April 23-24, 1995
Temper of the Times - "A Failure to Communicate":
Local, State, National and International Perspectives
J. Gregory Payne
This should really be quite an entertaining morning -- let me just introduce the panel.
This is called "Temper of the Times, a Failure to Communicate: Local, State, National and International Perspectives." I would like to first introduce all the members of the panel and, hopefully, they will each spend some time speaking on their unique perspectives of what happened at various incidents surrounding these events. Then we'll have some time for questions and discussion. Let's start at the end. At the far end is Gene Young, an eyewitness to the shooting at Jackson State.
Next to Gene is Bill McCabe, former Commissioner and Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, who was present at the Harvard Square riots. Many of you may be familiar with those riots that occurred around the same time as the incidents at Kent State and Jackson State.
Next to Bill we have Mary Vecchio Gillum, eyewitness to the Kent State shooting and whose form kneeling over one of the fallen students at Kent State is an image that is permanently etched into our consciousness. We are all familiar with that famous Life magazine photo.
Next to Mary is Bob Hilliard, an FCC official in 1970 and member of the anti-war movement.
Next to Bill, we have Paul Parks, a former Secretary of Educational Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and then we have Alan Frank here as well, an eyewitness to the shooting at Kent State.
We also have two students, who were wounded at Kent State, who will be offering their perspectives on that particular day. In the back, we have Alan Canfora and we are going to try and get Dean Kahler up here as well for his perspective. Please join me in welcoming all of our panel members. [applause]
Why don't we just start at one end of the table. Gene would you like to speak first? We will pass down the microphone. Okay -- Alan.
I am not going to participate in the panel, I am just going to give an opening remark. I will, however, participate in the panel later today at 4:00 and will be available to answer some questions later today, similar to what we did yesterday.
First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Gregory Payne, a long-standing friend of those of us at Kent State, and our ongoing battle for truth and justice. Without people like Dr. Payne across the country, I think long ago at Kent, we would have lost the faith and given up the struggle. I think, many years ago.
It is people like Greg Payne and the students at Emerson College, who come to Kent State on a regular basis, that have served as a serious inspiration for those of us who were wounded at Kent State. Those of us who carry on the battle on the campus at Kent, for we are still a relatively conservative administration that continues to fail to pay a proper tribute to the memory of the four students killed there at Kent.
For example, the memorial at Kent State University is only 7% built. 93% of the May 4 Memorial at Kent State University remains unbuilt and that is unfortunate. In the brochure, they are publishing widely this Spring for the 25th anniversary of the Kent State incident, there are numerous errors. As Dr. Payne had mentioned yesterday, attempting to blame the students for burning the ROTC building on Saturday, May 2, when, in fact, no student has ever been convicted for that crime. Many of us suspect it was the federal government that participated in the burning of the ROTC building at Kent.
We know, for sure, that five days after that fire at Kent on May 7,1970, an FBI agent later admitted he helped burn an ROTC building on the campus of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It is very likely that under the mysterious circumstances on May 2 at Kent -- two evenings before the shootings -- a serious incident occurred, which was the result of police provocateur activity or government intervention.
In addition, they tried to say the closest student was 90 feet away from the guard when in fact it was 60. They have other errors as well. I think it is just an attempt by the university to minimize the historical significance of May 4, 1970. For this year, in an attempt to divert the media attention at Kent State, for example, they are having a symposium on May 2 and 3 not dealing with the tragedy of May 4. They are not paying a tribute to the memory of the four students, as they should. In fact, it is a symposium dealing with the legacies of protest, as they call it. In other words, the aftermath of 1970, what happened since 1970, and I'm sure it's going to be consistently a revisionist historical version of the facts of the aftermath even, with some relatively conservative participants on the panel, including the former president of Kent State University as a moderator who is himself responsible for the reduction of the May 4 Memorial down by 93%.
It is unfortunate that situation exists at Kent. But, when we come to a place like Emerson and meet with the president of the college and with the faculty and students, we are inspired. I assure you, we are very grateful that you have taken the time to sponsor such a meaningful event.
