MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Letter from Boston Mayor Kevin White to
MIT President Jerome Wiesner, 1974


Letter, White to Wiesner
[Click image to read letter]

One month before the impeachment proceedings against Republican President Richard M. Nixon began under the auspices of the U.S. House of Representatives, Boston’s Mayor Kevin White wrote to MIT’s President Jerome Wiesner to invite him to a dinner featuring “candid conversation about the future of the Democratic Party.” The escalating Watergate scandal loomed large as an opportunity for political change in the spring of 1974. White (mayor from 1968 to 1983) was still considered one of the Democrats’ national stars, despite losing his bid for election as governor of Massachusetts and not being selected as a vice-presidential running mate by presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972. Wiesner (President of MIT from 1971 to 1983) had served with John F. Kennedy’s presidential election campaign in 1960 and was chief advisor and planner for science during the Kennedy administration. (As the handwritten note at the bottom of the letter indicates, Wiesner, who had a prior engagement, declined White’s invitation.)

Wiesner continued his work as a bellwether for the development of public policy concerning science and technology for many years after ending his formal ties to the government. He was, for example, an energetic critic of nuclear arms proliferation. John Kenneth Galbraith, his colleague from the Kennedy administration, wrote, regarding the threats posed by nuclear war or accident, “I wonder if sanity on these matters owed as much to anyone as it did to Jerome Wiesner.” John F. Kennedy described him as “one of those rare individuals who can work effectively to relate the complexities and the opportunities of science to the needs of a nation, to its culture, its security, its influence, and its humanity.”

Official records of Wiesner’s MIT presidency (AC 8), as well as his personal papers (MC 420), are available for research in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.

Object of the Month: July 2004

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