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tv   Lectures in History Vietnam Anti- War Movement  CSPAN  July 9, 2021 5:19pm-6:31pm EDT

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they look back at the career of james hoban who was born in ireland and immigrated to the united states, watch that tonight on c-span3's american tv. next professor david farver teaches 1960s vietnam anti war movement and how in his view helped to expand the nation's democratic process. this was recorded in 2010 at temple university in philadelphia. he now teaches at university of canyon of heroes. >> so we've been talking these last few weeks out loud about a few core issues that have, in many ways, given thematic intensity to the 1960s era, we've been pondering what democratic process should and could look like in the united states and then very much so and
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very pertinent to what we're going to do today, what role the united states should play internationally. what role should the united states play in a world that was fast changing in the 1960s. so we've gotten to the point in this class where we've reached a point where president johnson has decided by early 1965 to begin a forthright military intervention by the united states in vietnam. and the reasons have been fairly compellingly laid out by johnson between 1964 and '65. with the gulf of tonkin resolution in 1964, the president made his case that there was aggression coming from north vietnam pointed at the south, and pointed at the united states as well, in the attack on u.s. ships in international waters on that gulf of tonkin. and remember, it's really important to understand, when this resolution was brought before congress, every single member of the house of representatives, republican or democrat, liberal or
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conservative, from the south or from the north, all of them voted to approve this resolution in the house of representatives. in the senate, only two senators voted against the gulf of tonkin resolution, and they had very different reasons. one was a liberal republican. that's an oxymoron in 2010 language. but there were such things in the 1960s. a fellow named senator morse from oregon, he smelled a rat. he had a source in the pentagon that said something was amiss about what johnson was telling the american people about that incident in the gulf of tonkin. the other guy was a curmudgeon senator from alaska, the new state of alaska, that had only just become a united states state. and this guy, senator gruning, was kind of a hard-nosed realist. he was doing a cost/benefit analysis. and his critique was i don't get it. why does it make sense for the united states to spend blood and
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treasure going to vietnam? there was no big moral critique. or meaning of americanness, it didn't add up for him. again, these are two senators. there's almost no visible create eek as johnson launches what will quick li become an american war in vietnam. it there were a few other voices, a few public voices that raised questions. mostly from that realist perspective. does this add up? hans morguenthou, a big name in the united states, at least in the academic community, he raised those issues. walter litman, a famous columnist, been making pronouncements about american policy for some 50 years. he raised some questions. he also critiqued this as a really -- just not a reasonable solution to america's interests in asia. but otherwise, remember, there's a kind of consensus. it's an election year in '64. johnson and goldwater, the
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republican and the democrat running for president, are both advocating the maintenance of america's position in vietnam. i emphasize this to give you a sense of the fact that overwhelmingly what americans heard in their public lives, what their politicians were telling them, what their politicians believed, was that the war in vietnam was justifiable and necessary. now, johnson hammers this home in february 1965. after that incident in which for the first time american marines were targeted and eight of them were killed in their role protecting an american air base in vietnam. he goes on national television to really make the case not just for a resolution to allow the united states to move forward, but to tell the american people because of the aggression by the north, north vietnam, because the defense of south vietnam is necessary, we're going to have to start escalating our commitment militarily to the republic of vietnam, south vietnam. and he gives a kind of litany of
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what do americans see as compelling reasons. one, he said, we promised them we'd do that. we pledged in 1954 that we'd stand by south vietnam. this is a commitment we have as a nation to another nation state. we have to do this. and then it echoes of something diet d. eisenhower, the president in the 1950s, said about vietnam. he warned if we let vietnam fall all of asia could fall to communism. eisenhower called this the domino effect. johnson, the democrat, seconded and agreed with the premise that his republican president counterpart in the '50s had said. all of asia could fall if the united states doesn't honor its commitment to south vietnam. and he also talked about the potential bloodbath that could occur if north vietnam was allowed to take over south vietnam, that hundreds of thousands of innocents would lose their lives, so he made a moral case as well. so political, geopolitical, moral, these were grounds upon which he placed the american involvement in vietnam.
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and, again, americans overwhelmingly supported this commitment, both in congress and in the public. so you begin in a sense with a kind of public consensus about the war in vietnam as being necessary and even more good and honorable, appropriate, and necessary commitment to the people of south vietnam. this is the beginning. by 1965, early 1965, the war begins to escalate from an american involvement perspective. so american troops begin to be sent over, draft calls. remember, there's a draft at this time. young men are eligible to be drafted into the military. and the numbers of young men
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being drafted begins to increase by 1965, and, quite pointedly, lyndon johnson unleashes an air war on now the enemy, an american air war on north vietnam. operation rolling thunder, as it's called, begins in which massive amounts of bombs from u.s. airplanes flown by u.s. pilots begin to be unleashed on north vietnam. now, these are targeted bombs. they're not wholesale destructions of cities. they're aimed at troop movements. they're aimed at munition supplies, at factories that are building war materiel. they're targeted bombs. they're not terror bombing. they're not like what happened in the end of world war ii. but the bombs are intense. 600,000 tons of bombs will be dropped on north vietnam in this operation, rolling thunder. large-scale support at this point. so is there any critique at this
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point beyond those very few voices that i discussed earlier? yes, there are some americans who from the get-go, from the gulf of tonkin resolution through the pleiku incident, the death of eight marines, the launching days later by lyndon johnson "operation rolling thunder" who do protest, who do raise questions but most of these voices, most of these individuals and groups are readily dismissed by most americans, and some cases they're the people we've been talking about in here these last many weeks. one of the first and earliest voices raised against the war in vietnam comes from a radical pacifist who runs a small almost underground magazine called "liberation" starts in the 1950s. it's now the 1960s thing. this magazine called "liberation" run by a guy named dave dellinger, a pacifist. he opposes all wars. during world war ii, he was a young man, recently graduated from yale, during world war ii he was called up to be drafted as so many young men were at this time, and dellinger refused to serve in world war ii. he'd gone to jail. he'd serve time. it was a non-violent protest against the war. he refused to be complicit.
