Remembering Woodstock: A time of ills and dreams fulfilled

Thursday, August 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Sometimes the news has to be fun. The octogenarians celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary or the new quintuplets born to a mother told she could not have kids. It is the same with our celebration of the 40th anniversary of the biggest party ever held on the planet: Woodstock.

My own perspective is definitely different from yours. Not only was I there (really), but I was backstage for a few hours helping my cousin’s band find all of their instruments. As I was reminded last week, if everyone who claims to have gone to Woodstock was actually there, the sea of humanity would have been larger than New Jersey.

However, for more than 300,000 souls (current estimates have put attendance at upwards of 400,000), it was a weekend to escape from the rules of life, a weekend of experimentation and a weekend of music, dance and life.

It was a weekend that the authorities said “Let it Be” and where those who thought that these “commie, pinko, hippie freaks” would ruin the town of Bethel and the surrounding mountains of southern New York, found good kids helping their neighbors and cheering on the next rain storm.

Woodstock was a celebration of life after a decade filled with death, violence and war; something today’s depictions of Woodstock seem to miss. There was the assassination of four primary leaders in the United States, Malcolm X, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. At 11 years old, I watched live coverage of the killing of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby in the basement of the Dallas Police Department. That day is a bookmark in my life; a day that an 11-year old became conscious of the world and politics that directly affect every person on the planet.

It was a decade of domestic violence and domestic terrorism I pray we never see again. Riots in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Watts and too many other cities to name, destroyed commerce and fellow citizens.

It was a decade that brought the world to the doorsteps of nuclear war, starting with Cuba and stopping, but not ending, in the rice patties of Southeast Asia. A door, to this day, that is still open.

We saw political violence in Chicago and Washington, D.C., next to pictures and news concerning the deaths of our soldiers in Vietnam.

We feared a Soviet nuclear attack as we did bombings of government buildings by domestic terrorists like the Students for a Democratic Society.

It was also a decade of achievements and striving for peace. Unprecedented demonstrations against the government’s policies in a small Asian country and for civil right for all. The enactment of federal laws guarantying that all citizens of this country, 18 and older, the right to vote and to go to any public school or college one wished, even if it took National Guard troops.

It was a decade that brought us the words of the American Prophet , the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the ears of every citizen of this planet; to strive for peace and tolerance, to become “holy,” god like, and to practice forgiveness and non-violence.

It was a decade when higher education exploded and community colleges came of age. When dreams were made and fulfilled. When a young president set our sights on the moon in 1961 and before the decade was out, we heard an American say, “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

When the goal of educating every child, putting all on equal grounds, and the dream of security for our older citizens became realities. When the “war on poverty” was taken up by organizations as diverse as the Black Panthers to the federal government.

By August of 1969, America needed something to take our minds off tragedy and injustice, to celebrate life and the wondrous accomplishments we achieved. We needed to assure ourselves that the baby boomers were capable of goodness and our collective future.

It is now time to reassess our dreams and come back to the ideals brought by John, Bobby, Malcolm and Martin, so eloquently stated 100 years earlier, “that all men are created equal.”

All hail Aquarius.  

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at

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Mark Foecking August 27, 2009 | 7:52 p.m.

"Woodstock was a celebration of life after a decade filled with death, violence and war"

Um, why was this different from any other decade in human history? Particularly ones that had just some before it.


(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 27, 2009 | 7:53 p.m.

Dammit, I meant "just come before it"


(Report Comment)
David Rosman August 30, 2009 | 9:22 p.m.

Mr. Foecking,
The 60s had two things that made it extra-ordinary. We saw the coming of the second Saint of America, Martin Luther King, Jr. The first, Abraham Lincoln.

More importantly, it was the only decade when the American people lived up to the ideals set forth by our founders and Mr. Lincoln. Their collective voices (mine included) changed the direction of government, changed the way we treat our elderly, our children and our poor. Our vision of education and race was redirected and the morality of American was set on a continued course of self-improvement.

