This roundtable discussion, featuring Thurgood Marshall, Norman Thomas and Reinhold Niebuhr took place before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I'm sure the tone would have been different and maybe more cynical if it had. But even early on in 1963 there was concern that America was no longer a place of innocence. The question of our moral stature, of what we had become - the creeping mediocrity of our society, the lack of principle in our political system, our lack of involvement.
Thurgood Marshall: “The middle group in America, and I think this is what has happened over a period of years, you take the middle class economic class, a man that’s about to be made vice-President, or the young vice-President bucking to become Executive vice-President; he’s very careful of anything “controversial”. So anything controversial they stay out of. And that’s what’s wrong with politics in general in this country is that those people will not engage in politics. They don’t want to get in anything. So with the race problem, they’re not going to get involved unless there’s some leadership that pushes him. Now if the President of this corporation or that corporation had been willing to get into the controversy, the vice-Presidents would have, and the foreman. But it’s the power structure that failed to move. And I think that’s the responsibility that’s got to be met. We criticize the ministers in the south for not taking a position on the School cases. It’s not fair to criticize the ministers, criticize their boards of Trustees. Those ministers like to eat like everybody else.
That this discussion could have taken place last week instead of over forty years ago begs the notion that, not only have things not changed, they have become worse. The cynicism and mediocrity have taken over to the point where it's the norm and not the exception.
It does make you wonder where this is all heading.