For those of you who were here yesterday, I would like to mention the presence of Mary Ann Vecchio Gillum here, a young woman, who in 1970 expressed the outrage and the horror that our nation felt after the Kent State incident.
Of course, we all know now that after Kent State 5,000,000 students across the country, including those here in Boston, shut down over 700 colleges and universities during the national students' strike of May 1970. And I seriously doubt if that would have happened without the photograph that was published widely all across the country of this young woman here who as it turned out was only 14 years old.
Mary's sensitivity at the time was shown in that photo and her sensitivity continues 25 years later. She is a very passionate and sensitive woman and that sensitivity remains. I am very glad to be here to meet her again after 25 years. It's one of the main reasons I came this time. I hope that some of you will take the time to talk to her afterwards and personally get to know her as we have this weekend.
I'd like to continue on here, by just mentioning, the previous speaker began her remarks quoting Frederick Douglas and concluded her remarks with other quotes and music by Jimi Hendrix. It is a nice mixture of the message here, because those words and those messages can inspire us even today.
In one of his songs, Jimi Hendrix makes the lament "Well it's too bad that our friends cannot be with us today." For those of us who remember Allison, Sandy, Jeffrey and Bill, we really understand that sentiment. It's too bad that they cannot be with us today.
As James Joyce once wrote, "The dead are with us always." I think that is true as well. And when we think about James Earl Green and Philip Gibbs, killed at Jackson State University ten days after Kent State, I think it's very important that we should always link Kent and Jackson State, May 4, 1970 and May 15, l970.
And that is another reason, I think, this conference is so significant, because that link is made again. Too often, people remember the four at Kent State and forget to always simultaneously recall the students killed at Jackson State, at Orangeburg College, Southern University, The University of Kansas, North Carolina A&T, The University of Wisconsin and the University of California at Santa Barbara where other students were killed, most African-Americans.
In 1970, we paid a dear price. I, myself, was wounded at Kent State. I shed my blood there that day, not by my choice, I didn't choose my place in history and now I do not choose to walk away from it. I feel a sense of duty and obligation to the memory of my friend, Jeffrey Miller, the young man who was lying seriously injured and dying on the pavement when Mary Vecchio approached and expressed her sentiment over his dead body.
That was my friend, Jeffrey Miller. I think, I feel an obligation. Dean Kahler feels an obligation also, as one of the wounded students at Kent. Nine of us were shot and wounded and lived to tell about it and the reason that we have carried on this battle down through the years, fighting against the government, against the courts, the justice system, which continues to cover up murder at Kent State. Yes, I think it was murder. I think that is the only word that can properly be used to describe the cold blooded, calculated order to fire when 67 bullets from M1 rifles were fired under the noon-day sun into a crowd of unarmed students. Yes, it was murder. We have lived to tell about this, because we speak for students and young people, who can no longer speak for themselves.
Just yesterday Allison Kraus would have enjoyed her 44 birthday had she survived that barrage. But no, she is gone. She will, always be forever young. Nineteen years old, frozen in those photographs, her life taken away only ten days after her nineteenth birthday. And just as we feel an obligation to remember those four and those killed at Jackson State and elsewhere, we should also see that their deaths are permanently and forever linked to the 58,000 that were killed at Vietnam.
When I look at the mother of Allison Kraus or Sandy Sawyer, Bill Shroeder or Jeff Miller, I know those parents well when I look at their faces. I see the same pain and grief that is forever etched in their faces because they still suffer all these years later. I see the same thing in their faces that I see in the face of a mother of Bill Caldwell, my 19 year old friend who was killed in Vietnam in 1970. There is no difference. If you lose a son or a daughter at a young age because of a Vietnam or because of a Kent State, a victim of an injustice, that grief never goes away. And for those of you here who may be the son or a daughter of a Vietnam veteran, or if you know someone who is a Vietnam veteran, I encourage you to talk to that person, to take that person aside and try to get a good understanding of the horror and the reality of that war.
The war that really led to the deaths at Kent State. Robert McNamara recently came forward very courageously, I think, and finally admitted, "We were wrong in Vietnam." The highest ranking United States official from the war period to ever admit that the war was a grave mistake. We should pay a tribute to Mr. McNamara. We should thank him. But, still his words do come too late. If only the American government had admitted in 1955, as Mr. McNamara now indicates, the deaths would have been minimized absolutely and we wouldn't have 58,000 names on a memorial in Washington, D.C.
