“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
-John Fitzgerald Kennedy
There are now 58,175 daffodils blanketing the hill near where four students were shot 40 years ago. Memorial marker and reminder that they may be; they are rooted in blood; they shall not erase the sounds of gun fire of that day or the cloud of burned powder. Nothing will ever erase the memory or the scar.
But the real legacy of the turmoil was the idea that young people and students had the obligation to challenge authority, to questions assumptions…and could succeed.
TOMMOROW marks the 40th anniversary of the fatal shootings by members of the Ohio National Guard of four Kent State University students during an anti-Vietnam war demonstration on campus.
During the melee that ensued on the Kent State campus that day, a senior journalism major snapped a now-famous scene that day had a strong Miami-Dade connection:
The photograph by John Filo showed a screaming long-haired Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of student Jeffrey Miller, 20, who had been fatally wounded. Vecchio was a 14-year-old runaway from Opa-locka who had friends on the Kent State campus.
In a History Channel video interview years later, Vecchio, now 52, said she instinctively ran toward Miller, who had been shot in the mouth after lobbing a tear-gas canister back at guardsmen who had ordered the demonstrators to disband.
''There was so much blood. I knew he was dead,'' she said of Miller, whom she had met on campus. ``I wanted to help, but there was nothing to do, so I just screamed.''
Filo, who said he was on ''automatic pilot,'' clicked on the moment Vecchio reacted.
''She just let out with a scream. It was an automatic picture,'' he said in the same video interview. Largely fueled by the powerful photograph of Vecchio and Miller, the shootings at Kent State shocked the nation: American soldiers had opened fire on American students on an American college campus. Three of the four students killed had been among those challenging the guard, but one was on her way to class. Nine other students were wounded; one was left paralyzed.
College students launched more on campus demonstrations across the country denouncing the student killings and President Richard Nixon's escalation of the Vietnam War, which had sparked the fatal rally and the burning of the university's ROTC building. Ten days after Kent State, two more students were killed at Jackson State University in Mississippi while demonstrating the actions of the Ohio National Guard.
The other three students killed that Monday on the campus lawn 38 years ago Sunday were: Allison Krause, 19, Sandra Scheuer, 20, and William Schroeder, 19. The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song Ohio is in honor of the students.
The photograph by Filo went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. Filo works for CBS.
Vecchio, one of six children of Frank and Claire Vecchio, a maintenance worker at the Port of Miami and a housewife, was recognized by her father in the photo that ran in major newspapers across the country. She was returned home from Indianapolis, where she went after the shootings.
Then-Florida Gov. Claude Kirk, chastised her involvement in the fatal rally telling reporters she had ''been planted there by the Communists.'' Her mother told the New York Times in 1990 that ''people wrote letters telling her daughter that she was responsible'' for the deaths for having taken part in the demonstration and ignoring orders from the guards.
''Can you imagine a 14-year-old girl having to deal with that?'' Claire Vecchio said.
Vecchio, who attended Westview Junior High, eventually settled in Las Vegas.
At a ceremony at Kent State to mark the 37th anniversary of the shootings, Vecchio said: ``We didn't do anything wrong.
We Were Just Voicing Our Opinion Right Here On This Lawn. We Had The Freedom To Do That. ''
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
--Robert F. Kennedy, 1968
The changes of the Vietnam were eventually codified in law. But they were brought about not by political “leaders,” but by mass movements of people who demanded that America live up to its own democratic rhetoric, by grassroots movements that forced the system to respond to their demands, and opened up new political space for ordinary people to participate in the decisions that affected their lives.
That spirit of participatory democracy culminated in 1968 and was punctuated at Kent State in 1970. Since then, a right-wing backlash has attempted to roll back the gains of those years, to “recreate” an America in which a ruling elite of wealthy, privileged white males and large corporations made a mockery of the promise of democracy. For the past 40 years, we have seen increasing economic inequality, a fierce attack on affirmative action and other programs aimed at aiding oppressed communities, an assault on civil liberties and, most recently, an attempt to equate political dissent with criminality or “terrorism.” Under the Bush administration, the right has come dangerously close to achieving their goal.
