|The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968
FISH: Where and when were you born? And where did you grow up?
Garrahy: I was born in Providence, Rhode Island 67 years ago. November 26, 1930. Born in Providence both of my parents were immigrants who had come from Ireland and I was the first born here.
BF: How many siblings do you have?
JG: I have two brothers and one sister, two of whom where born in Ireland and came here with my parents and a brother who was born here.
BF: Can you describe your neighborhood?
JG: Yeah, I grew up in a Providence neighborhood I guess what some people might refer to as the tenement districts and the neighborhoods of Providence. (pause) Went to school there, went to Saint Patrick's school which was the parish in Providence that I lived in. Then I went to LaSalle Academy which is located in Providence just a few miles from my neighborhood.
BF: What were your parents occupations at the time?
JG: Well, my father worked in a brewery and he had come over from Ireland really as an immigrant and my mother did house keeping chores.
BF: How were the chores divided in your family?
JG: Do you mean within our household?
BF: Yes, within your household.
JG: Yeah, I think everybody pitched in, everybody had little jobs to do in the house. Such as everybody has in their family. Who had to take care of the garbage, who had to do this, who had to do the dishes, who had to help clean up and all of those kinds of things and those days we had a coal burning stove, so those chores of keeping the coal going into to the fire and cleaning that and those kinds of things.
BF: Where did your family get their information about politics and what was happening in the world?
JG: Well, mostly from the radio. I think in those times their were certain radio commentators that were much listened to during those years. Radio was the media of choice I suppose, limited amount, plus the newspaper, of course. One of my jobs while I was going to school, so I delivered newspapers and during World War II, I had the occasion to sell newspapers outside Brown & Scharpe which was a major defense manufacture during World War II and was in my neighborhood, so most of the people in my neighborhood many worked there. One of my jobs was selling papers outside the gate at Brown & Scharpe.
BF: What was that experience like? Did anybody not like you because it?
JG: No, it was an interesting experience. Of course for me it was a money making enterprise. We didn't make much money, we made 4 or 5 dollars a week or something like that and I to leave after school and go do the papers and when I was doing the paper route we had to carry the bag. This was more of an upscale job that I got by selling papers at a stationary place at a corner. There were certain times which I was called out of school because of something that may have happened near the end of the war. We would be called out because there were extras that had come out, extra news that came out in the middle of the day and sometimes they would call us out to do that.
BF: You had[inaudible].
JG: Yeah, we were great! [laughter]
BF: What do you think you wanted to do when you grew up? How did that change over time?
JG: I wasn't sure. As I grew up the Korean War kind of interrupted my education, I was doomed to work at URI and most young people at that time had to go into the military. You either had to be drafted into the army or you had to be in part because the Korean War was coming on. So I had, after high school, joined the National Guard. I had been a member of the Air National Guard. When the Korean War was going on I went on active duty from the National Guard and served in the United States Air Force for a couple of years and was stationed in upperstate New York and spent 2 years on active duty, after spending 2 years before that as an active National Guards full time employee. So for about 4 years in the Fifties, say from 1951- 1954 or 1955, I was in the US Air Force.
BF: So for most of your twenties.
JG: Yeah that's right. The early twenties.
BF: Where did you attend your primary school? How did education shape you as a person?
JG: Well, my primary school, of course, was Saint Patrick's, which was a local parochial school in Providence. It was a parish that we lived in, in Providence, right near the state capital. I went to school there and then went on to LaSalle Academy for high school.
BF: Where did you go to college? What did you study?
JG: My college was . I went to URI and also did some work at Bryant College in business courses, was interrupted by going into the Air Force. While in the Air Force I did a couple of things on the college level. I attended the University of Buffalo which was in the area where I was and also took. The Air Force had a college level program and I took most of those courses while I was in the Air Force.
BF: Could you describe your wardrobe and styles of clothes that you wore?
JG: It was never. fancy, I guess. I wore traditional clothes, when I went to high school we did wear kind of traditional jackets. In parochial school we almost had like a uniform that we wore, which was really just a shirt, a tie and a jacket. Later on in life, of course, when I started out in the business world I wore a suit and tie, a traditional suit.
BF: Do you think the use of drugs then was a real big thing?
