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On keeping every heart vibrant
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William Wagner
medicine forum Guru


Joined: 29 Apr 2005
Posts: 809

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 7:16 pm    Post subject: On keeping every heart vibrant Reply with quote

Against Discouragement
By Howard Zinn

[In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he
was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights
activities. This year, he was invited back to give the commencement
address. Here is the text of that speech, given on May 15, 2005.]

I am deeply honored to be invited back to Spelman after forty-two years.
I would like to thank the faculty and trustees who voted to invite me,
and especially your president, Dr. Beverly Tatum. And it is a special
privilege to be here with Diahann Carroll and Virginia Davis Floyd.

But this is your day -- the students graduating today. It's a happy day
for you and your families. I know you have your own hopes for the
future, so it may be a little presumptuous for me to tell you what hopes
I have for you, but they are exactly the same ones that I have for my
grandchildren.

My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the
world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our
nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our
government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the
lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this
country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded
classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend,
is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa,
Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and
medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our
government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting
with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged
by all that.

But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you
must not be discouraged.

I want to remind you that, fifty years ago, racial segregation here in
the South was entrenched as tightly as was apartheid in South Africa.
The national government, even with liberal presidents like Kennedy and
Johnson in office, was looking the other way while black people were
beaten and killed and denied the opportunity to vote. So black people in
the South decided they had to do something by themselves. They boycotted
and sat in and picketed and demonstrated, and were beaten and jailed,
and some were killed, but their cries for freedom were soon heard all
over the nation and around the world, and the President and Congress
finally did what they had previously failed to do -- enforce the 14th
and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many people had said: The South
will never change. But it did change. It changed because ordinary people
organized and took risks and challenged the system and would not give
up. That's when democracy came alive.

I want to remind you also that when the war in Vietnam was going on, and
young Americans were dying and coming home paralyzed, and our government
was bombing the villages of Vietnam -- bombing schools and hospitals and
killing ordinary people in huge numbers -- it looked hopeless to try to
stop the war. But just as in the Southern movement, people began to
protest and soon it caught on. It was a national movement. Soldiers were
coming back and denouncing the war, and young people were refusing to
join the military, and the war had to end.

The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are
right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to
deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same,
but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater
than a hundred lies. I know you have practical things to do -- to get
jobs and get married and have children. You may become prosperous and be
considered a success in the way our society defines success, by wealth
and standing and prestige. But that is not enough for a good life.

Remember Tolstoy's story, "The Death of Ivan Illych." A man on his
deathbed reflects on his life, how he has done everything right, obeyed
the rules, become a judge, married, had children, and is looked upon as
a success. Yet, in his last hours, he wonders why he feels a failure.
After becoming a famous novelist, Tolstoy himself had decided that this
was not enough, that he must speak out against the treatment of the
Russian peasants, that he must write against war and militarism.

My hope is that whatever you do to make a good life for yourself --
whether you become a teacher, or social worker, or business person, or
lawyer, or poet, or scientist -- you will devote part of your life to
making this a better world for your children, for all children. My hope
is that your generation will demand an end to war, that your generation
will do something that has not yet been done in history and wipe out the
national boundaries that separate us from other human beings on this
earth.

Recently I saw a photo on the front page of the New York Times which I
cannot get out of my mind. It showed ordinary Americans sitting on
chairs on the southern border of Arizona, facing Mexico. They were
holding guns and they were looking for Mexicans who might be trying to
cross the border into the United States. This was horrifying to me --
the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call
"civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into two
hundred artificially created entities we call "nations" and are ready to
kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary, so
fierce it leads to murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along
with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking,
cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on, have been useful
to those in power, deadly for those out of power.

Here in the United States, we are brought up to believe that our nation
is different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral;
that we expand into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty,
democracy. But if you know some history you know that's not true. If you
know some history, you know we massacred Indians on this continent,
invaded Mexico, sent armies into Cuba, and the Philippines. We killed
huge numbers of people, and we did not bring them democracy or liberty.
We did not go into Vietnam to bring democracy; we did not invade Panama
to stop the drug trade; we did not invade Afghanistan and Iraq to stop
terrorism. Our aims were the aims of all the other empires of world
history -- more profit for corporations, more power for politicians.

The poets and artists among us seem to have a clearer understanding of
the disease of nationalism. Perhaps the black poets especially are less
enthralled with the virtues of American "liberty" and "democracy," their
people having enjoyed so little of it. The great African-American poet
Langston Hughes addressed his country as follows:

You really haven't been a virgin for so long.
It's ludicrous to keep up the pretextŠ

You've slept with all the big powers
In military uniforms,
And you've taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellowsŠ

Being one of the world's big vampires,
Why don't you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France,
And all the other nymphomaniacs of power.

