As the end of August approaches, we turn our attention from days at the beach or pool to cooling temperatures— and for many, a return to education. I have previously highlighted one educational opportunity NAM provided through its Citizens at Work seminar. Today, I would like to highlight a strikingly different educational opportunity the NAM offered to a few lucky students and educators.
On December 3, 1970, the NAM commenced its 75th Congress of American Industry at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. In addition to corporation leaders and representatives from all over the United States, the two-day meeting was attended by select students and educators, as well as six Delta Sigma Pi members. Attendees heard speakers including the NAM chairman and president, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Senator Barry M. Goldwater, a variety of members of the press, and then-President Richard M. Nixon.
At the opening of the 75th Congress of American Industry, the United States was involved in a widely opposed war in Vietnam, a rise in drug use and drug culture, the Kent State shootings earlier in the year, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act that had been passed by Congress and was soon to be signed into law. With these situations in mind, the theme of the meeting was “quest for quality” focusing on business’ responsibility to help solve the problems of society.
In the NAM records is a typed document from the six Delta Sigma Pi members summarizing their experience. As they describe, “NAM wanted to visit with us and see what we felt business should be or could be doing to help alleviate many of the social problems in our country.” Pollution, the war, student protests, and dissent with society were among the topics the fraternity members discussed with the NAM.
The highlight of the meeting was the Diamond Anniversary Dinner held in the Grand Ballroom with an address by President Nixon. He spoke about his effort to move the economy to its full potential and reduce unemployment, his discontent with the increasing prices and wages in the construction industry, and the oil shortages and subsequent price increases. Like so many in attendance, “it is difficult to convey the feeling of electricity in the air when the President enters a room. We were, of course, thrilled to be in attendance with approximately 2,000 other guests.”
Although the members did not always agree with speakers’ message they did find the opportunity to be a rewarding one. It started a dialogue between the NAM and the youth, one they hoped would continue “far into the future.”
Ashley Williams is the project archivist for the NAM Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.