The United States government pursued that war and invited the protest at Kent State and across the country. For years, those of us who stood opposed to that war, including President Clinton, have been vilified and have been criticized. President Clinton recently was criticized by a member of congress, because supposedly he aided and abetted the enemy. I do not think, we aided and abetted the enemy. I think, we were acting as the conscience of America when we stood opposed to the war in Vietnam and some of us paid a dear price.
My wound was relatively insignificant, a bullet wound through the wrist. I lived to tell about it, but other people paid a very dear price, going to jail for many years, having their heads smashed open with billy clubs, having their reputations ruined, losing jobs. Some people had to flee the country. We paid a dear price, but we stood opposed to the government when the government was wrong. I think, we acted as the true patriots in 1970 and during the anti-war movement.
We did not act like the good Germans in the 1930s who stood idly by while Adolph Hitler deceived the people of Germany and the people of Germany stood by and supported Nazism. And, of course, we know what that led to. We did not choose that path. We chose the more difficult path of standing against our government when the government was wrong. I am not saying that it is going to happen again anytime soon. I am hoping, it won't. I am active in the Democratic Party. I have great faith in President Clinton and I am hoping that he can continue to make a strong stand for what is right and for what is good for this country. So we would not have to face the difficult decisions that we did in the 1960s.
Those were exciting times to be young. I can remember going to see, for example, the Doors in Cleveland. $4.00 to see a concert like that. Those were exciting times in the 1960s. But, at the same time, it was a very dangerous time to be young.
Young men were faced with the draft. If you graduated from college or if you took less than full credit hours, you were gone to Vietnam, if you were a young man and healthy at that time. And Vietnam was a constant specter that haunted our generation for years and it still does all these many years later.
I am very glad that time has passed by and we are still pursuing the truth about Vietnam, the truth continues to emerge. If this country is ever going to truly heal from the trauma of Vietnam, there is only one way that healing can rise and that is through the truth. The truth, is the only agent for healing, whether it be concerning Vietnam or Kent State. That is why we still continue this cause of truth and justice. Thank you all for coming here today. It's my pleasure to be here with you. [applause]
Good morning again, and after hearing Dorothy Prince give us that awakening poetry and hearing Alan Canfora give his opening remarks, I don't think there is too much more that needs to be said. I do think Greg Payne, however, would be a bit upset if I sat here and did not say anything, after bringing me here from Jackson State in Mississippi.
I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Dr. Payne and his assistant, Howard Miller, for finding me there in Mississippi and bringing me up here, during this beautiful weather. You brought me up for the 20th Retrospective in the snow and when I got here, I thank Diego for discovering me at the airport.
I'm Gene Young from Jackson State in Mississippi and it is a pleasure again to be here. I was a student 25 years ago, or almost 25 years ago in May of 1970. I have been staying at the historic Parker House and as I told people yesterday, Ho Chi Ming, who worked for Malcolm X at one point, was a waiter there.
John Kennedy announced his presidential [campaign] from there. They tell me that Charles Dickens even hung out around there. And Oliver Wendell Holmes was another one they saw frequent the Parker House.
Oliver Wendell Holmes' words are appropriate this morning. He said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us is a small matter compared to what lies within us." So, irrespective of where we been and where we are going, we have got to look inside and see who we are.
The murder of James Green and Philip Gibbs would have been just another phase in the long history of the racist violence inflicted on blacks in my native state of Mississippi, had they not come on the heels of the murders of four white students: Allison Kraus and Jeffrey Glen Miller, William K. Schroeder and Sandra Lee Scheuer at Kent State University ten days earlier. Conscience and compassionate individuals cannot ignore the tragic events that occurred on an all black college campus in Jackson, Mississippi.
Growing up in Mississippi in the early 1950s, one became accustomed to the countless acts of racist violence endured by blacks and accepted the reality of the tyrannical system, southern white supremacy, and segregation. No white person would ever be held accountable for victimizing blacks.