Some of the problems we face now are eerily reminiscent of 1968: most obviously, a costly, unpopular and illegal war. Others are unique to our time: a faltering economy, a shrinking middle class, a health care crisis, global warming. But one thing is as true now as it was then: neither of the two major parties is seriously addressing the needs and desires of the majority of the American people, because both are captive to the corporate interests that finance their campaigns. The Democrats have played their role in this global crisis; the Congress is controlled by Democrats unwilling to use their power to make a true positive change on these issues. And nothing will change until, as they did in the 60s, the people take their destiny into their own hands, and force their “leaders” to change.
“The time is now.” It is time to recreate the spirit of mass political participation of the 60s. To recreate the spirit that will once again force this country to live up to its own professed principles of democracy, equality and human rights. To recreate the idealism that brought millions of people into the streets to challenge authority, to question assumptions, and to succeed.
The time is now to end the illegal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; to use the money being wasted there to meet the needs of the American people; to provide health care for everyone; to restore civil liberties; to create a humane immigration policy; to replace the tragedy of “free trade” with fair trade; to combat global warming; and to transform a corrupt, corporate-dominated political system into real democracy.
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 15:24
2010 NEWS FROM KENT: May 1-4 Commemoration
Join us in Kent May 1-4, 2010 for our 40th Annual Commemoration , sponsored by students of the May 4 Task Force (M4TF).
Tentative schedule of events:
Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2: National Student Activism Conference, "Roots of Resistance: Continuing the Struggle", sponsored by KSU student and Kent community organizations including Anti-Racist Action (ARA), Kent State Anti-War Committee (KSAWC), May 4 Task Force (M4TF), Black United Students (BUS), KSU-NAACP, The Crooked River Collective, and the Women's Liberation Collective.
NOTE: Mark Rudd and other local/national ex-SDS members and leaders will participate as decided by modern students at the conference. Former SNCC activists and Black Panthers are also welcome.
NOTE: please send all Student Action Conference unquiries to: email@example.com including workshop ideas, questions, and suggestions.
SEE ACTIVISM CONFERENCE SCHEDULE: http://rootsofresistance.wordpress.com/
Saturday, May 1: Off campus Kent State SDS (1968-69) reunion, featuring many Kent SDS veterans and national SDS leaders including Mark Rudd and others.
Saturday, May 1: 7:30 PM, KSU Kiva Auditorium, KSU Student Center-excellent new Kent State activism history documentary film premier, "Fire in the Heartland", by Danny Miller. Free of charge.
Sunday afternoon, May 2: 2 PM: KSU Kiva auditorium, KSU Student Center: Country Joe McDonald presents 3 films: "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans", "Vietnam, The Secret Agent (Orange)" and "Vietnam Experience", followed by Country Joe McDonald and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (http://www.vvaw.com) leaders of a discussion session. All US military veterans are welcome to attend and participate in this healing educational event. Free.
Sunday evening, May 2: The Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St., downtown Kent- Opening acts: 5 PM, KSU Theatre Students play: "Blanket Hill"; 6:30 PM - 8 PM, Live rock band, MAYS GONE, featuring M4TF student singer, Ashley Foster, onstage. 8 PM: $5/ticket,
Kent film premier, "Disturbing The Universe", tribute to America's most outstanding radical attorney, William Kunstler, documentary film by his daughters, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, followed by a panel discussion featuring the Kunstler sisters/filmmakers and Kent activists who worked with Bill Kunstler during 1970 - 1977.
Monday, May 3: 6 PM - 7:30 PM: US Congressman John Lewis speech, KSU Ballroom. Free.
Monday, May 3: 8 PM, Bobby Seale speaks, Pan African Affairs Dept., Oscar Ritchie Hall, a M4TF event.