JG: It wasn't much heard of. When I was growing up as a youngster we didn't hear much about drugs. Even when I was in the military, which was when I was exposed to worldly things outside of my own family and my own neighborhood and where I was confined for most of my younger life. But even in the military we were exposed to lots of other kinds of outside influence but drugs we never in those times a serious consideration. Smoking was the big thing or maybe drinking underage or drinking beer or those kinds of things were kind of the elements that people were concerned about in those days.
BF: Was the curriculum at the school relevant to your political interests?
JG: You know, the thing that sparked, the thing that really rounded up my.besides my own formal education and kinds of programs I did when I was in the Air Force.one of the things I did while I was in the Air Force was I worked in the library as a part time extra job in the evenings. With not anything to do in the library, I was a voracious reader. So I read constantly. Library was not much use on the Air Force base were I was so I a very heavy reader and read a lot of material, a lot of books. Generated a lot of interest in world affairs and government affairs and those kinds of things.
BF: Did you follow any political or social things, for example civil rights or anti-war movements?
JG: Not in the early part of my career. The early part of my career I was really, my enthusiasm for public life came from when John F. Kennedy ran for President. He was young and he was very articulate, he was an attractive young man running for President of the United States. I first got involved in trying to help in campaign just at the local level but his. he kind of excited a lot of young people in those days. It's always hard to excite people about government and getting involved, I mean you've always heard political leaders saying that young people ought to get involved and they ought to be involved actively in governmental affairs and civic affairs [phone rings] but it was always difficult, I think, to get young people really involved. John F. Kennedy had that kind of charisma and excitement that excited a lot of young people of my time. So a lot of us became interested in his campaign, became interested in a lot of the issues that he talked about, health care issues and other kinds of things, things that became quite a fascination for all of us. But it wasn't until the Vietnam War were there was a real cause, that young people really started to examine the political system, I think, and become more involved almost in different kinds of ways then you would expect, you know an orderly process. But it wasn't until then that we could see big participation by young people but it was in demonstration really against some government kinds of initiatives.
BF: So how did you feel when John F. Kennedy was assassinated?
JG: It was a terrible shock. It was a shock to the country and the world. He was such an attractive and charismatic President and I think he was starting to move the country, as we all felt, in the right direction. The US had kind of regained its popularity around the world with a young President who had a young and attractive family. Unfortunately it was short but he was moving us in a very. he had some very good issues that he was moving on, that civil rights issue for instance during his time and Martin Luther King was assassinated and I think that both JFK and Robert Kennedy did lots of things at that time to try and keep the country together. Basically the civil rights effort, that was John F. Kennedy that advanced the civil rights legislation unfortunately he didn't live to see it come into fruition because he was killed and LBJ, in his credit, I mean he had some good things going for him, he completed some of that agenda of JFK's. He completed the agenda of civil rights, he completed the Medicare program for instance, which was terrific in the area of health care for people in the country but the downside of course of LBJ's was the escalation of the Vietnam War.
BF: So when Robert Kennedy decided to run for President how did that make you feel?
JG: Well it was interesting. I was involved in politics at that time. I, in 1962, ran for the Senate in my neighborhood, it was a result of JFK getting elected in 1960. In 1962 I was so fascinated by politics and government that I got involved myself and ran in my neighborhood for the Rhode Island Senate and was elected. I had a very difficult election primary and after I got involved a bit and was going through this very difficult primary "Do I really want be in elected politics, this is tough business. What am I doing, it's so hard and I have to go out and raise money, and I got to do this and I got to do a lot of things to get elected, much more than I thought I would have to do, but I got elected in 1962 to the Senate. Shortly after that, of course, JFK was killed. I became a little later on the--of course LBJ then took over the Presidency at that time when John F. Kennedy was killed-- I became in 1987 , I think, the Democratic Chairman in Rhode Island and it was a volatile time because we were right in the middle of the Vietnam War, LBJ had announced that he wasn't running and he became his own victim of the war, I mean his policies were so unpopular, so many young people were being sent off we lost 50,000 lives of course in Vietnam and more and more the country was so divided on the Vietnam question. Young people were demonstrating against the war, some young people left the country, so it was a difficult time on college campuses and it was difficult. people were being drafted and sent to Vietnam.
