U.S. Representative calls for change

Tim Magaw

One of Congress’ most vocal critics of the Iraq war took the stage at Friday’s May 4 Commemoration, calling for a change in American foreign policy and urging the American people to take action against the war in Iraq.

“On May 4, 1970, a place whose mission is to create became a place of destruction. A university that began as an institution to promote knowledge became a symbol of the ignorance and futility of war,” said Tim Ryan, U.S. representative for Ohio’s 17th district. “Thirty-seven years ago, four students were cut down in the prime of their lives on this spot, standing up for what they believed in and against an unjust war. Since that day, Kent State grew and continued with its mission, yet the irony is that America never did.”

Ryan said there are many parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

“(They are) both misguided and unjust wars, both led by stubborn presidents and both raged forward against the will of the American people,” he said.

But where Ryan said these two wars differ is history has yet to record how we handled the post-Iraq period.

“I believe we have a great opportunity for change,” he said. “Just because we’ve had an unjust war doesn’t mean we have to have an unjust peace.”

Continuing with his theme of change, Ryan said the 1970 protests at Kent State were calling for change – change in Vietnam, change in the role of the United States in the world and change in the role of manipulation in politics.

“Thirty years later, we still long for that change,” he said.

Ryan told the crowd gathered on the Commons that the nation must re-examine its views of peace.

“Our challenge – and the challenge of our next generation – is to create a political climate that expects peace and despises war,” he said.

Victims look to heal wounds

Following Ryan’s speech, two of the nine students wounded on May 4, 1970, recounted their experiences before and after the shootings.

Joe Lewis, who was standing with his middle finger pointed at the National Guard just prior to the shootings, was shot through the right abdomen and left lower leg. Jim Russell, who was struck in the right thigh and right side of his forehead, was 375 feet from the guard when he was shot.

“I heard the unexpected sound of gunfire, and I ran for a tree,” Russell said.

Lewis, who now lives in Oregon, said every time he returns to Kent State, it’s an emotional experience.

“When I am here with my blood brothers – the eight others wounded – I can’t explain how I feel,” he said.

Russell, who also lives in Oregon, said he disappeared into the hills of the state to escape. But then a high school teacher asked him to talk to a group of students.

“It was the kids who healed us,” said Russell, speaking for the both of them. “By listening to inquisitive teenagers ask questions about what happened, they drew away the demons.”

Like Ryan, Lewis also called on people across the United States to stand up to the government.

“We have a feeling students here and at other universities will continue to demand truth and justice from our government,” he said.

Contact administration reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].