Monday, May 3: 10:30 PM, gather for 11 PM Candlelight March and Vigil which starts at 11 PM on the KSU Commons at Victory Bell.
Tuesday, May 4 morning: 8:30 AM, traditional private breakfast gathering of 1970 May 4 victims' families and May 4 Task Force students followed by a public news conference at 10 AM in KSU Student Center.
Tuesday, May 4: 40th Annual Commemoration, KSU Commons, noon-3 PM, featuring speakers/musicians, including: keynote speakers Black Panther leader Bobby Seale and Gerald Casale of DEVO; music by Country Joe McDonald and The Shadowbox Theater; speakers: Mary Vecchio, May 4 eyewitness; John Filo, esteemed 1970 KSU photographer; Gene Young, Jackson State massacre eyewitness; Russ Miller, brother of KSU martyr Jeff Miller; Florence Schroeder, mother of KSU martyr William Schroeder; Joe Lewis, May 4, 1970 eyewitness/casualty; Chic Canfora, May 4 eyewitness; Bernardine Dohrn and Mark Rudd, ex-SDS leaders; and Sanford Rosen, attorney for KSU casualties' families.
Tuesday, May 4: Open social gathering, 3:30 PM - 5 PM, room 306, KSU Student Center.
Tuesday, May 4: 5 PM, White Hall room 200, documentary film by KSU Prof. Drew Tiene, "The Story of the Kent State Shootings."
Tuesday, May 4: 7 PM- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Comes to Kent: . . . Next Stop Is Vietnam: The War on Record". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Education Department will present a special edition of the monthly Rock and Roll Night School program on music and the Vietnam war. This panel discussion is geared toward adults interested in gaining more knowledge about rock and roll history and will explore the history of rock and roll from its roots to its current incarnations; special attention is given to the music’s impact on society, its reception by fans, and its most innovative practitioners. Also discussed will be the representation of the war in popular music throughout the 1960s, from music that is both explicitly about the war (e.g., Edwin Starr’s “War,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun”) to music that was adopted to represent conditions in Vietnam (The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”; Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through the Jungle”). The program includes video, audio, and a content-rich Power Point presentation.
Included on the panel will be singer-songwriter Country Joe McDonald, a veteran himself and an activist against the war and Hugo Keesing, who has curated a cd box set that will be released by Bear Family records later this spring: …Next Stop Is Vietnam: The War On Record, 1961-2008, a thirteen-cd set of music and the war that also includes an extensive book on the subject. Dr. Keesing is a professor at the University of Maryland and a popular culture scholar. He has assembled all of the extensive materials for the box set.
8:30 PM: LIVE PSYCHEDELIC CONCERT AND DANCE PARTY featuring COUNTRY JOE McDONALD, KSU Student Center Rathskeller. Free/donation.
See also, KSU official list of various events:http://www.kent.edu/about/May4Commemoration/Events-Listing.cfm
Kent State’s WKSU-FM Launches May 4, 1970, Audio Archive
Posted Apr, 29, 2010
As Kent State University prepares for the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings, WKSU-FM - the university’s award-winning NPR affiliate - has launched a new online audio archive about the history-making events.
The website www.kentstate1970.org offers original source material for scholars, students, news media and the general public. The materials include unedited raw audio and radio station broadcasts, photographs, text and video related to the May 4 shootings, the days before, and the aftermath. The website will be continuously updated as additional materials become available.
The project was conceived by Daniel Nawrocki, a Kent State graduate student pursuing his Master of Arts in journalism and mass communication. Nawrocki worked with WKSU-FM News Director M.L. Schultze to organize the station’s news archives. He noticed the vast amount of May 4 recordings stored at the station and concluded that the Web would be an ideal tool to ensure the public could access such valuable material. The project included preserving archival tape, organizing first-person accounts and transferring everything into digital files.
In May 1970, WKSU-FM was uniquely situated to provide in-depth coverage of the shootings. As tensions rose, the station sent student reporters throughout campus to capture events on audio tape as they unfolded. Much of the material that they gathered is now available to the public for the very first time.