It was just a very difficult time and I'm sure LBJ was trying to stop the war but as it went on it escalated and we just. a lot of people started to question "What are we doing in this foreign Asian country? We're sending our young people over there." You may recall in some of your history gathering. you'll see the question came up about Bill Clinton who is President now, about the struggle that he went through during that time and looking for exemptions to the military service and to maintain his college and there were a lot of young people who were in that dilemma at that time, a lot of people wanted to continue their college and people that went to school were able to in some ways were able to get an exemption but people who couldn't get to college or didn't have the ability or the resources they were the ones that ended up going to war and a lot of kids, a lots of minorities ended up going to war. So all of those things became very divisive during Vietnam, a very difficult time.
You may recall back in the history you'll find the National Guard was called out to a campus at one place there was a demonstration they opened fire on students. It was just a horrible time. LBJ announced that he wasn't running, the country was so divided, the war was unpopular, of course he knew he couldn't get elected. In 1967 I was the Democratic Chairman in Rhode Island and the choices were then Hubert Humphrey who had been the Vice President and then Eugene McCarthy became the candidate, he became a so called "peace candidate" and a lot of young people really became attracted to Gene McCarthy's campaign because he seemed to be the best hope to eliminate, get us out of the Vietnam Conflict. Robert Kennedy became a candidate. I was a supporter of Robert Kennedy. I had this kind of fascination with JFK. And Robert of course helped power that campaign, helping his brother, ended up doing a lot of civil rights things so I became a champion of JFK. Of course in 1967 they had that terrible convention in Chicago and I went out there. Most of the other Rhode Island delegates were not in sync with Robert Kennedy, most of them were for Hubert Humphrey because that was the traditional party line, to be for Hubert Humphrey. who was a good man and whose candidacy for the Presidency got caught up in the whole Vietnam thing also.
There is some indication also that he was so tied to LBJ that he had to adhere to the LBJ policies and he couldn't extricate himself and to be more I think in line to were the country wanted to go. Of course we know what happened he was defeated. Robert Kennedy in the middle of that attempt to be the Presidential candidate was shot and killed. So we had, JFK was killed, Martin Luther King was killed, in those early years, Robert Kennedy was killed, those were the tumultuous times that the country was going through, with the big division in the war, with the young people it was just a very difficult time. I was in political office at that time and I kind of felt, I could feel the tension that existed with the people. I remember going to a party for Eugene McCarthy who was in Providence and my role as the chairman.and many young people from Brown were demonstrating outside the Biltmore, hundreds of them, hundreds of students just demonstrating against the war and against the political establishment because they felt as though the country's policies were wrong and I can remember ending up, a whole bunch of them burned their draft cards and some of them ended up giving them to me, they were so distraught about this war. So I can remember those very difficult times.
BF: Do you recall your responses to Martin Luther King and all of the demonstrations?
JG: Yeah, I was in the Legislature when that happened and that gave a lot of impetus, I think, to getting Legislature, civil rights Legislation, passed; it gave impetuous to fair housing legislation in Rhode Island which was difficult. There were some difficult questions in passing that kind of legislation, you know, evoked some kind of racial fears and that kind of thing and we had some very difficult votes in the legislature when I was there and pressure, a lot of pressure on both sides of those issues but we were able to pass legislation on those fair housings and civil rights kinds of things or any of those types. Unfortunately his death led to the kind of atmosphere that allowed you to be able to move forward and do those kinds of things and hopefully heal the nation. You know we had big demonstrations by blacks in Washington, burning cities and those kinds of things. I think that blacks felt as they were being heavily discriminated against and legislation didn't protect them and they didn't have the kind of entitlement to housing and to other kinds of services and to education that they felt they should be entitled to as American citizens. So there was that also, kind of divisiveness that was going on and that's why you have to give credit to LBJ who came from the South and was a Southern senator and who in previous years was I'm not to sure if he was a segregationist or not but the south was certainly a segregated area and he picked up the things that JFK proposed in civil rights and housing legislation and got a lot of that passed.
BF: Did you ever fear being drafted during Vietnam?
JG: Well, I had already been in the Korean War and I had been Honorably discharged and I had served between my National Guard and military active duty time about 4 to 5 years in military time. But in those years I was in my Thirties and I was married and had a family and although the war was threatening to everybody it was destabilizing to the country and to the young people. I don't think that really the fear of drafting ever came to me but I was disturbed for the country, disturbed for what was happening to the US at that time.
BF: When you entered the military, did you enlist or were you drafted?
JG: I enlisted in the National Guard and during that period of time that I was in the National Guard, though, the Korean War was going on and if you had not served on active duty you either had to join and go on active duty or you would have been drafted, so I dealt with that by going on active duty in the Air Force.
