The building which houses the Anthropology and Sociology department was named after Olof Palme, a graduate of Kenyon College and former prime minister of Sweden.
Olof Palme (1927-1986), was born in Sweden on January 30, 1927. He served in the Swedish army in World War II and began his higher education in Sweden. At Kenyon, Palme was an excellent student, earning all As in his major subjects, economics and political science, and graduating with the Class of 1948. He was sufficiently proficient in French and German to serve as a tutor for his fellow students. He was also a member of Kenyon's first varsity soccer squad.
Palme spent the three months following his graduation on a tour of the United States, embarking with only $300 in his pocket. He later said that what he heard and saw on that trip influenced his political and social ideals.
Upon his return to Sweden, Palme studied law and then became personal secretary to Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander, beginning a long career in his country's government. He was elected to the Riksdag, Sweden's parliament in 1958. Palme became minister of communication in 1965 and minister of education in 1967. He won his first term as prime minister in 1968, serving until 1976; he was reelected prime minister in 1982 and again in September 1985.
In June 1970, Palme returned to Kenyon to receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. He delivered the principal address, entitled "On the Freedom of Men and the Freedom of Nations" on that occasion. It was his only major address during that trip to the United States, which came at a time when he was a controversial figure in this country as a result of his opposition to the war in Vietnam. But the single jarring note on that June day in Gambier was the presence of two bus loads of members of the International Longshoremen's Association, who came to protest Sweden's criticisms of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia.
Palme's speech, however, turned on the importance of freedom--academic, personal, political--and responsibility. "Democratic freedom requires solidarity among the people," he noted. "In order to live and survive a society must have a comprehensive solidarity, the ability to recognize the conditions of other people, a feeling of joint responsibility and participation. Otherwise, sooner or later, society will fall apart into petty, egotistical interests. There is never 'we' and 'they.' There is only 'us.'"
Palme died on Friday, February 28, 1986 in Stockholm at the hands of an assassin.