Mark Urycki, director of programming and operations at WKSU-FM, first began organizing the station’s May 4 audio archive in 1989 when he was preparing his award-winning documentary “Remembering Kent State, 1970,” which is also on the website. Urycki’s 30-minute version was honored with a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award in 1990. In 2000, the documentary was expanded to an hour and garnered a Third Coast Audio Festival Award and Society of Professional Journalists National Documentary Award.
To supplement the material from WKSU-FM’s own archive, Nawrocki went to the Kent State library to meet with archivists to obtain further material, mostly images, and to get professional guidance on constructing an online archive. Interviews, news reports and official documents from beyond Kent also were gathered. The site also includes a searchable version of the Kent State section of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest report, which is usually available only in non-searchable PDF files.
“We wanted to make sure to provide historical framework about the audio for our visitors” Nawrocki said. The website is geared toward building context for visitors who come to the site with a range of understanding of the events of May 4 and their impact. It also contains a great deal of historical material describing the political and social climate leading up to events of May 4.
Urycki supervised the project, with contributions from Schultze, WKSU-FM Web Developer Joe Linstrum and Kent State graphic design student Renee Volchko. In addition to “Remembering Kent State, 1970,” three other documentaries from 1971, 1972 and 1985 are available online for the first time.
So far, the reception to the new website has been quite positive. “The thing that really surprised me was seeing the reach that the site already has had,” Nawrocki said. “We've had visitors from Germany, Poland, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Turkey and Yemen. It’s great to see interest in this material, not just from Ohio and across the country, but from around the world.”
By Melissa Griffy Seeton
Posted May 02, 2010 @ 11:09 PM
Kent State University students pass by little reminders every spring: The 58,175 daffodils blanketing the hill near where four students were shot 40 years ago.
And some bigger reminders: The sculpture outside Taylor Hall scarred from a bullet that was fired by National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970.
Still, some students today feel a disconnect.
“I think there are a lot of students who just fall into a routine. They forget something major happened here,” said Christina Rodriques of Plain Township, a Kent senior.
That “major” thing happened on May 4, 1970, when a student protest against the Vietnam War and the presence of the Ohio National Guard on the campus ended in tragedy when guardsmen shot and killed four and wounded nine Kent State students.
An honors student who’ll graduate next week with bachelor’s degrees in history and art history, Rodriques has written papers on the shootings and draws her own hypotheses.
“I think, in the ’70s, students were a lot more aware of what was happening in the world,” the 23-year-old said. “Today, students just think that they don’t have a say, so they don’t care, or they’ve stopped caring.”
Kent senior Andrew Passwaters of Canton is one student who takes the time to reflect.
“We have a similar situation with our troops today,” said Passwaters, 24. “It’s just weird to think about now and then, and how it has changed a lot, but some things are nearly the same.”
Passwaters believes today’s students take certain rights, such as the right to free speech, for granted.
“Somewhat selfishly, we think, ‘I already have these rights and freedoms,’ ” he said. “Students aren’t quite in tune with it or can’t relate to students’ actions back then.”
Carole Barbato, a Kent State University communication studies professor, was a student “back then.”
In the 1960s and early 1970s, demonstrations were about attracting attention, she said. The more dramatic the protest — everything from burning draft cards to burying the U.S. Constitution — the more attention it garnered.
But Barbato believes the era is “idealized. People think everyone was an activist, but no more than today.”
“Students today reach out in different ways,” Barbato said. “My students are very concerned about things. I just think they go about it different ways. Instead of taking it to the streets, they take it to the Internet.”
Barbato, a student at Kent during the May 4 shootings, teaches a May 4 course and co-led the creation of an audio-guided walking tour of the May 4 historic site that will be dedicated during the 40th anniversary. She is one of the four co-authors of the application to add the May 4 site to the National Register of Historic Places, which was approved in February.
