2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It also marks another milestone: the 50th anniversary of the height of the Vietnam War and the popular movement that arose to confront it. By 1969, more than 14,500 young American soldiers had been killed and a half million had served in combat. Antiwar protest raged in the streets, on campuses and in capitols across the country. One of the unusual features of the Vietnam era was the emergence of citizen diplomacy — Americans who traveled to Vietnam and return to tell what they saw. In 2013, one group returned to Vietnam to participate in observances of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords that ended the war. Out of that trip came a book, The People Make the Peace: Lessons From the Vietnam Antiwar Movement, edited by Karín Aguilar-San Juan and Frank Joyce. A number of the contributors recently returned from Vietnam where they launched a Vietnamese language edition of the book. Three of those contributors discuss their history with the Vietnam War, their trips to Vietnam during the war and lessons that the antiwar movement holds for today’s activists. Judy Gumbo is an original member of the Yippies who visited the former North Vietnam and helped organize a Women’s March on the Pentagon; she spent most of her professional career as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. Jay Craven is a Vermonter, award-winning producer, independent film writer/director, impresario, and community arts activist. He traveled to Vietnam in 1970 as part of a delegation of college newspaper editors and student body presidents and returned to help lead the 1971 May Day demonstrations in Washington that resulted in the largest mass arrest for non-violent civil disobedience in U.S. history. Frank Joyce has been in involved in many labor, antiracist, human rights and antiwar campaigns. He was a member of the UAW International Union staff for eighteen years. (July 17, 2019 broadcast)
This spring marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Daniel Ellsberg was a key figure whose revelations contributed to the war’s end. Ellsberg is a former Marine and adviser on the Vietnam War to President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He is best known for provoking a national political crisis in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, and other newspapers. The Pentagon Papers revealed that top US government officials had been lying about the Vietnam War to the American people.
For leaking the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was charged with theft, conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act, but his case was dismissed as a mistrial when evidence surfaced about the government-ordered wiretappings of his phone and break-ins of his psychiatrist’s office.
Henry Kissinger referred to Ellsberg as “the most dangerous man in America,” but many view Daniel Ellsberg as hero who risked his career and even his personal freedom to help expose the deception of his own government in carrying out the Vietnam War.
Did the election of President Obama undermine the antiwar movement and other progressive causes? What can we learn from the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street? The new book Party in the Street tackles these questions.
Michael T. Heaney, co-author, Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11, assistant professor of organizational studies and political science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor