Memorial inadequate for May 4 events, author says

Rachel Abbey

Author William A. Gordon thinks the May 4 Memorial’s inscription is inadequate. MELISSA GAUG | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

After years of reflecting on the May 4 Memorial’s inscription, “Inquire, Learn, Reflect,” author William A. Gordon is still not impressed.

“It’s a cliché,” Gordon said. “It’s a platitude.”

The History News Service recently published Gordon’s article about Kent State’s memorial, which he says is inadequate.

He said he thinks the inscription is trite and should be changed to be “unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable.”

In the article, Gordon said that despite disagreements about the shootings, historical significance or modern meaning, all investigations and studies of May 4, 1970 have supported that the shootings were “unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable” overall.

The memorial’s designer and the university agreed on the inscription’s phrase, according to the university’s brochure about May 4. They hoped the phrase would inspire visitors to “inquire” about the reasons for the events related to the shootings, to “learn” about the event with an open mind and to “reflect” on how that day could have been solved peacefully.

Gordon said he does not plan on approaching the university about changing the inscription but wrote the article to raise discussion.

Karen Cunningham, May 4 Task Force faculty adviser, said it’s important to challenge the status quo.

“It’s always important to question, to always be inquiring: Is this the way things should be?” Cunningham said. “Can they be different? Can they be better?”

However, while Cunningham said the current inscription does not make a strong political statement, she disagrees with Gordon’s feelings about changing the current inscription. While the inscription doesn’t tell people what to think about the events of May 4, it does encourage them to think about them, she said in an e-mail.

“They should ask questions and talk to people who were there,” Cunningham said. “They should read things such as the Scranton report, the FBI reports and various books on the subject. They should attend programs and take classes to learn more about what happened. They should learn different perspectives, and reflect upon what they’ve learned and draw their own conclusions as to the lessons of May 4.

“In other words, they should think on their own — not be told what to think by someone else,” she said.

Gordon transferred to Kent State in 1972 and graduated in 1973. He said his interest in the shootings has led to more than 20 articles and books, such as Four Dead in Ohio.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].