While playing billiards with a small group of students, Reagan discussed minorities, small government, and how to win in Vietnam. Reagan succeeded in opening the minds of some of them to other points of view: When the all-white male students in the billiards room complained to Reagan about how society was treating blacks, Reagan pointed out that in California, there was a different minority group, Americans of Mexican descent, that had far worse problems; he said that he was trying to help them. When the students wondered where Reagan was getting his Vietnam advice and why had he not sought out elite thinkers from the Ivy League, Reagan answered that he had been discussing the war — with leaders from Cal Tech, California’s aerospace and defense leaders, and Stanford. The students seemed shocked that there might be other points of view besides those originating from within liberal eastern academia.
The high point of Reagan’s weeklong visit was his final speech, at the Yale Political Union, where there was an overflow crowd. Reagan did not deliver his usual campaign and fundraising speech about bringing small government to Washington, D.C. Instead, he analyzed the entire controversy of his visit and the intolerance of the Left. Reagan addressed the issue head-on. He looked directly at the few professors in the audience and forcefully told them and all the students that their job was not to indoctrinate. Their job, and the mission of the university, was to expose their students to many different points of view and to let the students decide for themselves.
Reagan clearly saw that if conservatism were allowed the chance to compete freely in the arena of ideas, its major tenets of individual freedom and small government would almost always win. But if young minds were exposed only to leftist ideology, then conservatism wouldn’t have much chance. At the end of his speech, Ronald Reagan indeed had succeeded in changing minds: He received a standing ovation.