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this is a guy who is against all wars so vietnam is just one more in another war he's going to protest, and his magazine is a beachfront, so to speak for that pacifist critique. so there's a tiny group of pacifists who speak out. oh my gosh, america is entering another war. this is morally indefensible. there are others, we talked about the student non-violent coordinating committee.
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by 1964 and '65, snic, the group that started out of the sit-in movements of 1960 had become in part through their experiences in mississippi, alabama and other hardened places of racism in the united states in those days to become more and more radical. they weren't just looking at instances of bad policy in the united states, but were trying to create a more systemic critique of american government policy and one of the critiques that they had developed by late 1964 or '65, the snic radical activists was the united states was complicit with the kind of imperialism that they found so immoral and wrong in places like africa. so their critique of vietnam as a theater in which the united states would become involved stemmed from their already fairly richly developed critique of u.s. involvement in what was called then the third world. so from africa to asia, was for the snic activists not a long leap and other militant african-americans not just associated with snic, also using this kind of critique, began to speak out early about the war in vietnam. now, this is not mainstream groups. the reverend king, for example, in '64 and '65 is not speaking out against the war in vietnam. he had private reservations, but
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he did not make public those concerns at this time. so these are more, again, radical black activists in the united states. again, for the overwhelming majority of the american people, like the passivists, this was a group that could be essentially dismissed. they're radical, some overarching complaint about u.s. policy, you know, whatever, and like the pacifists, these are not voices heard on the nightly news, they're not reported in the "new york times" or "time" magazine. remember, there's a fairly narrow window of mass media at this point, so it's hard to get your voice into those few niches, so these kind of people are not being loudly heard or barely heard at all. they're dismissible, pacifists, black radical activists worried about imperialism and a third group is the nascent new left we talked about, the white radicals that are 1964 and '65 relatively few in number, many of them associated with the students for democratic society that group that was formed back in 1960,
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and had begun to spread throughout other campuses around the united states, from its foundation at the university of michigan. they had a similar critique as their black radical counterparts. there's something about vietnam that seems wrong. it seems again to be some kind of american intervention in a third world country where we're probably not welcome, and we're probably not serving the need for those people to have democratic self-determination. remember, the sds activists, the white new left in particular, were really honed in on this idea of democratic self-determination, that people, including the american people, should have the tools and the means to realize their own destiny, to fulfill their own promise and their own policy concerns. so you got white and black radicals. you've got an older tradition, people who are generally chronologically older coming out of the a pacifist tradition or a tradition of dissent that
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extends back into the '40s and '50s, who are raising some real questions. early days about the war in vietnam. but again, a very quiet voice in the national conversation, a voice that a large majority of americans can dismiss as kooks, literally, crazy people, radicals. so mainstream conversation, "new york times," cbs news, "time" magazine, the president, the senate majority leader, the house speaker, republican democrat, liberal, conservative, the establishment as some young people start to refer to all these kinds, is pretty much in lockstep with the policy that's developing, incrementally, but almost inexorably by the united states government in vietnam.
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as the war escalates and again month by month, incrementally, more troops are being sent from the united states to vietnam, more air missions are being launched from bases mostly at this point in vietnam to attack the north and to try to end the insurgency within the south of vietnam itself. so this is the process. so in some ways, it mirrors roughly or at least maybe it rhymes with some of the concerns that black activists had had probably earlier days, in the early '50s, let's say, not the early '60s, but the early '50s. when you've got a large majority of the citizenry of the united states in essential agreement about a policy, a way of life, a vision of how america operates. in the case of these black civil rights activists, this was jim
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when you've got a large majority of the citizenry of the united states in essential agreement about a policy, a way of life, a vision of how america operates. in the case of these black civil rights activists, this was jim crow laws, white supremacy, and other means of maintaining a racial hierarchy. so now you've got another group in the '60s, a small group, pacifist, radicals who are trying as a small minority to convince, convey and inform the large majority that the policy they take as a given, that the conventional wisdom they've been bestowed by their political leaders is wrong, flawed, i immoral. he the nature of the critique is he auto fluid, but you've got this tiny minority saying what we're doing in vietnam is wrong, and even though the large majority of americans think it's fine, we have to somehow wrestle them into rethinking this proposition. so how do you do that? if you're this small minority trying to convince a large majority that your president has
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misled you, that congress is wrong, that the mass media is either misinformed or misinforming the public, what do you do? and again, a lot of these people are either people who have been living in many ways outside the mainstream for a long time or in the case of the white and black radicals i've just described are, you know, your age. they're 20, they're 25, they're 18. what do you do? literally, what do you do? what repertoire of tactics, tools, methods do you use again to try to convince the majority that they're wrong? you can sort of imagine in your head, there's all sorts of ways you might proceed on that. now, this is happening at a time when there already is a kind of
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rich movement culture, a rich movement of people who have already embraced tools, techniques, tactics to change political life. this is happening simultaneously with the civil rights movement. so 1965, for example, roughly at the time that lyndon johnson is telling the american people we've begun to escalate a military involvement in vietnam, you've got martin luther king and tens and tens of thousands of others marching in selma, alabama, to ensure that the right of african-americans to vote in a state that had long disenfranchised them. right, so there's this kind of parallel social movement occurring as these early and we can use the word now anti-war advocates are trying to come up with their own answers and solutions. so obviously to some extent, this nascent anti-war activism is going to look at the civil rights movement. they have a repertoire. they already have some means and