Barbato had planned to attend the student protest May 4, 1970, but one of her professors pleaded with her not to go. “I never listened to older adults, but that day I did,” she said.
Barbato was friends with Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder, two of the four students who were killed.
“We want students today to know the facts that we know, we want them to remember,” Barbato said. “But there are greater lessons here, and that is that the rhetoric that incites violence is never the answer.”
Kent State University is presenting a wide range of events to mark the 40th anniversary of May 4, 1970. All events are free and open to the public. For a complete schedule of commemoration events go to www.kent.edu/about/may4commemoration
Dedication of National Register of Historic Places Plaque and New May 4 Walking Tour
Time: 3 p.m.
Location: 214 Oscar Ritchie Hall, 225 Terrace Dr.
2010 Democracy Speaker Program Featuring Rep. John Lewis: “Coming Full Circle: Democracy, Engagement and Social Change”
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Kent Student Center Ballroom, 2nd floor of the Kent Student Center
Monday and Tuesday
40th Annual Candlelight March and Vigil
Time: 11 p.m. (march), midnight to 12:24 p.m. (vigil)
Location: Commons (begin march) and Prentice Hall parking lot (vigil)
Remembrance Day Observation and Ringing of the Victory Bell
Time: Remembrance Day Observation, Noon to 2 p.m.; Ringing of the Victory Bell, 12:24 p.m.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Comes to Kent: “ ... Next Stop Is Vietnam: The War on Record”
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Kent Student Center Kiva
Four students shot to death. Nine others wounded, some severely. The Guardsmen, deeply shocked from the resounding climax to the conflict, retreated. The other protestors and spectators fled, attended the injured, or milled about in confusion.
Daffodils on Blanket Hill
an essay by Lisa Binkley
On May 4th, 1970, after three days of local civil unrest and a month of conflict nationwide, America was changed by the events in a small college town in Ohio. Thirteen seconds and sixty-seven hastily discharged bullets were the difference between what had been and what then was. A line had been crossed.
The causes have been debated for all the years since Kent State. The activists blame the military's over-reaction to a peaceful demonstration against the illegal and indefensible escalation of the war in Vietnam.
The authorities cite the violence perpetrated against the police, firefighters, and soldiers, as well as the destruction of private and public property, by the rioters as clear and present danger that justified the use of force.
Clearly, there are issues that thirty years later a people, removed from the context of those turbulent times, can no longer properly appreciate. Memories fade and are seamlessly edited by what happened after. Time has brought perspective but have the years revealed answers to the burning questions of 'Why did this happen?' Or 'Whose fault is this?'
Some of the responsibility lies, undoubtedly with the National Guard. Having only recently been utilized as peacekeeping troops and for riot control, guardsmen hadn't yet been given the use of appropriate weapons and defenses. No body armor, no face guards, no batons, or shields had been issued. The only non-lethal weapon was teargas, in limited quantities. Their standard-issue M-1 rifles carried live rounds with bayonets.
Many of the guardsmen were of the same age and mindset as the majority of the protestors. Though given the 'permission' by one of the commanders to fire upon the crowd if necessary, none of the soldiers had reason to anticipate that, less than a day later, they would do so.
The protestors inflicted minor injuries on the authorities in every altercation, yet each confrontation ended with the crowd contained on campus using minimal force. All the witnesses agree that scenario on May 4th appeared to be a replay of the events of the two days prior. Why then did this one end in with cataclysmic differences?
Were the young military men to blame? In their inexperience, over-taxed and anxious, did they react to some imaginary threat or covert order?
Were the protestors, who repeatedly crossed over from peaceful assembly to full-blown rioting, to blame? Did the ones who watched or, worse, cheered as rocks, bottles, and homemade nail-studded cement projectiles were showered upon the soldiers - without speaking out to advocate moderation - fail in their civic duties?
Did the liberal administration encourage mayhem? Did the political views and manifestos disseminated by the faculty fan the embers of an already volatile situation?
On which side of a conflict does the responsibility for peaceful resolution lie?