During this period which preceded the early, highly publicized civil rights protest, the only way you could describe racial relations in Mississippi was of oppressor and the oppressed. Indelibly etched into the collective mind of most black Mississippians are the acts of almost legendary proportions, in which whites viciously harassed, brutalized and murdered blacks. I could never forget the muddy Mississippi murder on August 28, 1955 when Emmet [ ] was thrown carelessly into the muddy water of the Tallahassee River. This was the price he paid for allegedly flirting with a white woman, even though there was no mockery of a trial.
No one ever served a day in jail for this shocking and sadistic act. Similarly, in April 1959, Mack Charles Parker, a truck driver accused of raping a white woman was taken from his jail cell and lynched by a [angry] mass of white men in [ ] Mississippi. No one ever served a day in jail for the murder of Mack Charles Parker.
Were it not for the indefatigable efforts of Medgar Wiley Evers, Mississippi's first NAACP Field Secretary, nothing would have been known or revealed regarding these heinous and inhumane acts, which took place in Mississippi.
Medgar Evers also would be victimized by a white assassin in June 1963. At the age of 37, Medgar Evers was gunned down by an assassin's bullet in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi, as he returned from a Civil Rights mass meeting.
His leadership advanced numerous causes, which called for progressive change. His legion accomplishments were unparalleled during this period of the black struggle. It was only last year in February, 1994 -- 30 years after his assassination -- that finally [name] was convicted for the murder of Medgar Wiley Evers.
In 1964, three civil rights workers Andrew Gutman and Michael Schwerner, who were white, and James Chaney, who was black were killed and brutally murdered and buried in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The only charge brought against their assailant was for violations of Civil Rights.
No one has ever served time for the murders of these three civil rights workers. And similar to the Kent State incident, I doubt that very much would have been said about the murders of these three civil rights workers were it not for the fact that two, Andrew Gutman and Michael Schwerner were white, because even in the process of looking for their bodies, the law enforcement officials found several black bodies, no one had ever reported. They are from the rivers and streams surrounding Mississippi.
It was with that attitude on a night on a black college campus, and the days following the May 4 shooting at Kent State University and the days following the murders of blacks in Augusta, Georgia, black students at Jackson State University protested not only these situations, but the historic racism of white motorists coming through the campus and taunting students by making racial slurs and suggestive remarks. Following several nights of protest and disturbances, Mississippi law enforcement officials marched on through the campus at Jackson State University, located on Lynch Street. Someone remarked how ironic that Jackson State is located on Lynch Street.
It has nothing to do with lynching. John Roy Lynch was a black man, who served in the Mississippi Legislature during the reconstruction period. He was the youngest person ever to serve as Speaker of the House in the Mississippi Legislature. John Roy Lynch also went on to serve several terms in the United States Congress, so that is how Lynch Street got its name.
Following the 32 fuselage in front of Alexander Hall, more than 300 bullets entered that building. In the aftermath, Philip Gibbs, a 21 year old pre-law major from Ripley, Mississippi, and James Earl Green, a 17 year old high school student, who were taking a shortcut across campus on his way home from a part-time job in Jackson, became the martyrs like Allison and Jeff, John and Sandy of May of 1970. In this case, the victims once again were black and the perpetrators were white.
It is a tribute to the students at Kent State University, the May 4 Task Force, in particular, who have taken it upon themselves each year since that occurrence to always include the memory of Jackson State whenever they observe the memory of Kent State.
It is also a tribute to Greg Payne, who could have easily labeled this a 25th Year for Retrospective for Kent State and not mention Jackson State. And proves that, Emerson College has the sensitivity to show us that a black life is just as precious as a white life, and every life diminishes us all.
I am thankful to be here to share these words on this 25th year of retrospective and was inspired by the words that Dorothy Prince spoke. Along the journey, I not only was present at Jackson State on that murderous midnight in May many years ago, but I had the pleasure of knowing Medgar Wiley Evers before he was assassinated.
I had the pleasure of knowing his friend in New Haven before she went on to change the political course of history of Mississippi. A black woman, living on a plantation, that decided she should enjoy a right to vote -- and when she did, she was thrown off the plantation.