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tools and practices that might be adaptable to our cause. so that's one piece out there. there's another piece out there that's almost happening simultaneously but again say precursor to this. we talked earlier about what was happening on the university of california berkeley campus in the fall of 1964, really just weeks after the gulf of tonkin resolution is passed. and on the campus at the university of california remember you had the free speech movement erupting, mario savio getting on top of the police car, telling the students of the university of california, you have a right to political practice on campus. you have a right to speak out freely on campus about the political causes of the day. now, he was talking about civil rights issues, about racial justice issues. he was not talking about vietnam, but he was offering again a kind of interesting locus, a place from which you might launch some kind of political protest, and here it's
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more pertinent for the white majority. here is a white radical activist on a university campus of suitable age saying we can use this place. we should be allowed to use this place, the university campus, as a place to mobilize, organize and perhaps launch protests against a policy we don't think is right. so right, there's this, there's already this sort of available language and this available set of understandings and practices out there, as these nascent anti-war activists are trying to think what do we do? following that model, it's intriguing to see what happens, and johnson's speech in '65, march '65 is like a match that lights -- well, it's not a bonfire at this point, it's like a little tiny fire that begins to erupt around places, in which there already is an established political arena and critique in the united states. so one of the first places in which a kind of anti-war mobilization effort begins is on the university campus, at the university of michigan, again,
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remember the place where the students for democratic society so one of the first places in which a kind of anti-war mobilization effort begins is on the university campus, at the university of michigan, again, remember the place where the students for democratic society had been first founded just a few years earlier. there is a movement among faculty, not undergraduates, not graduate students, but basically junior faculty, these are men, almost all men, it might have been all men, i can't quite remember, in their late 20s and early 30s who, for various reasons, are suspicious of literally what johnson has just told them in this speech, this
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nationally televised speech about why, after pleiku we'll have to start escalating our involvement in vietnam. 20 professors untenured, no job security gather together in a room not unlike this and say, what should we do? i think we have to do something on campus to bring to the attention of young people that something's amiss in vietnam. they literally sit around like this, and try to brainstorm, what can we do? they do almost like the tick list, what are the tools we could use, what are the possibilities and come one a simple solution. you know what we should do? we should not have classes on a date certain, pick a day, and instead of teaching our normal classes, we'll have a kind of moratorium on everyday business, and they use the word moratorium, and we'll talk about the war in vietnam. we'll try to find some informed opinion, try to find somebody
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who knows something about this. really none of the guys in the room knew anything about vietnam other than what they'd been reading in "time" and "new york times" and cbs and listening to congress, so they have no particular expertise. they just had suspicion. so that's what they figure. after this is done publicly they announce what they're doing and you'd be not surprised to understand that many powerful citizens in michigan, as they get wind that these professors are going to not do their job for which they're paid that day, not teach their classes, deny the students the opportunity to proceed, they get a lot of pushback from this and basically they're told, you do this, you could be fired. this is inappropriate, and it's not right to basically force your students not to be able to attend the class that they paid their monies for. so the professors, again,
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untenured, no real job security, they kind of sit back and try to think this through and come one an alternative plan. they compromise. okay, okay, we won't strike, won't have a moratorium. we'll teach the classes that day fine, but after classes at 8:00 p.m., can we have a room, a big room, an auditorium -- university of michigan has some mammoth auditoriums -- and let us use the p.a. system, and the blackboards and the room. we won't disrupt anything, there's nothing scheduled and let us have a teach-in. sit-ins from 1960, right, they kind of coin a phrase. we'll have a teach-in, and we'll bring in some people, hopefully smart guys who know something about vietnam, and we'll debate the great issues of the day. and intriguingly the university of michigan, think about the university of california berkeley a few months earlier, fighting tooth and nail to prevent savio et al. to have open access. university of michigan says, as
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long as you don't strike you can do this. so a tactic is born through the negotiating and thinking. a tactic is born. we'll have a teach-in. to these are early days. how do you convince a majority of people either supportive of the president's policy or in all likelihood, no offense to you 18 to 25-year-olds, apathetic about the policies that are ensuing, how do you get them excited, interested and impassioned, and at a minimum, informed? you teach them. take university, extend it into the political realm, so that's what happens. 8:00 it starts and they're blown away. again, i don't know if you've ever done this. you have a party at your house. to 8:00, nobody's here. 8:30, seven people's here. fine we'll be all right but meanwhile seven people's cool. you're praying that the 100 people you invited show up. they have no idea how many people show up to this teach-in.
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3,000 people come. the auditorium doesn't nearly hold that many people. it's astonishing. university campus, early 19 -- this is march 1965, there's 3,000 kids who want to hear about this, they want to talk about this. they don't just want this, you know, talking head up above, telling them. they want some back-and-forth. they want to be part of this. that's that kind of sds, participatory democracy spirit. they got 3,000 people show up. they talk all night. now, not all of them stay all night, mind you, but they go all the way until 8:00 the next morning, 12 hours. and then they kind of, you know, ooh, classes start in three minutes. we have to leave now, no breaking the laws, this is all okay. 35 other campuses just like within a week do the same thing. now, intriguing issue. you have a teach-in, what do you teach? where do you get information?