BF: What were some of your experiences in the military?
JG: I ended up with a very responsible position although I was not an officer I went on active duty as a staff sergeant and I had developed kind of an expertise in the supply business and I went to a base in upperstate New York where I carried on the responsibility for most of the logistics of supply for a fighter squadron of aircraft and making sure that they were combat ready and supplies were ready and just generally doing all those kinds of things on this base, which was a fighter squadron base probably air defense command and so it was a good experience for me. It was a good educational experience because I not only had a very demanding and challenging and responsible job but I also worked in the library at night and had a chance to enrich my own knowledge there. One thing that I didn't mention to you when I was young growing up, by the way, and for some reason it came up today at lunch, I was active in scouting. Worked at camp Yagoo, the boy scout camp, was one of the great experiences of my younger life and became a eagle scout and was very active in scouting, you know back in my teens and teenage time working at Yagoo as a counselor and that was a very good experience for me too.
BF: What was your personal view of war? Did that change over time?
JG: Well, yeah it did. I.like a lot of people early on in the Vietnam thing I think we were sending.First of all I was disturbed about Korean thing a little bit although I was on active duty for that and sometimes wondered why we were there. Later on in life, not at that time but later on in life my wife's brother who served in Korea was killed in combat. We lost a lot of lives in Korea and you sometimes wonder why US troops are deployed into some of these places around the world and I think we have to be careful how we do that, I think we learned a lesson in Vietnam, but as we've seen in later years. Bosnia is a current example, Somalia was an example. where sometimes the actions that are going on in that country requires some kind of action by outside forces. Now I think that killings will continue to go on in Bosnia if the US didn't get involved as difficult as that is I think there are times when the US has to.well we almost did it again in Iraq, recently. So the US has and although during Vietnam and for a long time after Vietnam we were very sensitive about either displaying or showing our military might, of late we've had to demonstrate it I think in Somalia where people were starving and where there were strikes going on, we had to send troops in and we had came quickly because people lost there lives. Americans today, I think as a result of Vietnam, are very sensitive about sending American soldiers and putting them in harms way. But its difficult for the US when we have this role of trying to.we are the world leader and we've got the best equipped and the best military in the world and where there are flare-ups around the world where they need the US we would have to be careful how we deploy that.
BF: At the time did you agree with the US involvement in Vietnam?
JG: Well I think my mind changed on it. I think early on we had sent so called advisors into Vietnam, I mean we were trying to help the South Vietnamese we were trying to help that government which was destabilized. Of course we always had this threat of a communist coming down to take over Vietnam and then take over and then taking over the rest of South Asia, the so called domino theory, which was the thing that everyone talked about in those days if one place fell then the next place would fall you know you have this threat that communism would be all over the world. I think Vietnam showed us that the domino theory is wrong. McNamara, who was the Secretary of Defense at that time, wrote a book which was just recently became a bestseller were he also indicated that he was taken in early on by the war. Of course he was in the middle of it and later wrote a book saying he thinks lots of mistakes were made by the US. So a lot of us who early on who thought this Domino theory and that we wanted to protect our allies and that we had packs with them and that we should live up to our packs, I think that we have now found out that we've got to be more careful when we get involved in other countries and their domestic disputes and civil wars that go on in this countries even though there was a communist threat there. So my mind changed on it. I early on.I think I supported and felt that we were sending advisors over there but I think once we were committing massive amounts of troops and we were bombing the north, heavy bombings of the north, and the killings were going on, on both sides. I think a lot of people felt we were in a no win situation, what are we doing there.
BF: During your time as a Senator and as Lieutenant Governor were abortion and wife battery and addiction to drugs things like that important issues?
JG: You know they started out when I was in the legislature. Drug use became a.I don't want to compare it with Vietnam but after Vietnam there was so much disruption of the young people about the war, a lot of our soldiers came back and used drugs. Some came back, and as a result were involved in addiction and that kind of thing. Not a lot but some of course were and I think young people who were so divided at that time and drugs started to become plentiful for them so we started to see more wide spread use in drugs around those times. I can remember the legislature being out of commission and was looking at drug addiction and all those kinds of things. It did become a serious problem and continues to be. Some of those other issues, yes of course the Supreme Court came down on the abortion issue and that has become a very divisive issue also because of the supreme courts ruling on that. You couldn't have got a Legislative body to do that but the supreme court found within the constitution an interpretation that allowed women to make that choice so that became very divisive in state houses and national government divided people up.
