|Dinner -- and Picketing -- at the White House
By the spring of 1962 there was much reason for pride in the peace movement. The voluntary moratorium on atmospheric testing
of nuclear weapons, for instance, continued to be adhered to while test-ban talks between the US and USSR sputtered along
in Geneva. The Kennedy administration appeared to support the moratorium. Then, on March 2, President Kennedy shocked the
Paulings and other peace activists when he announced that US atmospheric tests would resume in April. Pauling fired off a
telegram to the White House, reading, "Are you going to give an order that will cause you to go down in history as one of
the most immoral men of all time and one of the greatest enemies of the human race?" He followed it with a series of heated
speeches assailing the decision, crying, "Anger and shame -– anger with my government and shame for my country." He accused
Kennedy of being more evil than Khrushchev.
But the pendulum of American public opinion was once again swinging back toward a harder line with the Communists, thanks
in part to Castro’s successful revolution in Cuba and continued Communist moves in Asia. Kennedy’s decision -- which in some
circles was seen as a prod to get the Soviets more serious about the Geneva test ban talks -- was widely supported across
the political spectrum. Even what remained of the old FAS came out in favor. Pauling stood alone, the most prominent scientist
to vehemently and vocally oppose the decision.
Kennedy responded by inviting him to dinner. Pauling was one of forty-nine Nobel laureates asked to spend a White House evening
honoring the nation’s best and brightest intellects. The Paulings happily accepted. Then, the day before the dinner, Pauling
joined three thousand picketers outside the White House, carrying a sign imploring Kennedy not to resume testing. He picketed
again the next morning, then changed into evening clothes and accompanied Ava Helen to dine with the President. In the receiving
line, Kennedy greeted Pauling with a quip: "I understand you’ve been around the White House a couple of days already." Pauling
grinned and answered yes. Kennedy added, "I hope you will continue to express your feelings." The two men shook hands. It
was a wonderful evening of fine food, drink, dancing, and celebrating the power of rational thought.