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there's no internet. there's no like oh, vietnam, let's get a few perspectives. let's see what's happening. how do you do that? well, they scramble and try to find these guys who started this teach-in, they don't know. they just got, you know, suspicion. who do they get? they know a guy who is an economics professor out east who used to serve as an economic adviser in vietnam. remember, that nation building phase, they're bringing all these experts, smart guys to try to help build an economy in vietnam and ports and infrastructure. he's one of these guys. you know, he had a contract. he had a grant to do this work in vietnam. so he comes, and he's informative. he's spent three years on the ground in vietnam and he says, it's not working. i mean, we went there with good intentions. they don't want us there. they want to do it their way. they don't want to do it our way. what the president tells you is not accurate. we're not welcome there. we're not seen as their great allies. we're seen as one more big power intervening in their affairs. the next guy who comes up, it's funny to think about this.
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he's an anthropologist. he had done his field work in vietnam. it was a primitive place. that's how they saw it, right? he would go and do field work. and he worked with hill people up in the hills. i can't remember if he worked with the mong or some other group. and he says, the vietnamese see the world very differently than us. he gives this cultural critique. but they see us as china or the other great powers that for centuries have come and on over their soil. same thing. they don't see us as the freedom-loving democratic people of the united states there to just lend a hand. president johnson, we're going there for no other reason than to help and this anthropologist says, i hate to tell you, they don't want your help. okay. interesting perspectives. not traditional perspectives. it's not a four-star general, it's not a u.s. senator.
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these are alternative voices. the third guy is this kind of radical intellectual, young guy, in his 30s. he's trying to piece together a living by writing and talking, guy named arthur west, he comes in there and he kind of gives the barn burner. he seconds that kind of radical critique that groups had been making. he's older. he's well read and he says, yes, this is another war of imperialism. he uses the "i" word. the u.s. is a new imperialist. you can imagine the students, okay, something to grapple with. that was two hours. and they had ten more hours of hanging out, talking, they broke into small groups, classrooms like this. okay, and these things spread. that's what i guess i'm trying to say. who you could bring in varied. did you have an expert? did you have someone who knew something about vietnam? often, no. there were no courses in any
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university in the united states on the history of vietnam. there was no university in the united states that taught the vietnamese language. you didn't have a lot of in-house experts in the united states on these issues. last, we didn't have many in-house experts in the cia or state department either. that's another can of worms. it was hard to get information. okay, another turn of this same story. hard to get information, right? you got young people, all kinds of people saying that. i don't trust "time magazine," i don't trust "new york times," i don't trust the president of the united states, but i can't go to a teach-in every day, so what do i do? an english literature major, writing her doctorate on english literature, she's part of this new left, been involved in protests in the early '60s. she is trying to take advantage of her skill set.
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i can write. i can do research. i know how to do these things. i'll set up an alternative media on this issue. and really in incredibly rapid time, with almost no money in her pocket at all, she gets a little grant from a teachers' union in new york. remember the united auto workers helped fund some of the early snicc activity? here's another little group, a teachers' union, you can grab a little money out of it. i'm talking hundreds of dollars at this point, but enough to get a few things. and she starts -- magazine is too grandiose a term for it, but something called viet report, a magazine focused on vietnam. well, okay, that's sweet. how do you fill the pages? think really practically. okay, i got this cool idea. what goes in there? she had an intriguing idea. she didn't really trust that american writers, journalists, even academics, how dare she,
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knew enough to really substantiate a monthly journal on vietnam that told what she saw as the true story. so she, luckily, spoke some french. she had connections in england through like a graduate student network, and she began to use the european press, which had a far wider ideological range than communists to monarchists, and she began, like you do on the internet today, fish four sources for an alternative to the kind of things that the regular media in the united states were reporting. she used foreign language, she let translate them or get someone to translate them, and use that. what are the tools of contention? how do you create a counter public to the established one? she wasn't alone to this. in berkeley, you'll be shocked,
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there was a guy who ran a bar, the steppenwolf bar, he's like, you know what we need around here, we need our own newspaper. there's the "san francisco examiner," "oakland tribune," regular newspapers. he said, we need our own newspaper for people like white house don't buy what they're telling us. he starts out of his pocket, he's a bar owner, he's got some cash, a newspaper called "the berkeley barb," the first underground newspaper. there will be lots of these that sprout up in every city in the 1960s, in philadelphia, "the free press," lots of them, but this starts it off. he talks to those people who had long been seen as marginal.
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he talks to passivists, when uses them as his sources. when you're an journalist, who do you talk to? the congressman, the mayor, their spokespersons. he doesn't use them as his sources. he uses this small scale, grassroots but fairly quickly growing alternative set. "the berkeley barb" is a pretty funny newspaper, it's filled with all sorts of transgressive material, the first newspaper in california that will, for example, print sex ads. this guy who runs it, robert shear, the bar owner turned newspaper publisher, he's a wild and crazy guy, kind of a bohemian character. combines cultural radicalism
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with preliminary radicalism. kind of an interesting blend. teach-ins, get the young people invested, especially the young men who could be drafted and go to war. you can't trust the establishment media, diy, do it yourself, make your own stuff. and again, this starts to spread. these are tools of contention. how do you try to convince more and more people that something is afoot that they should not accept? so that's the beginning. now, there's all these other traditional tools available too. sds, students for a democratic society, many of the leaders, many of the chapters around the country, already suspicious, already raising questions about vietnam. but this is not their main issue. you remember, we talked before, that sds at this point was involved with that attempt to go into neighborhoods of poor people, white and black, and organize them, try to create some kind of economic justice movement in the united states.
