October 20-22 Event Report
Summary of the events of our weekend conference and vigils- view speaker bios >
Friday, October 20 Vigil
Our weekend of activities began with a peaceful vigil and presence at The Pentagon near the former location of the steps where the sit-in occurred. The purpose of our gathering was to celebrate the first mass turn in of draft cards on this date fifty years ago and to make explicit US responsibility for the on-going humanitarian problems created by its prosecution of the war in Viet Nam. About 90 people including a contingent from Code Pink participated in the 2-hour vigil.
Speaking to those issues were:
Two local television stations covered our vigil as did The Pentagon’s news service. We received permission to have a film-maker video the event as well and soon it along with other footage from the weekend will be available on our website.
Saturday, October 21, Conference
Western Presbyterian Church
The central event of the VPCC weekend was the all-day conference in Foggy Bottom, DC. Its purposes were to recall and celebrate the significant 1967 demonstration at the Pentagon and how it shaped future anti-war resistance. We also recognized the anniversary of the draft resistance movement.
Underlining these presentations was the consistent message of the power of the anti-war movement and its importance in US history. The third of the four panels of speakers addressed the need to learn lessons from the war and US responsibilities for persistent problems both in Indochina and at home in the US. The final panel evaluated and critiqued the recent PBS series, The Vietnam War.
About 130 people gathered at the Western Presbyterian Church which provided an ideal and most cooperative venue. Attendees and speakers came from California, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, New York, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. About twenty percent had taken part in the demonstration fifty years ago.
After a welcome from Rev. Laura Cunningham and introductory remarks from John McAuliff and Terry Provance of the VPCC Committee, Peter Yarrow sang a moving and traditional song. John McAuliff gave an overview of the history and projects of our committee, especially remembering Tom Hayden, one of its founders who died in 2016.Terry Provance provided an introduction to the program and the themes to be covered by each panel. We welcomed Madam Ton Nu Thi Ninh who traveled from Viet Nam and remembered too the loss of Julian BondC-SPAN filmed the two morning panels. VPCC filmed the two afternoon panels. See links below to view.
The Four Panels
PANEL 1 discussed the political and peace movement contexts of 1967. A highlight was an impressive video of Dan Ellsberg walking us through that time 50 years ago. The 18-minute video is available here on our site.View Panel 1 on C-SPAN >
PANEL 2 remembered what exactly happened with the many parts of the 1967 demonstration. It included a slide presentation from Clay Risen of The New York Times and an account of Norman Mailer’s experience in the demonstration and review of his famous book, Armies of the Night. Then almost 15 individuals gave 3-5 minute testimonials from having been at the 1967 demonstration including the organizer of the rally and march, Susanne Jackson (then Sue Orrin).
View Panel 2 on C-SPAN >
PANEL 3 looked at the character of the anti-war movement after 1967, including opposition in the military and their actual relationship and of veterans with the civilian peace movement. Also discussed was the role of anti-war activists in post-war normalization and in healing the psychological wounds of returned US soldiers and in addressing current war legacy problems facing all three countries in Indochina.
View Panel 3 on YouTube >
PANEL 4 featured several speakers addressing the content and impact of the 10-part PBS Burns-Novick documentary. The anti-war activist (Bill Bigelow) featured in the documentary explained his mixed feelings about how his words were misused and yet the documentary informed millions of Americans about government deceit, duplicity and failures. Another speaker compared The Vietnam War with the Civil War film also made by Ken Burns and that viewers should not be surprised at the equivocal and biased treatment.
View Panel 4 on YouTube >
Saturday, October 21, Evening
March and Vigil at the Vietnam Wall Memorial
Our conference program ran longer than expected and thus not everyone was able to join the walk from the church to the Vietnam Wall Memorial. About 55-60 did so, escorted by DC police and arriving around 6 pm that evening.
We came to the Wall to remember the names of those who died that are on the wall, just over 58,000 US military personnel, AND the nameless victims from Indochina numbering over 3 million Vietnamese, as well as thousands of US veterans who died from war-related causes after return. Had the monument named all of them each part of the Wall would stretch 2.4 miles, one past the Pentagon, the other past the Capitol. Our poster carried in the front of our walk to the Wall represented this graphically.
At our vigil near the Wall a veteran / peace activist and a Rabbi spoke of the moral reasons for recognizing all deaths resulting from the war. While we stood with lit candles, a delegation of 5 people took our wreath to the Wall honoring the memories of the unnamed victims of the war in Indochina and the US, amidst numerous visitors paying their respect to lost family and friends.
Sunday, October 22
Evaluation and Strategy Meeting at FCNL Office
About 17 people from our committee and conference attended a 3-1/2 hour meeting to evaluate the weekend and propose future plans.
We formed three new task forces for future work:One task force focuses on the PBS documentary and its lapses regarding the anti-war movement and the history of the war. We will assist activists’ engagement with local PBS station events and library programs, and want to produce an Episode 11 to recognize the power of the peace movement. The entire conference and Wall vigil were recorded and will be posted on YouTube and our web page. We intend to edit and circulate 50 to 60 minutes of excerpts as Episode 11, subject to funding.
The second task force will work on inclusion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic Riverside Church anti-war sermon during the January 15th celebration of his national holiday and on April 4th, the 50th anniversary of his assassination (and the 51st anniversary of his sermon).
The third task force plans to lift up the March 16th 50th anniversary of the massacre at My Lai as an occasion for exploring responsibility for the many humanitarian consequences of the US war in Indochina. It will direct attention to similar but lesser known atrocities that assaulted traditional rural life, the writings of Nick Turse and Viet Thanh Nguyen, the programs of US NGOs to address the problems created by land mines, unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange, as well as the need for greater and broader US government assistance. We anticipate calling for a weekend of religious services March 12-14, 2018 and other public activities of remembrance. We will identify an existing NGO project near My Lai as worthy of special grass roots funding in recognition of the anniversary.
Get Involved with VPCC
If you would like to join any of the three Task Forces, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.We hope you will participate in our 2018 events and track these new projects by joining our email list.
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