There was plenty of blame to spread around and the Grand Jury did so. At every level of involvement, from the spectators to the college administrators and faculty, from the lowest Guardsman to the highest officer, and from the campus security chief to the Governor of Ohio, the panel cited negligence and disregard, and then provided examples based on the testimony of over 300 eyewitnesses.
As with any profound tragedy, there are missing elements. Witnesses claim the Guardsmen 'turned as one' at a hand signal from an officer and took careful aim at the crowd below in the parking lot. The soldiers, denying any order, stated that 'I started shooting because everyone else was'. Only sixteen did. Several of the rear echelon report hearing a gunshot emanating from somewhere below the Pagoda, and returned fire based on the assumption that they were being attacked. None of the activists remember hearing the discharge of any weapon other than the M-1's.
Conspiracy theories abound. Did J. Edgar Hoover, with President Nixon's blessing, send in an undercover agent to initiate violence that would require a government crackdown on freedom of speech and thus silence the growing storm of antiwar rallies? Did Mr. Nixon's political adversaries hope to discredit him to set in motion their own agenda? Did the Weathermen, a radical splinter group, hope to garner support for their increasingly terrorist-like methods in opposing the war?
Or was the whole calamity one of those amazing yet completely coincidental alignments of total star-crossed wrongness? Perhaps the responsibility lays with so many that no one person or group is more culpable than any other.
A great evil committed or a stupid mistake?
Either way. Four were killed. Nine were wounded. What lasting monument can be erected, beyond the daffodils planted in loving memory on Blanket Hill?
Did the thirty plus years bring any new answers? No, but maybe a perspective can be gained on what the sacrifice of our innocence and our children has wrought.
The National Guard, still charged with quelling civil disturbances, took those early horrific mistakes and placed the lessons into practice. Today's Guardsman trains in mob psychology and is properly equipped with non-lethal weapons to ensure the peaceful conclusion to riots or unrest. When called forth they respond, in conjunction with local police, with overwhelming overt force - intimidation being the most powerful of their tools. A huge change, and one the residents of LA or Seattle can applaud when faced with the aftermath of a Rodney King trial or a pending WTO convention.
And the nation changed. No longer did people of restraint sit quietly observing the evening news while others of more temperament vocalized a shared opposition. Instead, moderates joined the ranks and mediated peaceful protests. The average middle-class American voter became an activist, gradually replacing the popular press image of 'pot smoking, free love, draft-dodging, longhaired, hippy freak', and moved the issue into the mainstream. The swell of antiwar feeling brought the country's involvement to a gradual end as polar opposites of society united.
After Kent State, we learned that to be silent is to invite chaos. We learned that to stand for a cause means to stand up, arm-in-arm, with others of our opinion. We learned that agreeing isn't enough. We must speak out and loudly, lest our words fall short of our government's willingness to listen.
Four had died. Nine wounded. And America changed.
Listman, John W. Jr., "Kent's Other Casualties", National Guard Magazine, May 2000
Clines, Francis X., Students From Then and Now Pass On Painful Lessons of Kent State, The New York Times on the web, April 28, 2000
May Fourth Task Force, a student organization at Kent State University
Blumen, Jonathon, America Kills Its Children, The Ethical Spectacle, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1995
Unknown author, A History of Kent State, Student Direct Action Coalition of Earlham College
Unknown author, Kent State Survivor
Jackson, Miriam R., Vietnam War Refought: Kent State 1977, The Vietnam Generation Journal, Vol. 4, No. 3-4
Copyright © 2002 Lisa J. BinkleyFriday, May 2, 2003 | return to: opinions
Remembering Kent State And Powerful Lessons Of Past
by Paula Maggio
Every year at this time, as cheerful yellow daffodils bloom in yards and on hillsides, I can't help thinking about one particularly bright sunny day in May 1970, when 28 Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on students at Kent State University.
As a result of the guardsmen's 13-second volley of gunfire, four of my fellow students were killed. Nine more were wounded.