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that was sort of the focus of sds at this point. nonetheless, they're watching what's going on. university of michigan, berkeley, other places. they say, we've got to do something about this vietnam thing, i know it's not our main concern, we're really focused on issues of racial justice, economic justice, but let's do something. so what do you do if you want to kind of do something on the cheap that doesn't take a lot of time or effort, that's not this massive commitment of trying to set up sources in europe. hey, let's have a rally. let's have a march. this is something that's been happening, by 1965, thousands of times, mainly having to do with race issues in the united states. but it's easily accessible. if you say to somebody, hey, we're going to have a march and a rally, by 1965, everyone goes, oh, yeah, what the black people do all the time, right. it's an available tool, everybody kind of knows about
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it. they figure, what the hell, it won't be a big deal, let's go for it. they announce with a few weeks' lead time, we're going to have a march and rally, washington, d.c., april, 1965, to protest lyndon johnson's escalation of the war in vietnam. once again, it's like that party. they plan for a few hundred people to show up. i mean, again, they don't have like national advertising for this. they have no budget at all to market or announce this. again, there's no twitter, there's no social networks. there's no easy way to get people's attention. all they have are chapters around the country. and they put out the word to their chapter and say, tell other people that they should, like, come to this, it will be interesting. once again, there's a kind of shocking moment when these few characters from sds are kind of up in front of the crowd in washington, d.c. and people just keep coming.
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they didn't really know what would appear. 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, almost 20,000 people show up in washington, d.c. for what is the first anti-war march and rally. the third tool that these guys are trying to create and develop. these are early days. april '65. there aren't that many troops yet in vietnam, though the bombing has begun. american troops in vietnam. the head of the organization, and i don't believe there's any video of this, because again, it's like, right, this is not the big time. a guy named paul potter. he's, uh, you know, maybe not the greatest public speaker in the world but he's the president of the organization so he gets to give the big speech. he gets up there and kind of gives a very carefully rational, dispassionate, there's no waving of arms or anything like that, speech. and he tries to wrap his head around what the united states is
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doing in vietnam. and he sort of speaks in almost counterpoint to johnson's speech that had taken place the month before. he's sort of publicly struggling, he had written the speech down so it was a little feigned, with why this is happening, why is the united states going to start a land and air war in this little country, 8,000 miles away, in asia? and he kind of comes to this conclusion that he says, there's some kind of system in the united states, that's the phrase he uses over and over, there is a system in the united states that creates these wars, that creates these interventions. he says essentially, i don't know what it is, i don't know how to call it, i don't know how to identify it. but i know it's there. and we, talking to the 20,000, again, there's no tv coverage, it's just them, we have to learn how to identify that system, get a kind of open-ended phrase, a
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system that will create wars in asia for some kind of american interest that's, you know, hard to pin down. a radical critique but a kind of vague critique. interesting moment. and creating the open-ended question, again, it's kind of an interesting rhetorical move, instead of telling people, here's what you should think, he's saying, like mario savio did a few months earlier at berkeley, what should we do about this, what do you think is happening? again, it's kind of an interesting organizing tool. you don't preach, you question. it's kind of a rhetorical style that you'll see in a lot of this anti-war organizing, at least in these early days. so he spreads the word, we have to do something. now, there's another interesting touch to this speech. i shouldn't leave it alone because it's a hallmark speech, one of the first big anti-war speeches made in the united
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states. he does this critique, there's a system, we have to identify this system, what is it that makes these wars happen, what's the underveiling pressure. and then he continues, and he says, as i see it, what the people in vietnam want is really what we want here in the united states. he's making quite a leap. again, these a 20-something-year-old guy, he doesn't speak vietnamese, he doesn't know much about what's happening actually in vietnam. he's got some facts at his fingertips. he says, these people, i feel, are just like us and they're fighting for the same things we're fighting for, to determine their own lives, have democratic autonomy, to liberty themselves from forms of oppression. it seems kind of projection, these are certainly the things he's feeling and that many of us colleagues are feeling, and he attributes the same struggle in
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vietnam as the struggle in the united states for a kind of democratic self-determination. there's truth to it. but he goes further and he sort of says, what we're fighting here in the united states is the same as what they're fighting in vietnam. we're alike and we share much of the same vision of how the world works, and we're fighting something that's dark and oppressive. this is what one of the members of the anti-war movement would later call a kind of manichean world view, there's good and there's evil, and you, again, remember that existential notion, you have to choose when side you're on. okay. this is a little risky as a proposition. i mean, there don't have to be two sides to every struggle with one good and one bad. there could be two good, two bad. 50 fragments, right? it doesn't have to be. but the cold war kind of made
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you think that way, there's the soviets and the americans. we tend to do that, i guess because we have two arms. the third case. so he sort of posits this idea that the national liberation front, ho chi minh, it's an intriguing development and a potential risky one for the movement itself. early days. nobody sure what's happening. it's unclear. between 1965 and 1966, by the end of 1966, the war in vietnam has begun to escalate rapidly. and it escalates rapidly because each time president johnson tries to essentially band-aid the deterioration of the american ally, the south vietnamese, the band-aid fails. the military, with the tools johnson gives them, can't manage
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the deterioration of the army of the republic of vietnam and the government of the republic of vietnam, our ally. the forces that we oppose, the north vietnamese government, are getting stronger. johnson is forced to keep putting in more troops, escalating america's land war in asia. he's bargaining, he's trying to negotiate with ho chi minh, trying to do a deal with the united states congress as he's so good at doing. but they won't do a deal, they won't compromise. johnson tries to incrementally increase the pressure. this incremental pressure causes a couple of things to happen. one, the war is starting to cost more and more money, we're all familiar with that phenomenon. and it's causing more and more young men, remember, the draft only calls up young men, women are not eligible for the draft,
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to be called up into service. so more and more young people are getting their attentions focused willy-nilly on the war in vietnam. now, quick aside, remember, the way the draft works is really -- i don't know how else to put it, messy. there are 26 million baby boomers who come of age during the war in vietnam. you don't -- do that, half -- sorry about that, 26 million men who come of age, turn 18. you just don't need that many people in the army, right? they would have to stand like this or something in vietnam. so you have to have a system, a selective service system, that's the real name, to pick which ones go. rather than send all 26 young men there, you pick which ones will go. to do that you have to make some people not have to go. some people don't have to go because they're incredibly
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stupid, if you're too stupid, you can't serve in the military. some people are physically unable to go into the military, they don't have to go. then once you've ruled that out, you still have a whole lot of people. who do you pick to go? there are deferments, methods that are used to keep you from having to go, at least right away. so, for example, an interesting one people don't tend to think about, if you are a skilled tradesman, even an apprentice training to become an electrician or a carpenter or plumber, you could be deferred because of the job you held. you didn't have to defer. you could volunteer, you could serve, but you would be deferred. more famously, if you were a college student, or a graduate student, you would be deferred from having to serve. now, college student is a specific amount of time.
