This Day in Commonwealth Club History, August 5, 1968
By Brent Truttmann
On August 5th, 1968, Dr. Berndt L. Kohler, then provost at Raymond College, University of the Pacific, gave a talk at The Commonwealth Club that predicted a major paradigm shift in our society’s perspectives and ideologies. In his speech “Has Tradition a Future?” Dr. Kohler focused his discussion on the counter-culture wave of the late 1960s as dramatic and lasting “changes in our traditional value system.”
During this period, much of the country experienced some major political and social changes. Large numbers of peole found their focus shifted away from the nuclear family toward fighting “The Establishment.” At the time, some critics considered it the result of the fall of morality. Dr. Kohler, on the other hand, noted that, “The young people … simply see a different world from that seen by their elders, who are far less conditioned to technocracy and seek to get by with older values.”
The accuracy of Dr. Kohler’s prediction is significant, considering the major shifts we’ve seen in art, music, fashion and industry. Today, when tattoos and body modifications are more prevalent in the work place, when the legalization of marijuana is spreading across the nation and when same-sex marriage was recently declared a right by the Supreme Court, we can see how the changes our culture went through in the ‘60s weren’t just a passing fad. In fact a lot of what was radical in 1968 is now the status quo. Today, many more people would argue, as Kohler did 47 years ago, that the values of old are fading, and a new paradigm of thought is taking shape on a macro level. More than ever it seems that the ideas and attitudes behind those cultural movements are becoming commonplace. The trend toward more informality and greater expression among people has continued, and once again there seems to be a rise in disdain for authoritative figures, as reflected in the backlash to the Great Recession and in the anti-establishment politics of Donald Trump, Occupy, and the Tea Party. All of that began to take shape in the 60s.