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AS MEMBERS of the Georgetown University class of 1968, we were more than eyewitnesses to history. We were drubbed by it.

Just about everyone with a television saw the riots that scarred urban America after Martin Luther King's assassination. Washington, D.C., was one of the worst. Martial law was swiftly declared, with strict curfews and an occupational force of tens of thousands of armed troops. We were sent home and our spring vacation was a few weeks longer than usual.Our long-anticipated June Senior Week of parties, receptions and proms was canceled by the assassination of Robert Kennedy, who some of us had met during his frequent visits to the campus seeking the counsel of one of Georgetown's more prominent social-activist teachers.

Even our scheduled commencement, just two days after Kennedy's funeral, was reduced to a hurried flurry of cowls being tossed and tassels being switched. A thunderous storm roared down the Potomac, drenching us all and scattering us to the far ends of the globe with barely a wave of farewell.

The storm should not have really surprised us. After all, the whole decade had been stormy, starting with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most of us, having attended Catholic schools, remember being herded into chapels and gyms across the land to pray for our young Catholic president during those perilous days. Just two years later, we would be praying for his soul.

When President Bill Clinton - a member of the ill-fated class of 1968 - promised that if elected he would be willing to host a reunion gathering at the White House, our classmates and of course the GU alumni association were thrilled. It would be the party that never was. Political ideology and partisanship were set aside to plan a reunion that would pay tribute to a time and place we each shared in common, regardless of the paths pursued since.

Our class was not the hotbed of radicalism that scorched other campuses. In the tempestuous spring of 1968, there were some classmates who actually questioned why we should cancel our prom for the memory of a Kennedy. Others had proposed a rich people's encampment to counter the poor people's tent city that had spread across the Ellipse after King's death. The prospect of the draft was discussed in terms of what branch of the service offered the best deal for officer status rather than which Canadian province had the best medical benefits. In a poll conducted during an earlier reunion, most of the class disclosed that they had voted Republican since graduation.

This conservatism was not surprising, since most of us had emerged as baby boomers from affluent homes, urged to pursue business, legal and medical careers, carrying on values entrenched in the upper middle class.

And here we were, over 1,200 alums and spouses, standing on chairs and tables on the White House lawn cheering for a relatively liberal president with the enthusiasm a teen might display for Michael Jackson. Camera flashes illuminated the large tent with an intensity that rivaled a Super Bowl half-time show. But it was more than being star struck. We were history struck, only this time around the times were less ominous and our host was one of us.

Paunchy men in blazers and tassel loafers formed kicklines on the dance floor while Chuck Berry, age 67, twanged his electric guitar and skipped across the stage with the agility of a teen.

We did what people do at reunions, swapped tales about our lives and accomplishments, but the setting added a remarkable backdrop as we scribbled phone numbers on our napkins - each displaying the presidential seal. When we grabbed hands of long-lost comrades, more than likely it was in the Rose Garden, just a few feet from the Oval Office.

Many of us, in between greetings and reminiscences, stood in awe of the fact that we were at the White House. We posed by famous paintings for photographs, stood arm in arm and took long looks at the rising moon that lit the monumental panorama that encompassed the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

Neither detractors nor admirers of our host sparred about the issues of the day. We cheered our common Georgetown bonds, savored our enduring friendships, and stood in line to thank Bill Clinton for giving us an opportunity to celebrate our unique place in history.