I am a veteran of the Second World War. That was considered a "good
war," but I have come to the conclusion that war solves no fundamental
problems and only leads to more wars. War poisons the minds of soldiers,
leads them to kill and torture, and poisons the soul of the nation.

My hope is that your generation will demand that your children be
brought up in a world without war. It we want a world in which the
people of all countries are brothers and sisters, if the children all
over the world are considered as our children, then war -- in which
children are always the greatest casualties -- cannot be accepted as a
way of solving problems.

I was on the faculty of Spelman College for seven years, from 1956 to
1963. It was a heartwarming time, because the friends we made in those
years have remained our friends all these years. My wife Roslyn and I
and our two children lived on campus. Sometimes when we went into town,
white people would ask: How is it to be living in the black community?
It was hard to explain. But we knew this -- that in downtown Atlanta, we
felt as if we were in alien territory, and when we came back to the
Spelman campus, we felt that we were at home.

Those years at Spelman were the most exciting of my life, the most
educational certainly. I learned more from my students than they learned
from me. Those were the years of the great movement in the South against
racial segregation, and I became involved in that in Atlanta, in Albany,
Georgia, in Selma, Alabama, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Greenwood
and Itta Bena and Jackson. I learned something about democracy: that it
does not come from the government, from on high, it comes from people
getting together and struggling for justice. I learned about race. I
learned something that any intelligent person realizes at a certain
point -- that race is a manufactured thing, an artificial thing, and
while race does matter (as Cornel West has written), it only matters
because certain people want it to matter, just as nationalism is
something artificial. I learned that what really matters is that all of
us -- of whatever so-called race and so-called nationality -- are human
beings and should cherish one another.

I was lucky to be at Spelman at a time when I could watch a marvelous
transformation in my students, who were so polite, so quiet, and then
suddenly they were leaving the campus and going into town, and sitting
in, and being arrested, and then coming out of jail full of fire and
rebellion. You can read all about that in Harry Lefever's book Undaunted
by the Fight. One day Marian Wright (now Marian Wright Edelman), who was
my student at Spelman, and was one of the first arrested in the Atlanta
sit-ins, came to our house on campus to show us a petition she was about
to put on the bulletin board of her dormitory. The heading on the
petition epitomized the transformation taking place at Spelman College.
Marian had written on top of the petition: "Young Ladies Who Can Picket,
Please Sign Below."

My hope is that you will not be content just to be successful in the way
that our society measures success; that you will not obey the rules,
when the rules are unjust; that you will act out the courage that I know
is in you. There are wonderful people, black and white, who are models.
I don't mean African- Americans like Condoleezza Rice, or Colin Powell,
or Clarence Thomas, who have become servants of the rich and powerful. I
mean W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Marian
Wright Edelman, and James Baldwin and Josephine Baker and good white
folk, too, who defied the Establishment to work for peace and justice.

Another of my students at Spelman, Alice Walker, who, like Marian, has
remained our friend all these years, came from a tenant farmer's family
in Eatonton, Georgia, and became a famous writer. In one of her first
published poems, she wrote:

It is true--
I've always loved
the daring
    ones
Like the black young
man
Who tried
to crash
All barriers
at once,
    wanted to
swim
At a white
beach (in Alabama)
Nude.

I am not suggesting you go that far, but you can help to break down
barriers, of race certainly, but also of nationalism; that you do what
you can -- you don't have to do something heroic, just something, to
join with millions of others who will just do something, because all of
those somethings, at certain points in history, come together, and make
the world better.

That marvelous African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, who wouldn't
do what white people wanted her to do, who wouldn't do what black people
wanted her to do, who insisted on being herself, said that her mother
advised her: Leap for the sun -- you may not reach it, but at least you
will get off the ground.

By being here today, you are already standing on your toes, ready to
leap. My hope for you is a good life.

Howard Zinn is the author with Anthony Arnove of the just published
Voices of a People's History of the United States (Seven Stories Press)
and of the international best-selling A People's History of the United
States.

Copyright 2005 Howard Zinn

--
Garden in shade Zone 5 S Jersey USA
Back to top
outrider
medicine forum Guru


Joined: 28 Apr 2005
Posts: 1155

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 7:33 pm    Post subject: Re: On keeping every heart vibrant Reply with quote

Thanks for this William. Zinn's words and thoughts are indeed fine. I
hope among his audience there will be even one who sees working for
common gain supercedes working for personal gain.

Zee




William Wagner wrote:
Quote:
Against Discouragement
By Howard Zinn

[In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he
was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights
activities. This year, he was invited back to give the commencement
address. Here is the text of that speech, given on May 15, 2005.]

I am deeply honored to be invited back to Spelman after forty-two years.
I would like to thank the faculty and trustees who voted to invite me,
and especially your president, Dr. Beverly Tatum. And it is a special
privilege to be here with Diahann Carroll and Virginia Davis Floyd.

