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"Activism in the 21st Century: Towards a New Port Huron Statement"

Event Type
ECCE Speaker Series
Brookens Auditorium
Sep 27, 2012   7:00 pm  
Tom Hayden
Free and open to the public
Originating Calendar
ECCE Speaker Series Community Calendar

In March 1962, a 22-year-old student journalist and activist named Tom Hayden sat down in his Manhattan apartment to begin work on an "agenda for a generation," a manifesto that would distil the fears and hopes and values of the student movement then rising on American campuses. Three months later, members of the newly formed Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the leading organization of the New Left movement, came together to debate and edit Hayden's draft at a five-day retreat near Port Huron, northeast of Detroit.

The final, approved text, adopted as SDS's founding document and known ever after as the Port Huron Statement, set out a vision of bottom-up "participatory democracy" as the common thread binding the various left-liberal causes  civil rights, anti-poverty, anti-nuclear, peace, labor, free speech, campus reform  and a life-affirming answer to the conformism and apathy of the time.  The utopianism of the Port Huron Statement took a beating amid the convulsions of the mid-to-late Sixties  the Vietnam war, the killing of JFK, infighting, FBI infiltration. But the "movement spirit" it crystallized inspired real change, and its insistence on grassroots democracy resonates today, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street.

Few symbolized 1960s radicalism as boldly as Tom Hayden.  In addition to being a co-founder of SDS, he was a Freedom Rider in the South, a member of the Chicago Eight put on trial for disrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and a Vietnam war protester. Later he earned fame in other ways, by marrying actress and activist Jane Fonda (from whom he is long divorced) and serving in the California legislature. Now in his 70s, Hayden writes every day  newspaper columns, books, tweets  as part of a moral obligation that he says he feels to speak out.

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