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The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment Hardcover – April 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1 edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805067620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805067620
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As president of Yale in the 1960s, Kingman Brewster was able to avoid much of the violence that afflicted other campuses rocked by student protests. It was probably no coincidence that, three decades earlier, he was a prominent student protestor against the U.S. entering WWII. By the '60s, he was part of a loose-knit group of liberal patricians that included presidential advisers McGeorge Bundy and Cyrus Vance, New York City mayor John Lindsay and Episcopalian bishop Paul Moore. In his first book, Kabaservice (who has a B.A. and a Ph.D. from Yale) deftly traces the professional and personal connections linking these men who were born to privilege but had a "genuine wish to be of service to the nation," and reveals how they tried to invest government and academic power structures with the flexibility needed to cope with the social upheavals of Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. Not only President Bush but John Kerry and Howard Dean attended Brewster's Yale, and Kabaservice's history offers valuable insights into a crucible that help shape their political character—not just through Brewster's actions, but through the powerful backlash from conservative alumni. The presentation is meticulous, and the considerable detail about the overhaul of Yale's undergraduate admissions process is crucial to understanding just how completely those changes reshaped the school's student body—by admitting not only more diverse but also smarter students. The story is further enlivened by frequent off-campus forays that reveal not only how the '60s affected Yale but how Yale affected the '60s.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kingman Brewster, president of Yale University, is the centerpiece of this absorbing look at the liberal establishment, men of privilege who nonetheless espoused principles of equality. Kabaservice chronicles the lives of a core of powerful men from their youth at Yale University, at a time when Yale was the preserve of the children of privilege. Among the circle of friends were ambitious young men driven to reset the nation's social agenda: McGeorge Bundy, advisor to Kennedy and Nixon, forever dogged by his involvement in the Vietnam War; Cyrus Vance, advisor to Nixon and Carter; John Lindsay, mayor of New York; Paul Moore, the archbishop of New York; and Elliot Richardson, Nixon's attorney general. Brewster himself oversaw the conversion of Yale from a bastion of the children of the wealthy to a more open institution valuing merit more than money, and balancing conflicting social forces when the campus erupted during the tumultuous 1960s and '70s. Kabaservice explores the ambitions, ideals, and tragic missteps of these high-born, influential men and their efforts to reshape America. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J. Flowers on March 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Many of us who came of age in the 1980s and '90s forget that America used to be a much more liberal place, and that there was a time in recent history when Republicans aligned themselves with issues like civil rights, meritocracy, affirmative action, and the problems of the inner city. We forget -- or never realized -- that in the '60s and '70s there existed a significant faction within the Republican party known as "the liberal establishment." These were men who, on the one hand, undeniably represented the Establishment: "old wealth" Yalies and Harvardites who had attended the best prep schools and summered on Martha's Vineyard; advisors to presidents, board members of the biggest corporations, leaders at the helm of the nation's academic, philanthropic, and religious institutions. On the other hand, they were extremely progressive, regarded as "traitors to their class" for pushing forward policies that were considered radical at the time. THE GUARDIANS recalls an era when Republicans were not all in thrall to populism and the agenda of the religious right, when they were just as likely to be seekers of peace in foreign affairs as rabid hawks. There's a quote from Elliot Richardson in this book that's an eye-opener: "Most people don't really get the fact that the Nixon administration was to the left of the Clinton administration. Even the Eisenhower administration was to the left of the Clinton administration."
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in modern American history.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on January 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting, but quite long, book which focuses upon Kingman Brewster and other members of the so-called "liberal establishment" that shaped national policy during the 1945 through 1970's period. In addition to Brewster, long-time Yale president, the author discusses the Bundy brothers, Cyrus Vance, Elliot Richardson, Bishop Paul Moore, John Lindsay, William Sloan Coffin, and even William F. Buckley. While most attention is devoted to Brewster's tenure as Yale's president, including the infamous Black Panther trial and May Day riot that did not occur, I found the discussions of the Vietnam war and McGeorge Bundy's period as head of the Ford Foundation extremely interesting. In some ways, the method of analysis is similar to "The Wise Men," who also, incidentally, make appearances in the book (especially Dean Acheson). Accordingly to Buckley and other critics, the "Establishment" consisted of old-line WASP families, of a liberal political orientation, usually well to do, with superior secondary private educations gathered at places such as Groton and St. Paul's, and then onto Yale or Harvard undergraduate, and then usually Harvard Law School or Harvard administration (such as McGeorge Bundy). This led to appointments in the State Department, Justice, some cabinet designations, and involvement in various presidential staffs, particularly JFK and LBJ. In short, a network of individuals, exerting tremendous influence on government policy, who knew each other over long periods of time and who could promote the careers of their fellows. This group also constituted the liberal-centrist wing of the Republican Party (yes, Virginia, there once was a progressive wing of the GOP), that was gradually displaced from leadership as the party headed toward the radical right.Read more ›
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Charles J. Rector on June 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Although he is almost forgotten today, Kingman Brewster who was the president of Yale from 1963-1977 was in fact an important figure in recent American history. One reason for this was the fact that he ran Yale in such a way that the university almost completely escaped the tumult that wracked other campuses during the Vietnam War. Another reason is that he revamped the admissons policy at yale so that poorly achieving students at prep academies such as Andover could not get in Yale over high achieving public school graduates.
It was in this area of expanding the elite educational experience at Yale to all Americans, not just members of the WASP elite that Brewster did his most signal public service. Brewster was truly an agent of change. This was most interesting in light of the fact that Brewster was born to a comfortable upper class family, which is precisely the sort of background one would think would spawn conservative thinking. Brewster's activism began back when he was a big man on campus as a Yale undergraduate.
Interestingly enough, Brewster was also one of the founders of the America First Committee that many Americans today regard as being a right wing outfit. Actually, as the author of this book points out, America First was originally a left-wing group and many of its most prominent members were left wing activists. After America's entry into World War II, America First dissolved and Brewster wholeheartedly took up America's cause against the Axis Powers.
It may surprise many Americans today that the Republican party used to have a strong left wing and Brewster was both a stalwart liberal and Republican. It was for this reason that Brewster was never offered a position in the Kennedy Administration.
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