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you can't stay -- this may be a shock to some of you but you're not supposed to stay in school forever, you're supposed to get out of after a while. but while you were a student, you were deferred, you didn't have to serve. one more thing about how the draft worked during this time. not only could you be deferred for various vocational or positions you had in american society, you could sort of negotiate with the people who were picking the draftees. it didn't happen in washington, d.c. there wasn't a giant ibm computer that spit out the names of who would be drafted. the way it worked instead was, you did receive a notice that you were eligible to be drafted, a young man of a certain age, and you would have to go to your local draft board, literally, your local guys. in north philly there would be a draft down, in doylestown there would be a draft board, there
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would be usually old white guys sitting at a table, most of whom served in world war ii, who were the draft board. it was abstract, it was some guys. and you would pitch your story. if you wanted to go, you didn't have to pitch a story, you filled out the paperwork and moved on. but if you said i have a reason i shouldn't serve, you would present it. i have a note from my doctor, i have a really bad test, i can't take the test, the equivalent of i can't go to vietnam. oh, you know, for years, i've had a psychiatric condition, i have a note to prove it. the draft board could look at it and go, whatever, on the bus. it didn't happen that fast but you get to point. or they could say, i know your dad, he's a good guy, you don't have to go. so it was really wide open as to who would end up going to vietnam. obviously if you had more resources, access to
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psychiatrists, access to good jobs that were necessary, the money to keep staying in school, you had a real advantage if you did not want to serve. now, in '65, when there weren't that many draft notices being sent, most people, they got called up, they did their thing, if they got drafted, they went. but every month, as more and more people are going, as these university protests are heath up, as word is spreading that there are some at least who think this war isn't right or good, there's more people interested in saying, there's a certain self-interest in this, is this a war worth dying for? again, your mind is focused if you're an 18 to 20-year-old young man facing that very real decision. is this war worth dying for? it tends to concentrate the mind. so you've got now a pool of people who are potentially now more motivated to think about an
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issue than if it was, well, not draft-in draft-induced, might not. every strongly underlined overwhelmingly when people were called up to the draft board in '65, '66, they went through the process, there was no gaming. but if you're a student, graduate student, you don't have to serve, there are ways out. well, not surprisingly, by 1966, as the draft is starting to increase, there are young people focused now on the draft who begin to resist. another tool. and a different tool than the three we've talked about. here is this kind of process that doesn't really have any corollary in certainly the civil rights movement or in the other protest movement, the draft. how do you -- should you in some ways protest this system? as early as 1966, a few of these radicals who are already
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invested in the process, publicly declaim their unwillingness to serve, like the guy, the pastor in world war ii who said i won't serve in any war. these guys say, this war is wrong, i won't serve. they did this literal catchy publicity-garnering move. you guys don't do this anymore, you have to register for the draft, but you had to carry your draft card. these guys took their card and they burned it. i will not serve. now, this is symbolic, right? it's like they still have a copy of your card somewhere in washington, it isn't like it magically goes away, like, cool. but it's a symbol. interestingly, congress passes a law saying, you can't burn your
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draft card, that's commie rot, you just can't do that. they put a five-year prison sentence, if you burn your draft card, you go to jail. starting in '66, but escalating, by early '67, a draft resistance movement begins. it starts in boston as the first one. it's called resistance. and again, kind of quickly spreads. this is a different model. and what it does is it couches people on ways you can keep out of the draft. it also asks people to publicly state that they are refusing to refuse in vietnam. so it's supposed to be a political thing, not a private thing, that's called draft evasion, not resistance. at the same time, people are being shown how to stay out of the war, a different technique,
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a different tool. people in '66, early '67, in small ways, symbolic ways, mass mediated, oriented ways, trying to come up with tools, techniques, maybe an overarching strategy to somehow get americans young and old to rethink the premises that their president, their congress, and others have told them is the national duty. so you've got this process. how do you escalate that? you've got tens of thousands, maybe by this time it's probably fair to say hundreds and hundreds of thousands of americans who have become highly suspicious, even opposed to this war. but the nation at this time has got 200 million people. most people aren't on board with this. how do you up the ante? well, instead of just having that one march and rally, you start to have all over the country, and then organized
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nationally by a group that forms out of these various usually radical factions, to host, to hold, to mobilize, just gatherings of people, rallies. anti-war rallies in which people would come and speak and explain why the war in vietnam is wrong. again, this is not a new invention. before america's intervention in world war ii, before the december 7, 1941 attack, there were organized groups in the united states, america first was the most famous of them, that held similar rallies to keep america out of the war in germany, they were really focused on japan. but this is a little different, isn't it? there already is a war. so as people are rallying and protesting, refusing or resisting entry into the draft, you've got to remember other young men are going to vietnam, this time over 10,000 by early