I had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Fanny Cheney, the mother of James Cheney and James Cheney's brother, Ben Cheney. Both currently reside in New Jersey. Allison said earlier, before she was at Kent State, and the two students at Jackson State, they made the supreme sacrifice. We only made a contribution to that struggle. The least we can do, is hold conferences like this and hold symposiums to discuss what really happened and why it happened to try not to repeat that history because Santyana was right, when he said "Those of us who care to remember the past, can never repeat it."
I am inspired by the words of a poet, who wrote: "[I've come] this far to freedom and I won't turn back. I'm climbing to the highway from a old dirt track. I'm comin' and I'm goin', and I'm stretchin' and I'm growing, and I'll reap what I been sowing or my skin's not Black. I have prayed and slaved and waited and have sung my song. You bled and you starved me, but I've still grown strong. You've blasted me and you treed me and you did everything but free me. In time, you will know, you need me. And, it won't be long. I've seen the daylight breaking high above the bough. I've found my destination and I've made my vow. So, whether you poor me or deride me or ignore me, mighty mountains moved before me and I won't stop now."
Each year for the past six years, I have had the occasion to go to Kent State on May 4 and participate on the Memorial program and candlelight vigil and to represent Jackson State there at the Kent State program.
Last year, I met the families at Kent State. The memories of those families at Jackson State with these words and I want to dedicate these words to Greg Payne here at Emerson, who has put on beautiful conference. And to those students, who have kept the memory of Kent State alive and to those who kept the memory of Jackson State alive. Yesterday, I did meet John Filo and Mary Vecchio Gillum for the first time. I want to dedicate these words before I get ready to leave this afternoon to return to my beloved Mississippi. The words were written by a poet, who was born in the same year that I was born in 1950. I am 44 years old.
"As a round stone, the earth does not cease revolving and the rose bush is known to bloom in early May. Just as hate knows, [...] You can rest your mind, assured that I will be loving you always. Because now it can be revealed the mystery of tomorrow, but in passing will grow older every day, just as all that is born as new do know what I say is true, I will be loving you always until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky. Until the ocean covers every mountain high, until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea, until we dream of life, your life has gone to dream.
Did you know that true love asks for nothing? For acceptance is the way that we pay. Did you know life is giving a love a guarantee to last him forever and another day? Just as time needs to move on since the beginning and the seasons know exactly when to change. Just as kindness knows no shame, know through all your joy and pain that I will be loving you always.
As today, I know I am living. Tomorrow could make me the past, but that I must not fear. I will know deep in my mind, the love of thee I have left behind, and I will be loving you always. Until the day is night and night becomes the day. Until the trees and seas are stopped and fly away. Until the day that eight times eight times eight is four and until the day that is the day that is no more. Did you know you love somebody?
Until the earth [...] denies itself, until dear mother nature declares her work is through, until the day you are me and I am you, until the rainbow burns the stars out from the sky, until the ocean covers every mountain high.
We all know, sometimes life makes some troubles. It can make you wish, you were born in another time in space. But, you can bet your lifetime that it is twice as dull, that God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed. So, make sure when you say you are in it but not of it, you are not helping to make this earth a whole lot like hell, turn your words into truth and turn truth into love and maybe our children's grandchildren and their great grandchildren can tell."
Thank you. [applause]
Mary Ann Vecchio Gillum
[...] a failure to communicate and, I reflect, and say how come we did not communicate? What better place to communicate than a university? You have such interesting people there, educated people. What a place to communicate! Where was the problem? Who was intimidated? Why couldn't we talk? I think about that. I think about, how important it is that we continue to communicate and what better place than on campus. I guess, basically that is all I have to say. You can express yourself, you can talk about it, you can jump and down. It is such a place to go to do this and I think what better place to resolve your problems than on a campus? I hope people that are growing up will see this is a place to communicate, how important and how lucky you are that you have the privilege to do this since Kent State, Jackson State -- all the uprisings in all the colleges. You have the freedom to do and talk about it on your campus today. You are very lucky to do this. That is, basically, what I have to say. [applause]
...[if it were not for] my father...I shouldn't be here right now. My father saved my life almost 25 years ago when I decided after the National Guard had shot 4 students I didn't care any more. I didn't care. It didn't matter to me. I went down and I sat in front of the guard and basically said, "Screw it. Go ahead and shoot us. Shoot us."
