On this day in 1969, according to the New York Times,

A White House messenger interrupted a Georgetown University French class … and called into the hall a baldish 19-year-old student wearing a jacket and tie.

The young man so unfortunately described by the Times reporter was Randall James Dicks, better known as Randy, who had written a letter to Richard Nixon criticizing the president’s statement that “under no circumstances” would he be affected by the scheduled anti-Vietnam War protest coming up shortly. The White House staff, thinking it would be good for the president to respond to one protesting undergraduate, picked Dicks.

Dicks wrote Nixon, “It has been my impression that it is not unwise for the President of the United States to make note of the will of the people.” What would Nixon say to Dicks? According to Rick Perlstein, Nixon kept rejecting drafts to Dicks, insisting that the final reply sound “more manly.”1

Dicks, the Times reported, liked to write heads of state and had been doing it since he was eight; judging by the report, it appears they wrote back more often than one might think. Dicks also enjoyed philately and classical music. “He just bypassed the rock ‘n’ roll stage,” his mother said. Mothers can be unkind.

The kicker in the Nixon/Dicks saga came when reporters asked about the politics of this young man, the representative undergraduate whom the White House had chosen for its photo op response to the protest. “I believe that a monarchy is a superior form of government because a king is above partisan politics and can therefore be responsive to the people.”2 Vetting was hard work back then too.

1Rick Perlstein, Nixonland, p. 428.
2“Student critic of Nixon: Randall James Dicks,” NYT 10/14/1969, p. 22.