Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Speech "Checks and Balances"

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Speech "Checks and Balances"


Dr. J. Ollie Edmunds, a leader in higher education, gave the commencement address, "Checks and Balances" for the Class of 1970. He began his speech by claiming that in the past year and a half, there had been some attacks on the United States Constitution. He compared the democracy of the United States to those of Athens, East Berlin, and Madrid. However, he explained that Athens had transitioned to being a military state. Furthermore, someone Dr. Edmunds met at the University of Athens explained that this happened because college students began complaining and protesting, creating chaos. Dr. Edmunds recounted his visit to East Berlin and asked his guide if Humboldt University ever had student protests, and the guide answered, "You mean like Kent State! No. Soldiers never come on this campus and shoot down students." On May 4, 1970, students at Kent State University were protesting the Vietnam War and the Ohio National Guard killed four students and injured nine students in an effort to suppress this resistance. Having discussed communism in certain European states, he began to close his speech by repeating a question that a Swiss banker asked him, "Will America survive?" and Edmunds went on to ask, "Can democracy still work?" He believed that the violence and riots perpetrated by both right and left extremists would result in an even more repressive government. He also called the graduates to form a "Young People's Lobby" as a productive means for community engagement because every other group including, "the female of our species-God bless them- have their lobby." He spoke disparagingly about the protests occurring around the nation in response to the Vietnam War by referring to them as "silly."


Checks and Balances, 08 June 1970, RG Box 15 Folder 6, University Archives, Virginia Baptist Historical Society.









Richmond (Va).

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Edmunds, J. Ollie, “Speech "Checks and Balances",” Race & Racism at the University of Richmond, accessed March 17, 2018, http://memory.richmond.edu/items/show/1864.