It was autumn in Iowa, it was 1961.
It was fifty years in the past.
The sanitized Fifties, its Males in Gray Flannel Fits, and the Army-Industrial advanced President Eisenhower warned about, had been the dominant voices. Bob Dylan had simply launched his first report, and the folks music motion was rising, however the outdated order maintained cultural hegemony.
Nuclear Armageddon was within the air. “On the Seashore” was on the motion pictures. Plans had been afoot to put in a bomb shelter within the basement of the Grinnell school library. The Russians had been setting off nukes like boys with cherry bombs, and the US was about to renew atmospheric testing as properly. In accordance with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ “Doomsday Clock,” it was seven minutes until midnight. Like America, Grinnell School was on the cusp of change. The consciousness of a brand new era was simmering and some visionary college students had been in search of sanity in a world apparently bent on nuclear Excessive Midday. Their preliminary concepts ranged from Letters to the Editor, to chaining themselves to the White Home fence and fasting in protest, to packing for Australia.
Their depth, intelligence and dedication, at a time when nuclear insanity handed for normality, drew others to them. Passionate, targeted discussions ensued and refined a technique. President Kennedy’s proposed test-ban treaty offered the main target for a plan that was each considered and daring.
Fourteen Grinnell college students, 4 ladies and ten males, determined to drive the thousand miles to Washington, DC, and quick for 3 days in entrance of the White Home. Others would keep behind to arrange campus help. The widespread aim was to protest the nuclear arms race and the resumption of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, help President Kennedy’s proposed take a look at ban treaty and “Peace Race”, and power the topic into the general public discussion board.
Professors had been supportive and promised to allow us to make up work we might miss. Grinnell School President Howard Bowen granted us go away (however wouldn’t take a place politically). The Pupil Senate, at first immune to our “representing the faculty,” was swayed by our resolve and at last voted their approval.
As one would possibly anticipate, there was grassroots opposition as properly. Soliciting help outdoors the Quad eating room, we collected intelligent quips reminiscent of “Return to Russia” and “Higher Useless than Pink,” however a residence corridor ballot confirmed “65 % in favor, and 35 % opposed.” This was Grinnell, in any case, which had welcomed abolitionist John Brown on his manner from Kansas to Harper’s Ferry.
We issued an announcement of objective, which learn partly:
We aren’t advocating new loyalties, we’re urging the utilization of latest means. We aren’t abdicating our obligations as residents of the free world, we’re saying that we wish to inherit a world during which conflicts will be resolved rationally. Within the current scenario the chance of struggle is ever-increasing. If that is considered objectively within the mild of recent weapons know-how, it’s simple to see that within the occasion of a struggle, neither facet can “win”. In impact, we’re saying that struggle is an out of date instrument for acquiring coverage goals, and that we as a nation should make the most of new alternate options for setting disputes.
That was daring speak fifty years in the past. College students had been anticipated to coach for a job, shut up and research, or drink until they puked. International coverage was for males of means. The reigning Midwestern liberal, Hubert Humphrey, known as us collectively and tried to dissuade us on the grounds that our protest would solely help the enemy.
We had a clearer concept of what the true Enemy was, although, and wouldn’t be moved.
Management of our message was vital. We didn’t need it co-opted or dismissed by a derisive press. The group agreed on a costume code: coats and ties for the fellows, wise skirts and stockings for the ladies. Clear minimize can be the order of the day. We might symbolize a voice of sanity, respectable however agency.
One of many unique visionaries, whose father had been red-baited out of presidency, provided to drop out so we wouldn’t be ‘tainted’ by the hyperlink. As an alternative we made him our chief and spokesman.
He and several other members met with Grinnell’s Public Relations Workplace and pitched the proposition that our journey is likely to be extra profitable (and mirror higher on the faculty) if that workplace ran media interference and helped us “body” the occasion and the problems earlier than the press did.
The school contacted the Des Moines Register on our behalf. An article appeared, and different information shops started to preview our journey. The late Peter Hackes, a widely known and revered broadcast journalist, and a Grinnell graduate, interviewed our leaders on the NBC radio program, Monitor. Wire companies picked up the story, and attracted assist from unlikely sources.
Hats had been handed and two outdated vehicles had been purchased, a ’50 Ford six and a ’48 Chevrolet. A progressive insurance coverage government from Des Moines, examine us and lent us a model new Chevrolet Impala firm automotive and valuable two-way radios for the journey.
Street maps (free in these days) had been unfolded and we pulled out of campus onto Route 6 on November 13, heading east. There was no Interstate 80 these days, and we threaded two-lane roads till Chicago, and executed unnerving pas-de-deuxs with 18-wheelers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, attempting to maintain one another in sight. Complicated headlight indicators, like semaphores, stored our caravan intact. We slept on each other’s laps and shoulders like puppies in a field. Gasoline was 30.9 a gallon, Cokes and Clark Bars a dime.
