Moving toward an anniversary of our country’s independence, and realizing how embarrassing to conservatives are liberals and the converse with no timidity, I remembered an incident that raged, that interrupted a speech and caused letter—to-the-editor demands that I be escorted out of town.
Hey, how’s that for a first paragraph?
Let me explain.
From December of 1969 to March of 1973 I was the Associate Pastor at the First Congregational Church in Eugene, Oregon. My primary responsibilities were with the confirmation of 9th graders, youth ministry, preaching occasionally and connecting our church to the social needs in Lane County. The latter meant serving on a special board of Lane Community College to help mothers attend college, to set up youth hostel homes, mainly offered by church members, to rent a large home for abused mothers.
Remember the years, 1969-1973.
In 1972 the presidential race was between George McGovern and Richard Nixon. I was quite involved with the Lane County Democratic Party, the Chairman of which, Jim Klonoski, chairman of the University of Oregon Political Science department and church member, asked if I would run for an Oregon House of Representative seat newly established. I declined, but it was an honor for him to ask.
The Commencement Speaker committee for South Eugene High School [in those days the high school who had more families of business owners, attorneys, professors and doctors] asked me to be their 1972 Commencement Speaker. For me personally, a wonderful honor.
I worked and worked on the speech. With that, Wayne Morse, an US Senator from Oregon and church member and great protestor to Vietnam and personal friend, offered me some advice, especially to get the facts straight.
Time for the speech, June of 1972. Not inappropriately the commencement was held at a baseball field, I even think the podium was either on or near the pitcher’s mound! In the speech I shared that those in the graduating class, who were of voting age, this time around would be voting for President for the first time. I illustrated if I had the money it took to build only one main battle tank used in Vietnam, I could pay all costs for the full South Eugene graduating class to attend and graduate from the University of Oregon.
In urging them to vote, I then said, “I urge you to vote for a peace candidate who vows to end the Vietnam War now with no bombs attached.”
A father stood and yelled, “RICHARD NIXON FOREVER!”
Another father stood and sang, “God Bless America.”
I finished the speech.
Combined applause and boos. I don’t think anyone urged to “put him in jail.”
One of the newspaper owners, also a member of our church, saw all the letters to the editors, called me, “What in the world did you say?” I told him that I would be pleased to send him a copy of my speech and he could print it. He declined, which I both appreciated and understood.
This morning, July 2, 2017, as we go to the 4th of July, acknowledging how raging the strife and blaming [both sides] are in our country, I don’t know how singing our National Anthem can be music and not shrilled, strident noise.