This is NOT national news. But, it smacks of public derision. I share. It was June of 1972. I accepted an invitation to be the commencement speaker for the South Eugene High School. In November of 1972 it would be the first time 18-year-olds could vote in a national election. The presidential candidates were Richard Nixon and George McGovern. I did not support Nixon. I was blessed with a friendship with a church member, who went from Republican to Independent to Democrat, Wayne Morse. Meeting him was crazy, but, hey, only proves God has a sense of humor. Maybe another time.
My own political belief swayed—no, be honest—learned sharply in support of McGovern. To prepare I researched the cost of a Main Battle Tank, the primary land weapon used in the Vietnam War. Gave the cost and said EVERY SINGLE ONE of the graduates if that money was available, could attend the University of Oregon for four years, graduate and not have one dime of loan. I then went on to urge them to vote for the first time in a national election. All nice and fuzzy.
Then I said, “I urge you to vote for a peace candidate who vows to end the Vietnam War with no bombs attached.”
Never got to the next sentence. At least not immediately. An irate father [the venue was a baseball stadium, the speaker’s podium on the pitching mound—not irrelevant to me, you may recall!], jumped to his feet and shouted, “RICHARD NIXON FOREVER!” Had to be heard in the next zip code. Another father joined the protest, singing acapella “God Bless America!”
Speech continued…sort of.
The next two weeks the letters to the editors were polar extremes, either “get that damned Communist out of here!” or “Best speech ever.”
Came to me because I just read Mitch Albom’s essay about the public political scathing. I agree with him. And lament that our nation is perhaps more divided now than in 1972. Mention “Red Hen” and you don’t think of farmers or eggs. Mention our president’s name and either great applause or sharp castigation. Extreme. Polarizing.
I wrote a friend this morning, he and I are polar opposites on these matters and simply asked, “Have we lost Freedom and Responsibilities? Can anyone not be destroyed for not joining us in our persuasions?”
Please read Mitch Albom’s reflection…I very much appreciate him…for his books. And now, for this mature offering: