May 4 site designated as National Historic Landmark

The site of the May 4 shootings has been recognized by the Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark. The ceremony, hosted in the Kiva due to inclement weather, had no empty seats.

“To see it standing room only is only right for this auspicious occasion for Kent State University,” said Beverly Warren, the president of Kent State.

Master of Ceremonies, Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Todd Diacon began the event by mentioning the importance of why everyone was gathered there. He then welcomed to the podium Larry Pollock, the chair of the Kent State Board of Trustees.

Pollock, in the ninth and final year of his trustee term, expressed that his experience on campus has provided him with many noteworthy moments. He said that the events of May 4, 1970 were different, however, as they affected not just the state of Ohio, but the nation as a whole.

“These stories carry across geographical and generational boundaries,” Pollock said.

There are about 2,500 National Historic Landmarks in the United States and attempts to get historical landmark status for the site have been going on since 1977 when the university attempted to make changes to the M.A.C. Center, which students feared would affect the site.

“I am pleased today that we gather to honor this site as a recognized national landmark,” Warren said. “It’s due, in large part, to a community that has pledged to honor and remember those lives lost and those lives who were forever altered by the events of May 4, 1970.”

Along with Warren, former Ohio governor Richard Celeste returned to Kent State to speak at the dedication. Celeste was given an honorary degree by the university and spoke at the 20th anniversary of the shooting in 1990.

“Why do you celebrate a tragedy?” Celeste encouraged attendees to ask themselves.

He recalled a book which he’d said had a great influence on him. Written by Max Cleland, a former U.S. senator and veteran of the Vietnam war, the book is called “Strong at the Broken Places.”

“Often, where we are broken and healed,” Celeste summarized, “Those become our strongest places.”

He recalled the division throughout the country at the time of the war that led to tensions at Kent State.

“We should ask ourselves; ‘Where have we become stronger?’” Celeste said. “It was a moment when we asked ‘how do we value the voice of someone who disagrees with us?’ ‘How do we value dissent?’”

Celeste went on to quote the father of one of the victims of the May 4 shootings, Allison Krause; “After the tragic death of his daughter, (her father) said ‘dissent is not a crime.’”

Celeste asked attendees who had been present at Kent State in 1970 to stand as the room applauded them.

Warren also acknowledge the efforts of the authors of the application for national landmark status, Laura Davis and Mark Seeman, who both also spoke at the event.

Davis, a witness to the shootings in 1970, spearheaded the initiative to have the site given historic landmark status.

“The work has always been, I would say, to preserve this timeless moments,” Davis said. “So that others may see that pattern.”

Davis spoke more about the history of May 4 and about why the site hasn’t already been dedicated, mentioning the formation of the May 4 Task Force and the opposition to the construction of the M.A.C. Center Annex in 1977.

At the time, the site was not granted federal protection because it was “too soon” after the fact. She explained that part of gaining federal protection was by comparing May 4 to other historic tragedies such as the Boston Massacre, the Haymaker Riot and the Selma marches on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Seeman said the site is 17.2 acres large but made note of it’s official name: The May 4, 1970 Kent State shooting site.

“It allows us to think ‘what happened here?’”  Seeman said.

Seeman then closed by saying, “Long live the memories of Kent and Jackson State.”

The National Historic Landmark plaque was then presented by Lisa Petit, a representative from the National Park Service. Petit congratulated President Warren, Kent State and everyone in attendance.

“Today, we officially acknowledge and honor Kent State University’s May 4 site as vital and vitally important national heritage,” Warren said. “And we are here today to pledge that we will pass along the important history and the lessons learned from the day in May that forever changed our university, our state and our country.”

Ella Abbott is the fashion reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

David Williams is the safety reporter. Contact him at [email protected]