BF: Which other foreign policy issues other than Vietnam have concerned you? Like the Arab-Israeli conflict.
JG: Yeah, I think that has been a perpetual problem for the US. We became the champion of Israel, we helped them set up Israel, Harry Truman did that to try and give back to the Israeli people their home land. Of course there has been a terrible history what happened to the Israeli people over the centuries, but the conflict between the Arab states and Israel has been an contentious issue for the US because of the oil rich Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran and Kuwait. We get a lot of our oil resources from there so we have to maintain, I think, a cordial relationship with them and I think Israel is our natural ally and so we're. diplomatically we have to try and work with them, and I think that the US for a long time tried to do that and other hot spots around the world. I think for a long time we've had this Cold War thing with the Soviets and fortunately in President Reagan's time and President Bush's time Premier Gorbachev. I think we've come to a much better understanding and I think the Russians have finally decided that they can't support a big war effort and try to take care of their people. We're now somewhat maybe uneasy allies with the Soviets were for years it was always we were contending with them. So I think that's improved, I mean that's a big improvement to have a settling of that, tension in the world between two giant powers the US and the Soviets. Our relationship with China has gotten better. I think we continue to try and deal with China and I think we're doing better. That's another big country with hundreds of millions of people so it's probably good for us to maintain good relationships there, although it's a communist kind of country but I think we're learning to live with those kinds of governments and it's important for us to do it and I think world trade now becomes a very important factor in our own economy; and jobs with people in the US. So developing international policies and trade policies that are good for the world and good for the US are important for us.
BF: At the time during Vietnam and now do you support nuclear testing? Do you think we should have used nuclear bombing or more serious weaponry in Vietnam?
JG: No, I don't think so. I think we really did an excessive bombing in Vietnam and we found out that it did not do anything to end the war or to save the lives of a whole lot of Americans, so I don't think that's the answer. I think a lot of the answer is in disarmament and nuclear disarmament and we should try to reach reasonable grounds with all countries on that and I think that's our big fear with Iraq, they may develop a nuclear power in the hands of people who are not responsible for being a dangerous thing in the world. Hence the need for America to keep strong and have a strong military.
BF: When you saw Vietnam vets in wheel chairs, on crutches and in body bags how did that make you feel?
JG: Horrible, horrible. I think for a while even they felt as though they were isolated from American society. I think a lot of that has been healed over in years. I think we've all make efforts to try to do what we can to be more.to help heal the wounds of that war with the veterans and we will probably never heal all of them but I think the country has gone a long way in trying to do that.
BF: Which of the following events made an impression on you? If you could describe your feelings: the escalation of the Vietnam War and the US bombing of Vietnam.
JG: Well, the whole escalation of that war bothered me, it was probably the point were I started to change my feelings on what are we doing over there? What are we gaining by all this bombing, committing more troops and people were getting killed. It just seemed like a great waste as to what we were doing. So I like a lot of other Americans and other young people started to question really American policy whether or not we should have been in Vietnam.
BF: How about the Democratic Convention in Chicago?
JG: I was there for a short period of time, I did not stay but that was riotous behavior. Young people were demonstrating in streets again as a result of the war and the Democratic party really took the brunt of that. Of course LBJ had been the President, he had stepped down. Hubert Humphrey was being nominated, it appeared as though he was being nominated the candidate to continue the war. A lot of young people had an allegiance to the Democratic party were upset and disturbed that we might elect somebody that might continue on with the war. So they were there supporting Gene McCarthy who was a Democrat but was a peace candidate. So it was disturbing, the streets and the police who were heavy handed in the streets of Chicago, it was just a terrible scene.
BF: The election of Richard Nixon?
JG: Well it was a result of all of that. The tearing apart of LBJ and Humphrey and Robert Kennedy being killed. Nixon of course said he had a plan to end the war, so he ended up getting elected and of course he didn't end the war right away, it took some time but it did end up getting over. Of course then Richard Nixon did himself in with the Watergate you know. But I think Nixon and Kissinger were really the ones that ended up withdrawing and if you've ever seen any of those pictures of how we withdrew from Vietnam but we had to take people out of the embassy by helicopters and they flew in from the roof tops and there were people knocking of the gates and the doors trying to get in the embassy but the just couldn't take everybody out. Just a terrible view but we did have to extricate ourselves and we did.
