April 23-24, 1995
Philip Craft As president of the Communication, Politics and Law Association at Emerson College, I am honored to welcome you to this historical 25 Year Retrospective of Kent State and Jackson State. Indeed it is a historic event, as Mary Vecchio Gillum has met John Filo. Allan Canfora, Dean Kahler, Paul Keane, Gene Young and Alan Frank are among other honored guests.
Our association pushes voter registration and promotes political discussion among students at Emerson College. We can only envy and admire the dedication and political power the students at Kent State and Jackson State showed for the turbulent times of the 1970s. Many of us, including the students that participated in Dr. Keane's class on Kent State and Jackson State and the members of the Communication, Politics and Law Association, have been looking forward to today for a long time. We hope this conference will inspire a greater awareness of the power of student communication.
I would like to thank, in advance, all who are participating in the conference and express the association's appreciation for their dedication. The association is proud to be a sponsor of such a historical event.
Now, I would like to introduce the president of Emerson College, a woman who knows first-hand the power of the student body: Dr. Jacqueline Liebergott. [laughter and applause]
Jacqueline Liebergott Thank you. Good afternoon. On behalf of the college: Welcome to this exciting conference on the 25th Year [from the incidents] at Kent State and Jackson State: A Retrospective. I am one of a large number of people here today that clearly remembers those events 25 years ago. For those of you that were too young to remember, you clearly have another meaningful memory. That is: the famous photo John Filo took for the newspaper, which we have all seen and remains etched in our memories.
At this conference, John Filo and Mary Vecchio have met for the first time since that fateful afternoon a quarter of a century ago. It is hard to believe that it was a quarter of a century ago that John and Mary's lives were dramatically changed in that momentous, historic event. In a real sense, their lives represent a metaphor of how America was changed by the National Guard shootings in 1970. The shootings marked -- without doubt -- the beginning of the end of the Vietnam war. They also marked, the beginning of the period the federal government began to listen to some of its citizenry.
It's interesting Emerson College and The School of Communications should [organize] for this historic reunion. It is for us -- a school of communication -- to examine history with an eye that it has been, and is being, communicated. The journalists and other communicators we train here at Emerson are the historians of the moment. As such, they observe, report and serve as interpreters for the rest of society. As we examine the events of the past, the challenge facing the communication of present day events is to ascribe to the past events the proper perspective. At the end of World War II, Winston Churchill said, "History shall be kind to us -- I know, for I intend to write it." [laughter]
It is also often too true, the people in charge control our reality. In Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples, he gives us a great example of that assertion. "The colonists did not win the war on the battlefield," Churchill says, "they won it in a court of public opinion." The British public viewed the war as fratricidal and were not prepared to destroy the colonies in order to retain them. It is a pity Americans were not taught history from a similar point of view. Robert F. McNamara, once an architect of the war in Vietnam, has come to the conclusion that what he and others did in Vietnam was wrong. It is difficult, but we would all do well to look beyond the headlines McNamara is making and listen closely to his story. We also would do well to go beyond the incredible photograph of Mary, taken by John Filo, and let the insight and the understanding of the event at Kent State and Jackson State reveal and cry out to us.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you hold your discussions at Emerson College in 1995, I urge you to do your best to gain the insight and understanding necessary of the importance of events in 1970. Necessary, so as never to be repeated on American soil. Good luck. [applause]
J. Gregory Payne Thank you, President Liebergott, for those inspiring words and opening this historic meeting between two people, who have always been a part of my life. I think it's a period of historic [proporations] in terms of their own lives, as well as the conscience of America.