Base camp in Washington was Gaunt Home, a shabby hostel close to DuPont Circle, favored by impecunious job seekers and political protestors. The Speaker of the Senate, Sam Rayburn had simply died and the city was abandoned, however we held a press convention anyway. To our shock, each AP and UPI confirmed up. The doughty little reporter from UPI was Helen Thomas, subsequently the doyenne of the White Home press corps, a lady who made a profession of talking fact to energy. Maybe that’s why she favored us.
Abruptly, The Grinnell 14 had been nationwide information.
The primary day with out breakfast, marching in a circle on the sidewalk at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., dressed as if for job interviews, was powerful stuff, however fasting will get simpler for the primary three days.
President Kennedy was away, giving a speech in Arizona, however he learn the papers. He despatched a vivid younger staffer, Marcus Raskin, who sat with us on the threadbare rug at Gaunt Home, soulful and sympathetic, and prolonged his boss’s invitation into the White Home. JFK had arrange a gathering together with his Nationwide Safety Advisor, McGeorge Bundy.
The following morning, we discovered ourselves seated throughout a desk within the Fish Room, going through Bundy’s chilly eyes completely devoid of empathy as he provided us orange juice and recommendation on methods to conduct ourselves as residents. We demurred on the orange juice. Not accustomed to being refused, Mr. Bundy reminded us that even Ghandi drank juice whereas fasting.
We caught with water and introduced our case. McGeorge Bundy remained motionless, a statue with slicked again hair, clear-framed glasses, darkish, elegant go well with, and gleaming white shirt and tie. Earlier than lengthy we left his chill for the friendlier chilly outdoors.
Our White Home invitation was information, and right-wingers (together with American Nazi Lincoln Rockwell, in uniform!) had been ready to jeer and heckle. They gnawed on KFC drumsticks as we marched and fasted.
The following day, demonstrating even-handedness, we introduced a petition to the Soviet Ambassador. Pravda and the Submit confirmed up and snapped a photograph of our spokesman shaking fingers with the Russian Ambassador.
We had been worldwide information.
Again on campus, our supporters had established workplace area and a telephone within the places of work of the Scarlet and Black, the campus newspaper. When the publicity broke, in keeping with them, “all hell broke free.” School college students from across the nation known as to ask how they might take part. We had touched a chord. Quickly our campus “Floor Management” was coordinating requests from different campuses, attempting to schedule a steady scholar protest presence on the White Home. It was, they keep in mind, “a heady first style of organizing energy with the potential for turning emotions of civic duty into significant acts of social conscience.”
We broke our quick at a member’s suburban DC dwelling, the place his mother rewarded us with scrumptious rooster soup and hamburgers. As we had been leaving DC, Bluffton School rolled in, and we realized from them that a number of others had been scheduled to observe. The protests continued for over a 12 months.
Driving dwelling, our caravan was pulled over by State Troopers in Ohio. Suspecting the worst, we had been shocked when courteous officers transmitted an invite to breakfast from Cyrus Eaton, the maverick anti-Chilly Struggle billionaire (founding father of the Puqwash Peace Convention and winner of the Lenin Peace Prize). They led us, lights flashing, to Mr. Eaton’s property the place he confirmed us the prize steer Khruschev had despatched him and served us a sublime, celebratory breakfast. (The hitchhiker we had picked up stored his mouth shut and stuffed his coat with biscuits.)
We returned to campus welcomed as heroes by many, and buoyed by sufficient success to disregard the others. We went again to class rumpled however renewed, having left the incubator of school for the bigger, chilly world; amazed and exhilarated that we had created one thing immediately out of our imaginations and energy.
We had pressed the world and felt it yield.
A number of years later, at a Yale symposium on the Historical past of the Peace Motion in America, SDS activist and future California State Senator Tom Hayden traced the start of the fashionable scholar peace motion to the Grinnell 14’s Washington journey.
Beneficiant, maybe; however all of us do nonetheless consider that Grinnell performed its half.
THE GRINNELL 14
Mary Lou Beaman (Sarah Beaman-Jones)
Bennett Bean ’63
Terry Bisson ’64
Jack Chapman ’64
Celia Chorosh (Segar) ’63
Peter Cohon (Coyote) ’64
Ruth Gruenewald (Skoglund) ‘63
Mike Horwatt (Group Spokesman) ’63
Curt Lamb ’64
Mary Mitchell ‘62
Mike Montross ’63
James Smith ’64
Larry Smucker ’63
THE HOME TEAM COORDINATORS:
Phil Brown ’64
Ken Schiff ’64
With deep gratitude to the numerous who contributed to this story, and with respect which has lasted to this present day.