BF: How about the space program and the circling of the moon by the US?
JG: Well I think JFK again started that back in the Sixties because of Sputnik. The Russians had put up a space vehicle and that became an impetuous for the US to so called "catch up." We were behind we thought. So there was a great deal of public support in doing that and also that public support ended up being translated into better science education in schools and we had to train more people to be scientists, we had to train more people in the sciences and math's and all that kind of thing because space was the next frontier. So the US really conquered, we really ran way ahead, and have done a lot of very interesting things and I think there has been some good results as a result of the space things we've done. I think at some point we have to weigh the resources that we put sending up there and can those resources be better spent on housing and health care and education and a lot of other things here. I think you're going to start to see people questioning that.
BF: What were your emotions and feelings when you were first elected to the Senate?
JG: It was something for me I was the son of immigrants. My folks of course had.did not have any professional jobs, we did not have any ties to the local community, so it was a breakthrough for me to get elected to the Senate. It was kind of extraordinary for me to be able to do that. Naturally I felt very good about it and worked hard at it, worked hard at being the Senate, did a lot of good things I hope, which led my career on to being Lieutenant Governor. I was Lieutenant Governor for 8 years, continued to work hard, I think, as Lieutenant Governor and then I was elected in 1976 as Governor and was elected for 4 terms as Governor of Rhode Island. Hopefully did a lot of good things, history has to tell you that I guess, but we had a lot of challenges, a lot of things to do as Governor. When I was elected Governor, shortly before I was elected the navy had pulled out of Rhode Island, that had been a political move to shut down Quonset Point take the navy fleet out of Newport. The navy was the largest employer in Rhode Island up to that time, so it took hundreds of millions of dollars out of the economy of this small state, so we had to try and start to rebuild our economy, an electric boat came into place at Quonset Point. At one point we had almost four thousand people working there.
So my task as Governor was to rebuild the economy, we had to put business and labor partnerships together, to make sure a lot of the folks who were head of the labor unions and that kind of thing felt as if that they didn't want to lose any of the gains that they had made in wages and work rules and those kinds of things so we had to kind of balance that off with improving the business climate in the state so we were attractive to people to make investments in Rhode Island to grow jobs and have jobs for people. We always had a very strong academic community with Brown University, Providence College, URI, and junior colleges and Bryant and Salve Regina and Johnson & Wales they were great schools here in Rhode Island, so we do have a great academic community. So I tried to help the cost of that, continue to build that, build our elementary and second year educational systems by putting more money into the school aid formula. I put together the Narragansett Bay Authority which has cleaned up the bay and hope we can make that a very attractive place for Rhode Island. I started very strong mediates on moving people out of our mental institutions and our school of retardation, when I was Governor there were 900 people at Ladd School it is closed today. We had almost one thousand people at the IMH [Institute of Mental Health], the mental health institution, don't know if you remember that but it's terrible, Cranston, horror stories about conditions out there that's essentially close down. Unfortunately we've turned those buildings into prisons. While I was Governor we had 6-700 people incarcerated in the prison, we're now at 3000. Drugs and crime these types of things that have now plagued in our society. So I've seen a lot of those things happen when I was Governor, but hopefully we did some things.things that people remember me the most by was the blizzard of 1978 but that's all right people remember some good things about me during that time. We had a terrible storm we had to bring in the military to help clean up the streets and get food to hospitals and nurses transported and that kind of thing so that was an interesting experience for me too.
BF: How did your views of politics change over time you were in office?
JG: Well it's much more expensive today to run for public office, when I ran it was.I still thought it was a burden to have to raise money, it's difficult to, to go out and ask people to give you money. Raise all this kind of money needed for television because there's television now. It's become a important thing, its kind of replaced, if you will, the so-called party organizations that used to help people get elected, so television has become important. Consultants, how you formulate your message on television, now becomes a big thing, you try to put your message in 30 second and 60 second spots, they have to be done professionally that's very expensive to do that. So politics has become very expensive to run for public office, Governor, Congress, President, I mean you can see what happened with the aftermath of the Clinton's campaign when all the questions of improper fund-raising going on. I think it's one of the distasteful things about our system is the amount of money you have to raise and what it costs to run for public office. So that's changed a lot. I mean more, more, more, more, but it's also the were political organizations used to be pretty important they're not as important as TV is and having some punch in your message. I also think politics has become more personalized its lost a lot of its civility its tougher today, people are much more aggressive in attacking you personally rather than after the issues. We've got to guard to guard against that, guard against cynicism and that kind of thing in our political system.