The guardsmen's violent actions blotted the sun from my mental sky that day. They also caused me -- and many people like me -- to realize with a sudden, mind-numbing jolt that our world would never be the same again.
Each April, the campus hillside near where the killings took place is covered with thousands of vibrant yellow blooms. These flowers pay tribute to the 58,175 U.S. soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.
But by the time May 4 rolls around, the blossoms have faded, leaving the hillside suddenly drab.
I used to wish the daffodils would still be in full bloom when the somber crowds come back to Kent State to commemorate May 4. The colorful flower stalks are so beautiful and bright.
Now, however, I think the withered flowers are a fitting symbol of what happened at my alma mater on that dreadful day. And I am grateful that although the daffodils on that famous hillside fade and die each year, the story of what happened there does not. Year after year, people come back to remember.
This year, as I recall those events, what stands out to me the most is the fact that three of the four students who died were Jewish. Knowing that, I can't help but wonder why young Jewish students were so tragically well-represented among the dead at the noon anti-war rally at Kent State on May 4, 1970.
Only two of the three Jewish students, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Glenn Miller, were involved in student protests against the Vietnam War at Kent State that spring. The third, Sandra Lee Scheuer, was not politically active. She focused on doing good in a different way -- by becoming a speech therapist so she could help others.
Their deaths leave me with many unanswered questions. Were these three students either involved in the protest rally or on their way to class that day, despite the danger, because of the influence of their Jewish upbringing?
Were their actions shaped by Judaism's commitment to social justice? Did the concept of tikkun olam move them to take action where they lived and attended classes?
Were they struggling to find their own way of obeying the mitzvot regarding love, brotherhood, the poor and the unfortunate? Did the lessons of courage they learned from the Holocaust cause them to take a brave stand against a controversial war?
Each year on May 4, people travel to the Kent State campus from close at hand and from far away. They come to remember Krause, Miller, Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder. They also come to take a stand against injustice.
They participate in commemorative events that, probably unbeknown to them, have a distinctly Jewish flavor. The silent candlelight walk and vigil on May 3 remind me of the candles lit to commemorate Yom HaShoah and the contemplative silence the Talmud recommends for dealing with loss and mourning.
Speakers, poems, prayers and singing are a part of May 4 commemorations. They are a part of Yom HaShoah as well.
The university's victory bell that rang out at the anti-war rally in 1970 tolls 15 times at 12:24 p.m. on May 4 to memorialize the student victims of 1970. Just a few days earlier, on Yom HaShoah, a siren is sounded at 10 a.m. in Israel to honor those lost in the Holocaust. On both occasions, mourners stop and stand in silence.
"Inquire. Learn. Reflect." Those are the words carved into the plaza threshold of the May 4 Memorial dedicated at Kent State in 1990. It is good advice, advice that helps to honor the students, both Jew and non-Jew, who died that day.
But I would suggest that we add another directive. And because of the history of the Jewish people, it is one that could easily supercede all the rest: "Remember.''
For it is only by remembering that we can learn the lessons of the past, which are among life's most powerful.
KENT, Ohio -- Spirited debate about the Vietnam War and its legacy lives on at Kent State University.
War veteran and anti-war activist Country Joe McDonald screened two short documentary-style films about the war's impact at a gathering Sunday.
The reaction to the movies at Kent State -- where the impact of that war may have been felt more than anywhere else -- was divided and passionate.
The first film, "The Vietnam Experience," a 29-minute musical montage directed by McDonald, follows the war from the recruitment and draft of clean-cut kids to the rocky return home of bearded veterans with blank stares. It features music from McDonald's recording of the same name.
The second film, "Welcome Back Vietnam Veterans," documents the 1985 ticker-tape parade for veterans in New York City.
The discussion, sponsored by theMay 4th Task Force, was part of events marking the 40th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings on campus. It was meant to paint the mood of the war as the backdrop for student protests at the Portage County university four decades ago.
Ohio National Guard troops fired on a crowd of students that day, killing four and wounding nine others.
