Remember the ’60s? Madison Reunion looks back at the city during tumultuous decade

Remember the ’60s? Madison Reunion looks back at the city during tumultuous decade

It is called “The Madison Reunion: A Party with a Purpose.”

From June 14-16, hundreds of former University of Wisconsin-Madison students will gather for a 50th reunion of the class of 1968. The gathering will look back at what was perhaps the most tumultuous decade in Madison’s history, the 1960s.

Madison’s unofficial historian, Stu Levitan, has authored a new book, “Madison in the Sixties,” which will be released this fall. When asked to describe the ’60s in one word, he says, “Upheaval.”

Much of that upheaval took place on the UW campus’ Bascom Hill.

“This is ground zero for a lot of important, critical events to not just the university but the university’s relationship with the city and it is the university that defines the city,” Levitan said.

Memorials were held for President Kennedy in 1963 and again for Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Add to the mix, antiwar and antiracism rallies and demonstrations and you have ground zero for major events that shook this university and the City of Madison — changes that affected a generation.

Levitan notes, “You’re a 19 year-old college student in 1967, ’68, and if you don’t maintain your grades or class ranking, you’re going to go to Vietnam. That’s going to put a lot of stress in your life and that’s going to make the war the most important thing in your life”

“The extent to which the war overshadowed, the war and race overshadowed everything in that decade, is incomprehensible to people who didn’t live through it or have at least studied it.”

For the returning students and those attending next week’s reunion, Levitan offers this advice: “There’s a reason to commemorate, there’s a reason to look back, there’s a reason to learn, there’s a reason to reflect, there’s a reason to try and apply the lessons of the 1960s to the reality of the 21st century.”

For a list of The Madison Reunion events go to www.madisonreunion.com.

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