BF: How do you feel on some of the big political things today like Iraq?
JG: Well, I'm glad that we didn't have to commit fire power and troops to Iraq. I probably still have a Vietnam mentality that as a last, last, last resort should we use military power, we should try to use our diplomatic efforts, and diplomatic efforts worked this time. The Secretary General of the United Nations were successful in going over there. On the other hand I think they need to keep the pressure on military might is pressure, so people like Saddam won't do these biological weapons and poison things and feel like they can use them.
BF: How would you say that the Sixties affected you and the United States in general?
JG: Well I think one thing it has is made us very cautious about committing military force. When Jimmy Carter was President during the time that I was Governor he used to be proud of the fact that he never committed one troop, although we had those hostages in Iran and that was a disappointment for him but I think he was always proud of the fact that he never committed American troops to foreign soil. That was the kind of attitude that a lot of us had after Vietnam, we didn't want American soldiers and boys getting involved in some of these actions around the world where it does not have an actual interest for the US. I think we've always gotta watch for where the national interest is.
BF: What do you think was the most important changes over the Sixties? Were they positive or negative?
JG: I think the civil rights thing was very positive and continues to be, I think that some of the actions that we've taken to try and take care of the racial divide that existed between blacks and Hispanics and the prejudiced that existed, I think that a lot of programs were put into place then to help with education, to help with housing, and all kinds of initiatives there, they all important we certainly don't want to have a..a great spirit in America is that a lot of different kinds of people can live together in a democracy. We got to make that work, I mean if you live in a country like some of the Arab countries all the same people so you don't have the divisiveness that exists when you have all different colors of people and different kinds of people, different ethnic backgrounds. I think the great success of America is the fact that we've been able to bring everybody together people from different backgrounds here and different lifestyles and different cultures and make democracy work. It's a struggle but we have to work at it and so far it's worked very well, it's made us the strongest country in the world.
BF: Some people feel that drug use and "counter culture" were the most important aspects of the 1960's and others feel that aspect was overplayed in the media. What do you think?
JG: Well the media becomes you know, in the last 30 years the media has become a very important force, an influence in American life. Whether it's violence or drugs, I mean it's in our living room every night now, and some of the content is not as desirable as we would want it to be. So it does have a powerful influence and I don't think it did anything to advance a drug culture, it certainly years back it has advanced maybe cigarette smoking and some of those kinds of things but I don't think you can blame TV for the drug culture.
BF: How do you compare the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon?
JG: Well as I said JFK was my champion, unfortunately he didn't live long enough to fulfill a lot of things he started. But LBJ did finish up a lot of those things, I think his downfall was Vietnam and the escalation of Vietnam. LBJ was a very effective President in getting a lot of the domestic things passed in the congress that other people probably couldn't but because he had been a senate majority leader and knew the workings of congress and knew how to get legislation passes he was very good at that I think he got a lot of the JFK stuff passed, the civil rights legislation, Medicare, stuff like that, but the down side was Vietnam for him, and did him really in I think history will always treat him as the one that escalated Vietnam. Nixon I think we understand what happened to him. He.the Watergate stuff, he would have probably been impeached if he hadn't left, but Nixon was a very.they claimed that in foreign policy Nixon was probably the best presidents in the area of foreign policy. Unfortunately him or the people around him had a lot of devious techniques that they used that did a lot of damage to American democracy. So there's those three. Jimmy Carter I think was a great president, he was a wonderful man and I think what happened to him.He was a great human being and what he does now proves out that he's a great human being. He got tied up with this whole Arab business and the price of oil quadrupled while he was president, and it caused inflation in this country to jump up to 12 or 15% and interest rates went up and the Iranian hostage thing, which was really a middle east thing really caused him to [inaudible].
BF: Do you think Johnson and Nixon should be remembered more for the good things or the bad things they did?
JG: I think you have to balance those things of. Unfortunately I think that the media and people will remember the bad things more than the good things but there are.you know both of them had success, I mean Nixon did get us out of the war, but Nixon will always be remembered as the bad guy, he would have been impeached because of Watergate. LBJ will always be remembered as the guy who got us escalated into Vietnam, but that's what political life is like I guess, it's what people remember most about you, sometimes it's the most negative things.