I wasn't going to move that day. Nothing anybody could say was going to move me that day. There were 500 to 1,000 other people. I became "we." I became part of the number. I didn't expect to become part of that. I didn't want to become part of that, but it was a tragic event for me. My father ended up coming up. I didn't view him as my father, at that time, and heard someone, who was deeply passionate about the idea we had to move or else there was going to be a slaughter. And he was right.
He was absolutely right. We all stood up, almost magically and moved from that...that the guardsmen were going to come in. Even though my father said "Over my dead body" and stopped the major from coming forward. They were going to come in eventually and he averted a larger tragedy. He saved my life that day. My father died on August 25th, 1993. He spent over 20 years of his life, the last 20 years of his life, as a boy scout, a marine, and a conservative law and order person. The more he got involved in Kent State, the more he started to question my side -- the law and order side. The things they were saying were not in connection with the facts of what happened. There were too many contradictions.
Since my father's death, my mother has been giving lots of things away. Giving socks and handkerchiefs and lots of things. I brought some things with me. I need that connection. Throughout my life, people have always said to me, "You're never going to fill your father's shoes." The day before yesterday, I put on a pair of his socks. Nobody said anything about not filling his socks. [laughing] I'm here today because of my father. I picked up his torch. I did not want to pick up that torch, but he found out too many things that are contradictory about what our government is saying happened. And I'm pissed. I'm upset. It bothers me.
Albert Einstein once said "Great spirits have often been countered by violent opposition from mediocre minds." That's so true to me. I'm a school psychologist. I deal with people from basically birth to 22 years of age. I work with children. Many times they have communication disorders and I work with them to find out what's going on with them. Generally, the children have listening comprehension types of problems, oral communication. They come from families in which yelling and screaming is the primary mode of communication. It's too painful to deal with those types of situations, so they stop that sense. They shut it off. They turn it down. And I think we all have a tendency to do that.
It's too painful, too often. There is so much about the psychology of communication when you prepare events. The government was doing studies [coughing] here's a little bunny rabbit and a little child and each time the bunny rabbit would reach towards this little white or the child would reach for this bunny rabbit a [...] would come up. Eventually, the child avoided that little bunny rabbit. He became afraid of that bunny rabbit. All right? Our government has been involved in so many different types of investigation as far as research into the psychology of how we as human beings process the information and how we come up with our perceptions.
Part of what I do with people is, I work with kids; work with teachers; and work with parents. Often times teachers will come up to me and say "Hey, I'm burned out. I can't handle this any more. You know, this is too much for me." I'm sitting with them. I'll talk to them. I'll say, you know, at one time you were really excited about teaching. You were really excited about the knowledge you had and it's going to be my job to help rekindle those embers. Go into those embers and get excited again. Go out and teach and do the kinds of things you were excited about. I don't know much about the bible, but what I understand is the world is supposed to be destroyed by fire this next time. All right?
If I can rekindle this fire of knowledge, share this knowledge with people, and let this knowledge go out [...] we have not only an opportunity, but an obligation to take what we hear in these rooms and share it and spread this around. Get other people excited about life. This is where we are at. I don't want to take a chance that another Hitler is going to take over. I'd rather take a bullet in the head right now than to worry about the fact that I might leave this world for my children the way I see it happening right now. I'd rather somebody just shoot me right now and get it over with.
That doesn't need to happen. We can change these things. It is through my children and through the children that I work with, and the looks in their eyes that excites me. We're all together, we're part of the human race. That's the race, we've got. A friend of mine was telling me about when she traveled all over Europe telling people where she came from. They began talking about Kent State and they thought Kent State...they did not know Kent State was an actual place. They thought Kent State was a concept. Kent state as a concept, not an actual place. I think it is important for us to realize as a nation, some of the initial sensitizing events that happen to us. I'm going to miss some class tomorrow and catch hell for it, but I'll deal with that later.
