hiding his identity in the Scottish court and mythically referring to anold Nordic figure, Har the Blind, who traveled over the centuries of belief and mythology into the Scottish popular mind as the Devil—Harry.I found old Scottish folk plays that were performed in villages whereBlind Harry is mentioned. As you can tell, I’m still fascinated by it.
But all of this ended with Robert McNamara’s coming to Harvardas a guest of the Kennedy Institute, which had just been opened. Thismust have been 1966. The Vietnam War was going on, and I was trying not to pay any attention to it. But one day I left Widener Libraryand came across a big crowd behind Lowell House. The crowd had gathered around a car, McNamara’s, which was surrounded by Secret Service agents. He was trapped in it as radical students demanded he speakabout the war: What did he know about it? Were we killing civilians?That sort of thing. In fact, many of his distinguished fellow instituteguests had also asked him to speak about the war. And he had refused.But there he was, trapped in his car not going anywhere. I got behindsome AP reporters, some TV reporters, where it seemed a safe place iftrouble broke loose, as it looked it might.
McNamara got out of the car against the advice of his Secret Serviceagents, who didn’t know what the crowd would do. It was very unruly; itwas very, very noisy. When he got out of his car, everything quieted, andyou could hear strains from an open apartment window from acrossthe street. Somebody was playing “Mack the Knife,” and suddenly themood changed and everybody started laughing. McNamara got up onthe hood of the car—you could hear the hood buckle. And of course youcould see the Secret Service was not happy at this. He said, “When I wasa student at Berkeley, I was just as radical as you,” and the boos came, therude comments came, and then he got them quiet again. “But there wasone difference.” He paused. “I was far more polite.” Then real rudenesscame his way. That satisfied him, or seemed to, and he got down fromthe car, helped by the Secret Service, got into the car, and the crowdparted and he drove away.
I was so furious. I was just outraged that this was the way he knew hecould handle his obligation to speak about the war to a fairly intelligent,if rowdy, bunch of young citizens. What made me further outraged wasthat Harvard apologized in the press the next day, so I wrote to my draftboard and said I wanted to trade in my student deferment for conscientious objector status. And that’s what I did.