminent exception a fortnight ago, for the Panel was right in the thick of a battle over the banning of this year’s national debating topic (“Resolved, that the United States should extend diplomatic recognition to the Communist Government of China”) in the service academies at West Point and Annapolis. Resolutions flew thick and fast as Panel President H. James Koehler ’56 wired Secretary of State John Foster Dulles ’08: “We hope that you as a graduate of Princeton, a university holding a long and distinguished record as a defender of free political discussion, will understand our alarm at a recent instance of the repression of free speech.” The Panel’s wire went on to call the ban an “ill-advised attempt to straitjacket the thinking of students at these academies” and an “ominous imitation of the methods of the Kremlin.” Other telegrams went to the Governor of Nebraska and the presidents of the state’s four teachers’ colleges, condemning the suppression of the topic in the state-supported colleges, and to West Point, Annapolis and the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy. There was a good deal of bureaucratic confusion in the case, since the State Department couldn’t find a record of the directive it allegedly sent imposing the ban, but it seemed clear that the national championship college debates sponsored by the Military Academy might be pretty foolish, with the home team refusing to play. The “Prince,” which had an editorial on the problem before the Debate Panel could get a quorum together, disposed of it rather neatly, we think. It said, “The function of a debate doesn’t involve the essential rightness or wrongness of the issue but the skill with which either negative or affirmative is presented.” We suggest that copies be mailed to a few of the upperechelon brass, who apparently could use a bit of help.


This was originally published in the November 26, 1954 issue of PAW.