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Nakasone pulls out of 1989 Comton Lecture

By John Hasemeyer

On Tuesday, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone cancelled his appearance at the 1989 Compton Lecture. According to the Japanese Consulate in Boston, Nakasone chose to remain in Japan to participate in parliamentary deliberations. Nakasone remains a member of the Diet, Japan's parliament, which is battling a March 5 deadline to settle budget differences.

Nakasone may also have to testify before the Diet concerning a stock scandal involving three of his former aides, according to the Boston Globe.

Also planning to attend the lecture were Reverend Charles Stith and other members of a Boston-based watchdog group called the Organization for a New Equality. The group, based at the Union Methodist Church, monitors economic policy issues nationwide.

Stith said the group had planned to protest statements made by Nakasone a year and a half ago, that faulted blacks and Hispanics with a "lowering of the US intelligence level."

An employee of the Japanese Consulate acknowledged that during a speech to junior members of the Japanese Parliament, Nakasone had made statements "extremely upsetting to blacks." But he added that Nakasone had formally apologized for the remarks.

Stith, however, saw far-reaching implications in Nakasone's remarks: "With Japan investing $100 billion in the US economy, minority hiring by US corporations is going to be affected."

According to Stith, the office of President Paul E. Gray '54 was aware of his plans to demonstrate. The President's Office notified Stith of the cancellation Tuesday night.

"We look at it as a victory," Stith said, "MIT should not be a forum for men with Nakasone's views."

On Wednesday, Gray's office said there were no plans to reschedule the lecture.