But this is your day -- the students graduating today. It's a happy day
for you and your families. I know you have your own hopes for the
future, so it may be a little presumptuous for me to tell you what hopes
I have for you, but they are exactly the same ones that I have for my
grandchildren.

My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the
world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our
nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our
government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the
lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this
country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded
classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend,
is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa,
Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and
medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our
government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting
with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged
by all that.

But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you
must not be discouraged.

I want to remind you that, fifty years ago, racial segregation here in
the South was entrenched as tightly as was apartheid in South Africa.
The national government, even with liberal presidents like Kennedy and
Johnson in office, was looking the other way while black people were
beaten and killed and denied the opportunity to vote. So black people in
the South decided they had to do something by themselves. They boycotted
and sat in and picketed and demonstrated, and were beaten and jailed,
and some were killed, but their cries for freedom were soon heard all
over the nation and around the world, and the President and Congress
finally did what they had previously failed to do -- enforce the 14th
and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many people had said: The South
will never change. But it did change. It changed because ordinary people
organized and took risks and challenged the system and would not give
up. That's when democracy came alive.

I want to remind you also that when the war in Vietnam was going on, and
young Americans were dying and coming home paralyzed, and our government
was bombing the villages of Vietnam -- bombing schools and hospitals and
killing ordinary people in huge numbers -- it looked hopeless to try to
stop the war. But just as in the Southern movement, people began to
protest and soon it caught on. It was a national movement. Soldiers were
coming back and denouncing the war, and young people were refusing to
join the military, and the war had to end.

The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are
right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to
deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same,
but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater
than a hundred lies. I know you have practical things to do -- to get
jobs and get married and have children. You may become prosperous and be
considered a success in the way our society defines success, by wealth
and standing and prestige. But that is not enough for a good life.

Remember Tolstoy's story, "The Death of Ivan Illych." A man on his
deathbed reflects on his life, how he has done everything right, obeyed
the rules, become a judge, married, had children, and is looked upon as
a success. Yet, in his last hours, he wonders why he feels a failure.
After becoming a famous novelist, Tolstoy himself had decided that this
was not enough, that he must speak out against the treatment of the
Russian peasants, that he must write against war and militarism.

My hope is that whatever you do to make a good life for yourself --
whether you become a teacher, or social worker, or business person, or
lawyer, or poet, or scientist -- you will devote part of your life to
making this a better world for your children, for all children. My hope
is that your generation will demand an end to war, that your generation
will do something that has not yet been done in history and wipe out the
national boundaries that separate us from other human beings on this
earth.

Recently I saw a photo on the front page of the New York Times which I
cannot get out of my mind. It showed ordinary Americans sitting on
chairs on the southern border of Arizona, facing Mexico. They were
holding guns and they were looking for Mexicans who might be trying to
cross the border into the United States. This was horrifying to me --
the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call
"civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into two
hundred artificially created entities we call "nations" and are ready to
kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary, so
fierce it leads to murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along
with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking,
cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on, have been useful
to those in power, deadly for those out of power.

Here in the United States, we are brought up to believe that our nation
is different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral;
that we expand into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty,
democracy. But if you know some history you know that's not true. If you
know some history, you know we massacred Indians on this continent,
invaded Mexico, sent armies into Cuba, and the Philippines. We killed
huge numbers of people, and we did not bring them democracy or liberty.
We did not go into Vietnam to bring democracy; we did not invade Panama
to stop the drug trade; we did not invade Afghanistan and Iraq to stop
terrorism. Our aims were the aims of all the other empires of world
history -- more profit for corporations, more power for politicians.

The poets and artists among us seem to have a clearer understanding of
the disease of nationalism. Perhaps the black poets especially are less
enthralled with the virtues of American "liberty" and "democracy," their
people having enjoyed so little of it. The great African-American poet
Langston Hughes addressed his country as follows:

You really haven't been a virgin for so long.
It's ludicrous to keep up the pretextŠ

You've slept with all the big powers
In military uniforms,
And you've taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellowsŠ

Being one of the world's big vampires,
Why don't you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France,
And all the other nymphomaniacs of power.

I am a veteran of the Second World War. That was considered a "good
war," but I have come to the conclusion that war solves no fundamental
problems and only leads to more wars. War poisons the minds of soldiers,
leads them to kill and torture, and poisons the soul of the nation.

My hope is that your generation will demand that your children be
brought up in a world without war. It we want a world in which the
people of all countries are brothers and sisters, if the children all
over the world are considered as our children, then war -- in which
children are always the greatest casualties -- cannot be accepted as a
way of solving problems.

I was on the faculty of Spelman College for seven years, from 1956 to
1963. It was a heartwarming time, because the friends we made in those
years have remained our friends all these years. My wife Roslyn and I
and our two children lived on campus. Sometimes when we went into town,
white people would ask: How is it to be living in the black community?
It was hard to explain. But we knew this -- that in downtown Atlanta, we
felt as if we were in alien territory, and when we came back to the
Spelman campus, we felt that we were at home.