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1967 have died fighting in vietnam. many families are sacrificing. so this is a protest going on while there's a war being fought. a little different than world war ii in that there was no declaration of war. so freedom of speech, freedom of assembly are still fully warranted constitutionally. when there's a war declared, there's really different removals engagement between the public and the bill of rights. but there's no declared war. but you do have american young men dying while these people are saying this is wrong. you can imagine the backlash. you've got, again, most americans saying the war is right, first of all. secondly, it's like, right or wrong, our guys have dying over there, you have to shut up now, you have to just rally around the troops. so you can see there's room here
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for more than just intellectual disquisition about policy. this is getting to be more and more visceral stuff. the stakes are ever more high. so by late 1966, and early '67, the nation is beginning to polarize around the issue. a very small minority actively opposing the war, a very large majority saying, the troops are over there, you've got to rally around the troops. this heightens the stakes, makes things trickier. complicates the process. there's blood being spilled. well, the war doesn't just end in 1966. if it did, this wouldn't be a lecture, this would be three sentences of a lecture, right? the war is just going to keep continuing. so by mid-1967, more than two
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years of war have been fought. and americans are now in vietnam not in small numbers, not in support units, not on guarding air bases, but in order to sustain the south vietnamese government, they're there in massive numbers. hundreds of thousands of american troops by mid-1967 are in vietnam. what are we doing? what's the endpoint? we've got all kinds of americans anxious about this war now. so it's a kind of opening, as the war continues, more and more people are focused on it. you still have got this problem, how do you convince people to care, how do you convince people that aren't directly affected to do something, how do you convince people whose sons are in harm's way that this is ill-advised? what are the tools, what are the techniques? in '67, part of this anti-war
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movement which now has been activated for a long time, 2 1/2 years, they begin to up the ante. in 1967, some of these long-time activists, some of them, the older guys, dave dellinger, literally at the heart of this movement, others, younger, as well, they say we're going to have to start combining our goals here. we've got this witness program, this gandhi-an approach, we're not violent, we assemble, we want people to see there are at least some americans that don't want this war to continue in their name, but we need to do more to catch their attention. and some of the younger people involved in this anti-war movement say, we've got to sort of adapt some of the guerilla techniques that the vietnamese are using. now, they don't mean violence, but they mean ways to sort of confront, subvert, get in the way of the war machine so that the pentagon and the white house and congress understand that not
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all americans are going to allow this what they see now as slaughter to go on indefinitely. in berkeley, for example, a small group, not part of the student new left, sort of an independent anti-war group, begins to try to blockade the troop ships that are taking people literally to the depot in oakland, the port in oakland, where the troops go off to vietnam. they literally try to stop some of the troop trains that are delivering young recruits on their way to war, they're trying to blockade the war. others start to protest at draft boards. they're trying to link arms and not allow people to get into draft boards to up the ante. in 1967, a large group, some 75,000, some say over 100,000, show up at the pentagon in the united states by october, this is by 1967. on the one hand it's a typical protest, we don't like the war, it's immoral, it's wrong, rhetoric.
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but they also literally try to surround the pentagon. have you guys ever seen the pentagon? it's like really, really big. it's really hard to surround. but they had a lot of people there and they sort of symbolically trying to stop the heart, the brains you could say, of the war machine, by literally blocking the pentagon. now, there are some characters in this protest who kind of try to change the rules of the game. we've been doing these marches, these rallies, around the pentagon, it's clever, but people are kind of bored, we have to do something cool to catch people's attention. this guy who thought of the troop blockade thing, a guy james jerry rubin, he's hooked up with some long haired guy in new york city named abby hoffman. they come up with a goof, a scam, where they announce to the press that the purpose of linking their arms and
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encircling the pentagon is not just to block people from getting in and out, it's actually part of a magical rite and if done properly, they can levitate the pentagon, because the pentagon, everybody knows, is the ancient symbol of evil, so we have to do -- this is kind of a goof. but the press is like, that's funny. it's like our poor republican friend down in delaware who gets a lot of news coverage for staying stuff that's special. well, same idea. oh, the press says, that's cool, you have long hair, you're funny, can we take a picture of you? it catches people's -- suddenly it clicks, it's like, oh, if you want more attention, you're trying to reach the majority, you're trying to get more publicity, trying to get people to hear you, maybe you have to do clever goofy stuff that breaks the paradigm. the civil rights movement, right, think about it, very serious, very sober. even the people who are angry.