The citizens of this nation did little, if anything, to direct their government after the Revolution and the signing of the declaration. It was the second revolution, 100-years after the Civil War that allowed this nation to once again be of the people, by the people and for the people.


(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 31, 2009 | 1:03 a.m.

Yea, John and Bobby Kennedy and MLK did their bit, but let's not forget Malcolm X or the likes of Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton for founding the Black Panther Party. It was also the years of the SDS and the subsequent Weather Underground with Bill Ayers. Why, if it weren't for these "revolutionaries" how ever would America have achieved the President we have today?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 31, 2009 | 5:18 a.m.

ray shapiro ya we all should have voted in McCain,had his old self die in office,be stuck with the Bobble Head and we could all go dancing and singing around the May Pole "by golly by gee by golly wilickers we can all say by golly by gee"

Can you say that ten times in a row as fast as you can?

I knew you could. :)

(Report Comment)
joe withheld August 31, 2009 | 7:52 a.m.

I'm floored to see the "hope and change" candidate still has his loyal followers.

no, not really.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 31, 2009 | 9:46 a.m.

joe withheld I am TOO deeply appalled by those so called concerned citizens who cannot get it through their thick heads that it took HOW MANY many years for our nation to get into the mess we are in and who in the heck knows how many years it will take to get this nation out of this mess no matter who is in the Presidential Chair and Obama said that same thing himself all through out his entire campaign.

There is no quick fix for the mess we are in now nor will there be but there will be alot of work ahead for everybody if they would stop being so dam greedy and impatient!


(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 31, 2009 | 10:01 p.m.

If Obama can't overturn eight years of Bush legislation with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the control of both the House and Senate, he should just resign right now.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 1, 2009 | 3:10 a.m.

Spoken like a true and clueless Libertarian drone.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 1, 2009 | 7:26 a.m.

Then please do enlighten me, oh Chuck the Great. How does Obama save the nation without repealing some of those evil Bush laws? Which ones should he repeal first? If he doesn't make an inkling of progress in his first four years, should the country re-elect him or can him as the empty suit that would make him? Or must we first amend the Constitution to give him unlimited terms in office to fix the country? Please do inform us on what he must do to save ourselves.

(Report Comment)
joe withheld September 1, 2009 | 7:33 a.m.

..."and Obama said that same thing himself all through out his entire campaign."

"Sunshine before Signing"-broken campaign promise.
No Hiring of corporate lobbyists-same response.
Ending Warrantless Wiretapping-guess what? See above for response.

In summation, your president did A LOT of talking on the campaign trail.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking September 1, 2009 | 8:53 a.m.

Chuck wrote:

"no matter who is in the Presidential Chair"

There's also the possibility that our "mess" had very little to do with who was President, and a lot more to do with all of our actions as consumers, borrowers, and lenders. That pesky "you can't get something for nothing" adage.

Presidents take credit for good times and get blamed for bad ones. They typically have very little to do with either.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 1, 2009 | 9:17 a.m.

>>> Or must we first amend the Constitution to give him unlimited terms in office to fix the country? <<<

Actually John Schultz in reality our Constitution could use some upgrading to bring it more in line with the future ahead.

Actually having a President with a longer run in office would not be a bad idea as it does seem this every 4 year thing going into possibly 8 years has not been working out too well at all no matter what party the President belongs to. A straight 8 year or 12 year term might be the new ticket this country needs.

Yes it is Congress bungling things too and really there needs to be some serious reform there. That is where we as citizens should be standing up and doing recall elections of our Senators and Representatives if they are not performing to grade in their first year. This would keep them alot more honest and on track of the bigger priorities.

It is so easy for everybody to blame everybody but in reality all of this reform needs to start at the bottom working up.

It would seem alot of Presidents in the past have had great ideas but it was a faulty Congress that we the citizens voted in that screwed up the gear box.

(Report Comment)

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