“I received some bad news and some good news here at the university today,” he said. “The bad news is that Bear Bryant will not run as my vice president. The good news is that he is willing to let me be his vice president.”
The crowd laughed at the football joke in the way only UA students can. They bought in, at least for the next fifteen minutes.
Kennedy went on to make one of many campaign speeches for which he would never be rewarded with an office, but the Student Government Association hadn’t invited him here to garner votes.
Kennedy was the keynote speaker at the second Emphasis symposium. The Emphasis committee, composed of SGA president Bobby Knowles and cochairmen Richard Magill and Bobby Feldman, explained the event in the program for the 1967 symposium.
“The Emphasis ideas is to accent issues of importance--issues which involve students as members of a democratic society,” they said. “But further than this, Emphasis is an attempt to broaden academic freedom in the South through free and open discussion of ideas--no matter how distasteful they may be.”
As I find my way at this university, I am encouraged by my peers, both past and present, who aren’t afraid to question everything, who insist that “because this is the way we’ve always done it” is never an acceptable answer. The Emphasis symposiums, which occurred annually until 1971 were a wonderful example of this spirit.
Toward the end of his speech, Kennedy spoke about beginning his campaign not in New York or Boston, but in Alabama. He said the university, under the guidance of Frank Rose, was a special place.
“It stands for open and honest inquiry, for a refusal to be told which ideas are to be heard, or which ideas are to be silenced, by threats or by force,” Kennedy said. “You are, as you were when I came here two years ago, a community that will listen to the ideas of others, and so I am happy and proud to be here. I am happy and proud to be here in the state of Alabama and at this university.”
As a born and bred Southerner, I know there are scars on my home. I know it is not perfect, and it never has been. Working at Alabama Heritage this summer is growing my love and understanding for this place and its important role in history.
Especially in football history.
Emphasis 67: Revolutions, the University of Alabama Student Government Association
Emphasis 68: Directions, the University of Alabama Student Government Association