I'm taking a course at a Medical College on medical hypnosis. I am taking it over again, as I did not learn enough the first time. However, one of the things that is important is we recognize what the initial sensitizing events are. If we don't recognize what the initial sensitizing events are, we are going to be treating a symptom for something that is totally different than what caused it. For me, some of the symptoms are the fact that President Kennedy's assassination happened. The Vietnam War happened. Kent State happened.
These are the events that have gotten us to where we are today. We are being sensitized to the violence happening with these children. These children that have been killed. It horrifies me. Einstein said that we cannot solve the problems of today from the same knowledge-base we had when the problems were created. We have to learn, and we have to be able to stand up and say this is the right thing to do. This is the truth and we are going to stick to it. We are going to search out the truth. I do not have anything more to say. Thank you. [applause]
[...] I feel like I don't have a whole lot to say. I have been listening to our distinguised panel, and have jotted down a few notes. I should begin by saying a little bit about the issues we are all here talking about this morning, and that is the temper of the times and the failure to communicate. I was fortunate, at the early age of 16 years old, to have received a very strong communication from the church that I belonged to. I'm a member of the Church of the [...] that's a denomination that's a protestant denomination that in the last century was very closely associated with other religions such as the Amish and the Mennonite. They still have a strong connection with the Mennonite Church, at this point. Those are separate types of religions but at the age of 16, I received a large manilla envelope in the mail on my birthday and it said "Two years from today you have to register for Selective Service. You will be 18." It was discussing the fact that war was going on and also discussed the fact of the church's view about war in general. It also went into great detail about what my responsibilities were to the government. The document also went into great detail about the alternatives beside just filling out the piece of paper with my name and address and telephone number on it. It came with several pieces of literature that dealt with my heritage, my family and my background, discussing the old [...] views and the ways of our church, and the fact that we believe in forgiveness and love.
We also have very strong views that war in general is wrong. We are all human beings: rational and logical and have a duty and responsibility to resolve conflict without violence. After reading all the literature, I talked with my father, then my mother, and also sat down and talked with some of my aunts and uncles and found that I had a pretty varied and interesting ancestry. My ancestors came to this country around 1820 or so, to get away from the military oppression going on in Germany, against those who had religious views different from the established government at that time. They came over to this country to settle with other German immigrants. That's Ferraras County, an interesting place called New Philadelphia after the originally-settled Philadelphia.
I found out that I had a great grandfather, who was a minister, and started a brand new church in the city of Canton. I found out that I had a great, great grandfather, who was a minister in New Philadelphia, Ohio, and started examining what my current minister was teaching me. We were talking about it in church as well. I realized I wanted to find out more about the issue of being a conscientious objector and what that entailed. I spent the next two years immersing myself in the issue and learning about the issue of peace, non-violence and service to my country.
Even though you may become a conscientious objector at that time, you still were glad to enter civilian service. In fact, I took pre-induction physical in December of 1969. It actually wasn't December, it was October. I keep getting that confused with some other event. In October of 1969, they told me that I was eligible for the new lottery coming in December. This was at the end of October, that I should wait tofind out draft lottery number. When I was in there taking my pre-induction physical, they separated those of us from the rest of the people who were not, or who had not applied for a conscientious objector status. We were treated a bit differently than the general people going through the pre-induction physical. I remember the first day when I was 18, and I had arrived at school that morning, and walked into my superintendent's office. You didn't have to go to the post office to sign-up for the draft. You just had to go to the superintendent's office in your school or the principal's office.
And as I walked in, the superintendent just happened to be standing there and says, "Oh, I bet I know why you're here Dean. You're here to sign up for the draft. You're 18 years old. At that time, because I was still in school and was 18, I probably received an automatic deferment for school. I was still in high school at the time. He handed me the card and it was completely filled out. All I had to do was sign my name to it. That's what astounded me because I had already [...] and knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.
