Monday, March 22, 2010

forgetting my message

I was an elementary teacher and a fulltime graduate student during the 1960's.  I was busy with starting a family and a career and getting graduate education and paid little attention to the politics of the time.  I saw pictures and tv about anti-war demonstrations and deaths at Kent State and a bomb on the U. of Wisconsin campus but I didn't feel interested.  So, in the late 70's, when our faculty meeting was taken over by students intending a sit-in, I was not sympathetic.  We had an agenda of items that related to campus life and curriculum and little or nothing to do with national policy and military maneuvers.  

The chair had just begun the meeting when a long line of quiet students began walking through the auditorium and onto the stage at the front.  Their leader asked to have the microphone and the chair gave it to him.  As soon as he began to explain the goals of their intrusion, I felt strongly that this isolated meeting was not a valuable venue for a protest and was merely delaying our meeting.  I raised my hand and the leader recognized me, saying something like "Yes?".  I stood and walked slowly toward the stage.  I walked up the stairs at the front and came to the podium.  I reached for the mike and the leader handed it over.  I tried to look like I knew what I was doing.  But then, as I first looked at the large group of silent people in front of me, I froze.  I had had an idea of what I wanted to say to the entire assembly, faculty and students alike, but my message had flown right out of my head.  I think I said something like "I have kind of forgotten what I wanted to say", which of course did not sound heroic or leaderly or anything much.  I did get some thoughts flowing and told the students that the meeting had an agenda, was planned by busy and tired people to get some important business transacted and that the best thing they could do for themselves and the campus would be to leave.  This was more than 30 years ago but as best I can remember, there was little further discussion by anybody and the students trooped back out again.

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