BF: Have African-Americans accomplished the goals of the civil rights movement or is racism still a problem in American society?
JG: Well I think it's a continuing problem something that we need to continue to work on, there is still a great deal of poverty in the black community.many of the major cities the most difficult areas is where the blacks live. so we still have a problem with that in the US and moving more and more minorities into the normal mainstream of life.
BF: Do you attribute any current political problems/strength in the United States to decisions that were made in the 1960's?
JG: I think that again we go back to the use of military force I think that we're not as apt to pull the trigger as quickly and I think we're much more volatile about deploying troops although Clinton who you look at as a crock of the Sixties a young person who used to write language, who avoided the Vietnam War has used the American forces when he thought it to be necessary. So he become.In Bosnia, which I commend him for by the way the killing that was going on there was terrible how can the world stand it like a holocaust all over again. I mean the European people were sat behind them and let that happen it was terrible, so I think he made a good move there and his movement in Iraq of course is questionable about whether we should have been so strong as we were they certainly put the American force on the line there. But I think the peoples modes from the Sixties is lets be more carefully about where we move our military force. So from that regard it was good, I think the civil rights thing has been good because I can remember the burning of the cities, and I remember a lot of disenchantment in the black community when they took to the streets. So we've got to try to heal those kinds of things and build a good society for everybody.
BF: When the Vietnam War finally ended what were your feelings?
JG: Well I was very happy, I knew a lot of people who were in Vietnam, a lot of people who stayed over there, never came back. So I think there was a great feeling of joy that it was over because it was the most divisive thing that happened in the country. I'm glad because all the young people were so disenchanted with our government with our institutions and then there was complete breakdown there were a lot of institutions, a lot of colleges governmental institutions all under attack because of that. A lot of young people left to Canada, went to other places. It was disheartening to see that happen, so it was nice to see that over with. Start to have young people start to feel better about our government. Of course that was good until Nixon and Wood gave in, people got disenchanted with government again. So democracy something we have to work hard on all time.
BF: Have you visited the Vietnam War Memorial?
JG: I have not visited, I have been there. [talking to wife] Margaret have we visited that Vietnam memorial? We did go by there I think but I don't ever think we ever stopped and went there. I've also seen pictures.
BF: What's your response to it?
JG: It's incredible. The numbers of people, all the names on that wall, although I used to compare it to that we lose 50,000 a year on the highway from accidents, from drunken driving, from speeding, and that's the number of people that we lost over in Vietnam, that's a lot of lives to lose. And to see that wall it's how extensive that wall is, all these young lives we lost there.
BF: Are you still concerned about the POW issue?
JG: It doesn't seem to be as front page as it was for a lot of years, I think they've made great effort to try and mind all the MIA's and I think the relationship with North Vietnam is much better and it seems they've made every effort they can to try to find people. There are probably still some scattered names of people that are still missing some place that we would probably have to presume at this time that they've died if they haven't found them. There have been cooperative effort from congress have made some strong efforts I think there's a Congressman and who was in Vietnam who has made a committee to go over there to the North and try and help, so I think there have been a good efforts to try to find MIA's and POW's.
BF: How do you feel about young people like us still striving to answer questions about American involvement in the Vietnam War and the whole decade of the 1960's?
JG: Well I would recommend them to read McNamara's book for instance who was secretary of defense during that time and almost wrote an apology for the American policy at that time and why we got into it. I mean this domino theory and communist threat and all those kinds of things, politics of South Vietnam and the rulers there who were really weak, but I do think there are good lessons for us to learn there, good lessons for young people to look at that, examine it, examine mistakes, what did we do, what did we do wrong, why did we do certain things, I think it's good for people to look at those kinds of things because as we go forward it's a good exercise for people to know why we made all those mistakes and what we did wrong.
BF: What advice would you give to our generation?
JG: Probably the same advice people gave to me. Work hard. Focus yourself on your goals, focus on what you want to do, pick an idol someplace, find out where your talents are, everybody has talent, everybody doesn't have the talent to be a brain surgeon, but they may have the talent to be a great football player or a great basketball player or to be an electronic engineer, I think you're going to have to work to find what your talents and capabilities are and then work to explore those to the fullest. Do that and things'll be all right.
BF: Thank you Mr. Garrahy. That concludes our interview.