National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1970-1987: We wrestle with our democratic freedoms, arguing issues old and new

April 27, 1981
Senator S.I. Hayakawa proposes amendment establishing English as official language of U.S.

Senator S.I. Hayakawa

S. I. Hayakawa (1906-1992)

He Curbed Student Protest During The Vietnam War

Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa, a professor of English at San Francisco State University, became university president in 1968, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

Student and faculty anti-war demonstrations periodically closed San Francisco State. Impatient with student radicals, Hayakawa used a firm hand in shutting down the protests. The right to free speech, he believed, is balanced against the rights of others to pursue their lives and studies without disruption.

As a result of his actions, Hayakawa became a well-known – and popular – figure. California voters elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1976. There, he introduced a constitutional amendment to make English the sole official language of the nation. After serving a single term, Hayakawa retired from the Senate in 1983.

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