He handed it to me completely filled out. I said "Oh, I can't take this. It's not filled out right." "What? It's improper," he said as he looked at me in total astonishment that I was doing something about this and questioning his authority. I said, "I want another one." He said, "Just sign it." I said, "I don't want to sign it. I need to fill one out." He said, "It's filled out. Just sign it." I looked him in the face and said, "Mr. Fillmore, are you trying to violate my Selective Service Rights, by not allowing me to complete the form myself and in the manner I want? Do I have to call the Selective Service Office?" He looked at me with an incredulous look on his face and said, "Are you going to sign this form or not?" I said, "I'm not and [...] take it and I'll work on it and bring it back when it's complete." He threw a form at me. Later that day when I returned the form completed along with a couple of other items I had included with it, he looked at it and he said, "Oh my God!"
Apparently, no one had ever checked-off the mark or the box that they were interested in being a conscientious objector in the school that I was going to. So he looked at me and said, "You're a what?" I said, "You know my heritage, you know my family. You know my background." He said, "Well, you never did in this campus."
As I was walking from school that day, a couple of kids had apparently heard what went on in the superintendent's office and made some remarks about me being a coward with a yellow stripe down my back. I reached around and picked one up by the throat and slammed him against the wall. It's probably the only violent thing I did when I was in high school, until I decided to play football. I said, "Do you really think I'm a coward now?" The kid was sitting there dangling about 3 inches above the floor. He had picked on the wrong person. I was a big, crazy farm kid, who wanted to play football and was strong as an ox.
I had all the intentions in the world to complete my service to my country. When I received the draft lottery number 330, however, I breathed a big sigh of relief that year. I remember working in the steel mill and knowing that I wouldn't have to go to the war in Vietnam. However, I knew my friends were going to the war in Vietnam and when they would come back from the war in Vietnam I felt a lot of conflict in me. But, I felt that I had the right position for myself and the war was wrong. I worked to help educate people about alternatives to the draft and knew my decision was correct.
I will talk a little about the temper of the times. I'll briefly talk, maybe a minute or so about the failure to communicate. I remember [...] out to the Kent State campus on Sunday and the first bit of failure to communicate that I perceived that evening was when we were on the front campus in front of the front gate. Someone had gotten onto a bullhorn or a police cruiser's [...] and said the president of the university and maybe the mayor were going to come down and speak to us in half-an-hour or so. All I saw all that evening was that within a half-hour, there was an increase of the National Guard troops and an increasing number of helicopters flying over our heads. Then all of a sudden, tear gas erupted with no intention of anybody coming to speak to us.
The next morning when I woke up, I had no idea what my responsibilities were. I didn't have any idea what my rights were at that particular time. There was no communication from the president of the university, and there was a student body president [...] we were to do. We went there on that morning, and all we received were orders to disperse and, basically, the students dispersed. They continued to chase us; shoot at us with their tear gas cans; and then fired at us when they had reached the top of the hill. Communication led, I think, to all of this. After the incident at Kent State and after reading about what happened at Jackson State, communication was wrong there also. It was a failure. People wanted to believe that their position was right.
The dire time in our country is present, when we have the issues of welfare you talked about [...] in Ohio where I'm from, and the majority of people on welfare are not black. They are white women and white children. Affirmative Action, an issue about [...] Appalachia. I live in Athens, Ohio, the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the issue of Affirmative Action has been equal -- 90% of all the people in this building do not have a job and are unemployed. So when I hear those kinds of issues being talked about, I get very angry.
I traveled to Europe as a student and an adult and combine the two experiences,
because I will never stop being a student. We need to continue to examine
the issues in front of us and not be afraid to speak out. You cannot be afraid
to work on improving our community. We cannot afford not to be involved in
our government. As we said yesterday, you don't have to run for office to
be called into government. There are many agencies that are seeking expertise
and knowledge that you have. When you have finished with your education --
take the knowledge and information gained into your communities and use it.
Don't stop investigating and exploring what is going on around you.
J. Gregory Payne
Thank you very much. [applause] think we have all enjoyed the speakers here today. Unfortunately, due to the time frame, I would like to suggest, rather than an open forum here, that we adjourn to the Helen Rose Room across the hall, where the panelists will be for lunch. If anyone has any questions at that time, you can ask the panelist directly. Many thanks to all of our [...].