The Glassboro Summit in Regards to Now
By Adam C. Garozzo, 2023
In the continued and seemingly growing tensions between the United States and Russia, it seems to be inevitable that these two superpowers will never stop fighting with their clashing ideologies, almost as if the Cold War never ended. As we see warfare escalate between Ukraine and Russia and little to no diplomatic progress from America or United Nations with Russia and their war with Ukraine, it is essential to look to past historical events where American-Russian tensions were at their peak, the middle of the Cold War, the aftermath of the Six Day War, the late Vietnam War, and what happened at the peace talks of the Glassboro Summit.
It is June of 1967, and Lyndon B. Johnson is president of the United States and is serving his first full term as president after finishing John F. Kennedy's term after his assassination. It is the 2nd year of his presidency. He is happily spending time with his wife and awaiting his grandchild's arrival. But he is tense about the United Nation's talks in New York because he fears they might be very Soviet-sided, and therefore he believes there is no point in going to them. Across the world, Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin, the Soviet Union's premier at the time, is heading over to America to speak at the United Nations and give his input on current relations around the world, such as the Vietnam War and the more recent Six Day War in the Middle East. Seeing these two sides being so close together in the same place, the American and Soviet people could not pass this opportunity up to demand some sort of personal peace talk between Kosygin and Johnson. Citizens from both countries begged for them to meet, and they would ultimately agree to meet with each other, but not without some tension between the two at first.
Kosygin and Johnson would not be keen on going to either side's meeting place. Kosygin was at the United Nations in New York, and Johnson was at the White House in Washington D.C. Neither side wanted to appeal to the other's demands; it already seemed like these planned peace talks would fail. However, as the day went on trying to meet up with each other, they eventually brokered a compromise and would ultimately meet in the middle between their two demands.
They decided to meet in a small town called Glassboro. This would be decided as a middle point between New York and Washington D.C, between the two leaders who could meet each other halfway with their demands of meeting. With little to no warning on this meeting, the Glassboro College campus and the small town of Glassboro would be busy and bustling once again this summer break. They began cleaning and clearing the streets and buildings during this somewhat quiet summer in preparation for these two superpowers to impress both Kosygin and Johnson and make them as comfortable as can be for their private meeting.
At the time, the Governor of New Jersey, Richard J. Hughes, would first get a shocking call from the White House about this peace talk that Johnson and Kosygin needed to do. Next, Hughes would call Glassboro State College's president, Thomas E. Robinson, to tell him to prepare and ask if they had any place the President and Kosygin could use for their peace talks. Robinson would eventually suggest the Hollybush Mansion on campus as the eventual meeting place for the two leaders.
This somewhat small and unheard-of rural American town would go down in history as the first real and successful peace talks between the Soviet Union and the United States, and it just goes to show how local history can be just as important as world history.
Throughout the peace talks, Kosygin and Johnson constantly talked about Vietnam and the Six Days War, discussing what each country should do and what promises they would keep within the coming years. All the while, Kosygin and Johnson brought their families to New Jersey to enjoy all that New Jersey and Glassboro had to offer–good community, food, the shore, everything for the two families to enjoy and to connect with each other. Claudia Alta Johnson wrote heavily about these experiences in her diary.
After the peace talks were over, Johnson remarked that the talks were a raging success between the two leaders, and the people of America could see them talking together more often for peace. After this, Kosygin would eventually return to the Soviet Union, remarking how well Glassboro treated him and his family and how he was excited to do more peace talks with America again.
Later on, Johnson would deem this peace talk to be "the spirit of Hollybush" in regards to the people and community members who made it possible for the two to have their peace talk. Johnson would later come back to Glassboro State College as the guest speaker for the class of 1968 and would, again, state his gratitude towards Glassboro for the help with the peace talks and being a guest speaker at the college for this class is the least he could do to show it.
As a show of goodwill and to show that Glassboro was thankful for Kosygin and Johnson for coming to their town, Dr. George Neff would organize a group of residents from Glassboro to visit the Soviet Union and possibly bring a closer connection to the people of the Soviet Union to Glassboro. This trip would also be a great success and would ultimately show that not only did the American people want peace, but the Soviet people also wanted peace between the two countries and that they were willing to accept it.
Overall, these peace talks between Kosygin and Johnson would bring a rather long-lasting relationship between the Soviet Union and America. It catalyzed them to talk more about dealing with their differences and conflicts. The Summit showed that the American and the Soviet people would work together to get their leaders to discuss their differences and broker peace. If only this would be done in today's world, where the people of the world would want to talk out their differences and look for compromises between the two instead of fighting. It is essential to look back on the Glassboro Summit and possibly use it as an ideal way to have peace between two countries because the world needs it now with war raging between Ukraine and Russia.
Audio diary and annotated transcript, Lady Bird Johnson, 6/25/1967 (Sunday), Lady Bird Johnson's White House Diary Collection, LBJ Presidential Library, accessed May 04, 2023, https://www.discoverlbj.org/item/ctjd-19670625
Bole, Robert D. Summit At Hollybush. Glassboro, NJ: Glassboro State College Endowment Fund, 1969.
Michael Benson, “Glassboro Summit Oral History - Dr. George Neff,” Glassboro Summit Collection, accessed May 5, 2023, https://glassborosummit.rowan.edu/items/show/262.
Rostow, Walt. “Rostow Files.” National Archives, June 1967.
Photos related to the Glassboro Summit.
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