Those years at Spelman were the most exciting of my life, the most
educational certainly. I learned more from my students than they learned
from me. Those were the years of the great movement in the South against
racial segregation, and I became involved in that in Atlanta, in Albany,
Georgia, in Selma, Alabama, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Greenwood
and Itta Bena and Jackson. I learned something about democracy: that it
does not come from the government, from on high, it comes from people
getting together and struggling for justice. I learned about race. I
learned something that any intelligent person realizes at a certain
point -- that race is a manufactured thing, an artificial thing, and
while race does matter (as Cornel West has written), it only matters
because certain people want it to matter, just as nationalism is
something artificial. I learned that what really matters is that all of
us -- of whatever so-called race and so-called nationality -- are human
beings and should cherish one another.

I was lucky to be at Spelman at a time when I could watch a marvelous
transformation in my students, who were so polite, so quiet, and then
suddenly they were leaving the campus and going into town, and sitting
in, and being arrested, and then coming out of jail full of fire and
rebellion. You can read all about that in Harry Lefever's book Undaunted
by the Fight. One day Marian Wright (now Marian Wright Edelman), who was
my student at Spelman, and was one of the first arrested in the Atlanta
sit-ins, came to our house on campus to show us a petition she was about
to put on the bulletin board of her dormitory. The heading on the
petition epitomized the transformation taking place at Spelman College.
Marian had written on top of the petition: "Young Ladies Who Can Picket,
Please Sign Below."

My hope is that you will not be content just to be successful in the way
that our society measures success; that you will not obey the rules,
when the rules are unjust; that you will act out the courage that I know
is in you. There are wonderful people, black and white, who are models.
I don't mean African- Americans like Condoleezza Rice, or Colin Powell,
or Clarence Thomas, who have become servants of the rich and powerful. I
mean W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Marian
Wright Edelman, and James Baldwin and Josephine Baker and good white
folk, too, who defied the Establishment to work for peace and justice.

Another of my students at Spelman, Alice Walker, who, like Marian, has
remained our friend all these years, came from a tenant farmer's family
in Eatonton, Georgia, and became a famous writer. In one of her first
published poems, she wrote:

It is true--
I've always loved
the daring
ones
Like the black young
man
Who tried
to crash
All barriers
at once,
wanted to
swim
At a white
beach (in Alabama)
Nude.

I am not suggesting you go that far, but you can help to break down
barriers, of race certainly, but also of nationalism; that you do what
you can -- you don't have to do something heroic, just something, to
join with millions of others who will just do something, because all of
those somethings, at certain points in history, come together, and make
the world better.

That marvelous African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, who wouldn't
do what white people wanted her to do, who wouldn't do what black people
wanted her to do, who insisted on being herself, said that her mother
advised her: Leap for the sun -- you may not reach it, but at least you
will get off the ground.

By being here today, you are already standing on your toes, ready to
leap. My hope for you is a good life.

Howard Zinn is the author with Anthony Arnove of the just published
Voices of a People's History of the United States (Seven Stories Press)
and of the international best-selling A People's History of the United
States.

Copyright 2005 Howard Zinn

--
Garden in shade Zone 5 S Jersey USA
Back to top
William Wagner
medicine forum Guru


Joined: 29 Apr 2005
Posts: 809

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 7:50 pm    Post subject: Re: On keeping every heart vibrant Reply with quote

In article <1116970422.804733.315900@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com>,
"outrider" <outrider@despammed.com> wrote:

Quote:
Thanks for this William. Zinn's words and thoughts are indeed fine. I
hope among his audience there will be even one who sees working for
common gain supercedes working for personal gain.

Zee


What if the expression " all hearts beat as one " is not metaphor?

Strange and wonderful world no?

I've seen this in family squabbles and queuing up in line at a market.

Easy to forget , I know .

Bill

--
Garden in shade Zone 5 S Jersey USA
Back to top
outrider
medicine forum Guru


Joined: 28 Apr 2005
Posts: 1155

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 9:33 pm    Post subject: Re: On keeping every heart vibrant Reply with quote

I know you know...
We'll work on it.

Zee

William Wagner wrote:
Quote:
In article <1116970422.804733.315900@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com>,
"outrider" <outrider@despammed.com> wrote:

Thanks for this William. Zinn's words and thoughts are indeed fine. I
hope among his audience there will be even one who sees working for
common gain supercedes working for personal gain.

Zee


What if the expression " all hearts beat as one " is not metaphor?

Strange and wonderful world no?

I've seen this in family squabbles and queuing up in line at a market.

Easy to forget , I know .

Bill

--
Garden in shade Zone 5 S Jersey USA
Back to top
Google

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