Alan Canfora, who was wounded by a National Guard shot on May 4, said the link between the deaths in Vietnam and at Kent State are often overlooked, as are the reasons the students were protesting.
The protests at Kent, and other American campuses, began in earnest after President Richard Nixon announced on April 30, 1970, that U.S. troops were invading neighboring Cambodia.
Marsha Halperin was sitting in her dorm room at Boston University, studying for final exams, when a friend burst in to tell her the news: Four students at Kent State University, in Ohio, had been killed by the National Guard.
It was May 4, 1970, and the BU campus, like many across the country, had been roiling with protest since President Nixon had announced four days earlier that US forces were entering Cambodia.
“I felt like the whole world had gone crazy,’’ Halperin — now Halperin-Epstein — said.
Outraged students marched on the State House to protest the Kent State killings. The next morning protesters threw firebombs at a BU administration building, and several fires were set on campus.
BU officials decided they had to end the unrest. So they scrapped final exams. They ordered students off campus. And they canceled commencement — graduating seniors got their diplomas in the mail.
Now, four decades later, BU is making amends to the class of 1970.
The university has invited all 3,000 living alumni from that year to come back May 16, don a cap and gown, and come up on stage to receive a certificate.
Halperin-Epstein will be there, along with more than 200 of her classmates.
“The whole thing is intriguing and bittersweet,’’ she said. “It’s a lot of emotions for a 62-year-old. It’s a time of reflection.’’
BU president Robert A. Brown was a student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1970. In a recent interview he recalled that, even though he was not an antiwar activist, he was still tear-gassed during college.
“If you lived that time and you weren’t [tear-gassed] then you had to stay in your room,’’ he said.
Brown said the decision to invite the class of 1970 back for the 2010 graduation represents a step toward healing.
“I feel this is more about a debt we owe them as a class,’’ he said.
The class of 1970 has been invited to two days of events for what would be their 40th reunion weekend, said Meg Umlas, the university’s executive director of alumni relations.
On May 15, BU will hold a special remembrance service, where a tribute will be held for the Kent State victims, deceased classmates, and the late Howard Zinn, a former BU professor and an antiwar activist. On May 16, before the graduation, the class will have its own convocation ceremony at Rich Hall. After the ceremony, graduates will walk out onto Nickerson Field and join the BU class of 2010 for commencement.
The events will begin with a slide show of photographs by Peter Simon, who as photo editor of the BU News documented protests on campus during the late 1960s. Simon, a member of the class of ‘70 and younger brother of singer Carly Simon, recalls shuttling across the Charles River to document the unrest at area campuses, photographing students preparing strike signs at BU, the Grateful Dead playing a free concert at MIT in honor of the Kent State victims, and police and protesters on Commonwealth Avenue.Continued...
“This extraordinary hour long doc is so good, so well-constructed, that it can”t help but leave viewers feeling as if they themselves were on the bloody scene of the Kent State carnage.” -The Hollywood Reporter
In the span of 13 seconds the Ohio National Guard fired 63 shots that killed 4 students and wounded 9. KENT STATE: THE DAY THE WAR CAME HOME chronicles the events leading up to May 4, 1970.
The definitive story is told here for the first time. The haunting photograph of Mary Vecchio poised in anguish over the body of a slain student. The fervor of the wounded student-activist still consumed by the need for justice 30 years later. The former Guardsman living with a badge of shame few could imagine. The gentle perspective of the former student permanently paralyzed by an M-1 rifle. The Sociology professor who witnessed the madness and now teaches its lesson to new generations at Kent State.
Some choose to forget. Others fight to keep their bitter lessons alive for new generations. Try as they may, the entire cast of survivors cannot escape the questions and the accusations that fly as each anniversary comes and goes.
KENT STATE: THE DAY THE WAR CAME HOME is a portrait of the pain shared by an entire nation. After 40 years, the blood stains are not forgotten.
Remember Kent State – May 4, 1970