Andrew J. Pardoe
Kent State conference
For left-leaning students here, preserving what they call "the spirit of Kent and Jackson State" has become a central part of a campaign to revitalize the student movement. They organized a conference May 1990 where veterans of the 1960s left urged the 1990s left to carry on its mission.
"Don't make the mistake of not daring to change the world you inherit," Bernardine Dohrn, a former leader of the radical Weather Underground, told a cheering, whistling crowd gathered at a university gymnasium. Dohrn, along with virtually every other speaker at the conference, also underlined the most powerful legacy of Vietnam to the political left: the notion that the United States seeks, in Dohrn's words, "world domination."
The surest applause line at the conference was to condemn U.S. military intervention, whether in El Salvador, Panama, the Philippines or Cambodia.
Andrew J. Pardoe, 21, an English major from Berea, Ohio, argued that the fact of the Vietnam War, not the changing moral quality of students, explained why the 1960s were such an active time and the 1990s are not.
"We don't have a crisis," Pardoe said. "If America got a crisis that started siphoning off our young men, . . . PSN membership would treble in 10 minutes."
Some students argue that history and economics gave their predecessors advantages denied those in college today.
"Today's college students have to work. There's a lot more pressure on them to succeed," said Jim Bado, 25, who is working on a master's degree in political science. "Back then, there was a lot more money available to students. Today, a lot of students have to work 30 hours a week."
Kendra Lee Hicks, 28, an organizer of the May 4 memorial meeting, said a sense of the 1960s as a carefree time is one of the causes of a wave of nostalgia for the period.
"Today's student activism is not about nostalgia," said Joe Iosbaker, a founder of the Progressive Student Network, which now has chapters on about 50 campuses. "Most of these people haven't read books about the '60s, and most of them don't like Neil Young."
Tom Albanese, a Kent State PSN leader, believes there are limits to the lessons the Vietnam era has to offer his generation. Today's leftist organizers must recruit on the basis of a broad range of issues -- opposition to U.S. policy in Central America, support for blacks in South Africa, choice on abortion, the environment.
- [WaPo, KENT STATE REMAINS CENTER OF 1990S BATTLE OVER MEMORY OF VIETNAM ERA By E.J. Dionne Jr. May 7, 1990]