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these guys are like, let's make it funny. let's make it clever. dangerous. we're talking about war, we're talking about people dying in vietnam, but, you know, the american public is kind of fickle. so maybe to reach them. it's another, how do you do contentious politics, how do you get people to listen, how do you get a majority to focus, how do you break them out of their apathy? these two guys in particular, hoffman and rubin, are trying to get young people to focus. not just individually maybe try to evade the draft, but to speak out publicly, to change the course of the nation's politics. guess what i'm trying to say is, between '65 and late '67, all sorts of tools are being engineered. all sorts of kind of modelings of how the public works are occurring. anti-war activists are stretching the boundaries of
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democratic practice. how do you do democracy? as they -- as they try to figure out how to capture the nation's attention. now, in 1968, this anti-war movement will split. half -- half's not fair. some large percent will continue these, well, protest politics, rally, march, sit-ins, teach-ins, blockades, confront the war makers, protest at universities. but another large segment will say, i think we've convinced a lot of american folks that the war is wrong, we need to now turn to sort of the main highway of democratic politics in the united states which is electoral. 1968 is an election year. 1964, we had a choice between bomb vietnam to the stone age versus incrementally try to change the policies of vietnam through an escalating war, right? republican, democrat, both
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agreed you had to keep it up. now in '68, maybe we can get a choice. some of these anti-war activists begin to try to cajole, convince, persuade, fund an anti-war democratic party candidate. they can go mainstream, in other words. maybe we've got enough support now to go mainstream. maybe democracy in its most traditional sense will work. so in 1968, candidates are sought who can position themselves as anti-war advocates in the presidential election of the united states of america. the first guy who kind of comes to the fore as a junior center from minnesota named eugene mccarthy. he steps forward. he turns on the sitting president of the united states, the head of his party, lyndon johnson, and says, i will run against johnson, i will stand as the anti-war candidate. and he shocks the punditry and probably most voters in the
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united states by almost defeating lyndon johnson in the first democratic primary in new hampshire in early 1968. doesn't quite win but he almost wins. and suddenly it's like, huh, even in conservative new hampshire, people don't like the war in vietnam. not protesters, not radicals, not pacifists, not new lefters, i don't know if there were any black people in new hampshire in 1968, but kind of regular folks don't like this. into the fray jumps the junior but very well-known senator from new york, bobby kennedy, the dead president's brother, who also says i too will stand against this war in vietnam, i too will challenge the seated president of the united states. johnson is horrified at what he sees as betrayal by his own party's senatorial
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representatives. and it's a real moment of truth for him. johnson is not in the best of health. he's had gallbladder surgery, his heart's not good. he's faced incredible stress from a war that he never wanted to fight but felt was unavoidable. he decides in the face of this genuine challenge to quit. he doesn't quit the presidency but he walks away from his campaign to be reelected. so electorally, this movement has had impact. but it doesn't have success. to cut to the chase, the american who wins the democratic nomination is not kennedy. he's, you all know, assassinated in june 1968 by someone not interested in the war in vietnam but who are other axes to grind, so kennedy is killed, probably would not have been able to get the nomination. mccarthy never had the kind of gravitas, he wasn't a charismatic political figure to carry it off. and instead, lbj's vice
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president, a guy named hubert humphrey, a guy who was ambivalent about the war in vietnam but essentially promised to carry on the policies of johnson, wins the nomination. opposing him as a republican who had been around the political bush more than a few times, named richard milhouse nixon. nixon had lost to kennedy in 1960, lost his bid to become governor of california in 1966, but richard nixon is not an easy guy to make disappear. he comes back from the political dead. he wins the republican nomination. he does something tricky, and i won't be able to say much more today, but he does something very interesting. now, nixon had made his bones politically as a fierce anticommunist, as a guy who said always, we must stand up to the threat of soviet communism. but by 1968, the war in vietnam was wearing thin with, again, not just radicals, not just with young people, but with more and
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more americans. they didn't want to betray their trips, they didn't want to give up on their vision of what the united states stood for. they certainly didn't have a radical critique of american foreign policy. but my gosh, the war had been going on now for more than 3 1/2 years when election day came. so nixon offered something interesting. he didn't say we will win no matter the cost, we will defeat communism no matter what burden it costs us. he said something different. he says, americans must win this peace. americans must win this peace. what's that mean? he goes, well, i promise you that i will win this peace for america, i have a plan to end the war in vietnam. everyone is like, oh, whew, thank goodness, how are you going to do that? he goes, well, it would be unfair of me to tell you while i'm not the president of the united states because that would undercut president johnson's efforts to negotiate with the enemies so you'll just have to
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believe me, because i'm such a believable figure, that i have a plan to end the war in vietnam. but we're going to have to leave it here today. the war does not e with richard nixon's victory in 1968. indeed the war will go on until 1973 when richard nixon took office about 31,000 american soldiers had already perished, marines and sailors as well. 27,000 more will die while richard nixon is president. because nixon does not quickly, easily, effectively, end the war in vietnam, the anti-war movement in the years ahead will radicalize and explode and create an incredible polarization among the american people. that's for next time. weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. i've saturday, american history
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tv documents america's story. and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest authors. c-span is brought to you by america's cable companies, including buckeye broadband. buckeye broadband. along with these television companies support c-span2 as a public service. to mark its 60th anniversary, the white house historical association published james hoban, designer and builder of the white house. tonight on american history tv, a panel discussion addresses the architectural, political, and cultural ideas behind the mansion, recognized worldwide. they also look back at the life and career of james hoban who
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was born in ireland and emigrated to the united states. on american history tv. weekends on c-span2 brings you the best in american history and nonfiction books. on saturdays, american history tv explores the nation's past. coming up saturday at 3:00 p.m. eastern on oral histories, iraq war veteran michael schlitz recalls his experiences in the war including the day his vehicle was hit by an ied and his road to recovery. on 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, emory university professor felix harcourt teaches a class on the role of ufo conspiracy theories in shaping american culture. he discusses how changes in public opinion about extraterrestrials often parallel anxieties. on sundays, leading authors discuss their books. on sunday at 8:00 p.m., an
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economist offers an insider view on corporate boards in her book, "how boards work and how they can work better in a chaotic world." at 9:00 p.m., bestselling author james patterson and former president bill clinton discuss their thriller "the president's daughter" about the abduction of a former u.s. president's daughter by terrorists. watch american history tv every saturday and book tv every sunday on c-span2. tens of thousands of anti-vietnam war protesters converged on washington, d.c. in may of 1971. more than 7,000 people were arrested in a single day. coming up on american history tv, we look back 50 years at those protests with investigative journalist lawrence roberts, author of "may day 1971: the untold history of america's biggest mass arrest."


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