FROM READERS: Peace Studies offers look at Vietnam protests

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

John Kultgen is an MU philosophy professor and co-president of the Friends of Peace Studies.

When I joined the University of Missouri faculty in 1967, demonstrations against the Vietnam War were occurring on college campuses across the country as the draft interrupted the education of many young men. Things were relatively quiet at MU until the killings at Kent State and Jackson State aroused large demonstrations by students. Faculty were involved in an advisory capacity and helped assure that the demonstrations would be peaceful and would not interfere with class attendance by students who did not participate.

I did not take part in the demonstrations but was interested in them. I had been active in the civil rights movement during my tenure at Southern Methodist University in Dallas through my membership in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in collaboration with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). I remained a member of ACLU and AAUP when I came to Missouri and in that capacity I was asked to address two rallies on the campus to protest restrictions and penalties imposed by the university administration on the demonstrators and to urge it to respect the rights of assembly and speech of all students and faculty.

Time has shown that the demonstrators were right about the war. They helped persuade the nation to change its policies and in the process moved the university to establish more effective guarantees of the right of students and faculty to express their political views freely on campus. The demonstrations contributed to my own decision several years later to become involved in the Peace Studies Program on campus, develop a course in Philosophies of War and Peace, and devote many of my publications to issues of peace and justice. I also participated in the Arts and Science Peace Studies policy committee for many years and am now active in the Friends of Peace Studies, a community group which provides funds for public programs on campus.

All of this is to explain why I am looking forward to a program to be offered on campus by Peace Studies:

Vietnam War Protests @ Mizzou: The Legacy of the Kent State and Jackson State Killings. Monday, April 21, 7:30-9:00 p.m. 18 Tucker Hall (free and open to the public).

The program will explore the long term impact of the anti-Vietnam demonstrations on the university, Columbia and Missouri. A panel composed of faculty members who participated in the demonstrations, Bill Wickersham and Paul Wallace, and two scholars who have studied their effect, Musa Ilu and Curtis Edwards, will discuss what the demonstrations and student action groups at the time of Vietnam accomplished. After remarks by the panel, the audience, especially anyone who was involved in the 1970 demonstrations, will be invited to share thoughts and experiences.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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