50 years after he first set foot on the University of Michigan soil, the legendary Tom Hayden returned Monday to the campus that nurtured his "radical" dreams.
Hayden, the founder of Students for a Democratic Society, member of the Chicago 7 and a past editor-in-chief of the Michigan Daily, is a veritable icon representing the anti-war student of the Vietnam era, is still at it today speaking out against the war in Iraq.
As the keynote speaker of the annual American Civil Liberties Union meeting at the Neutral Zone, he used the same charismatic style of public speaking that rallied war protestors in the ‘60s to reinforce the audience members' efforts to end the war and cut funding to the current administration's checkbook.
In a 2005 essay added to "The Port Huron Statement," Hayden's 1962 manifesto,
Hayden wrote: "Our critique of the Cold War, and liberals who became anticommunist Cold Warriors, bears close resemblance to the contemporary ‘war on terror' and its liberal Democratic defenders."
During Hayden's speech at the ACLU Monday, some Democratic defenders listened in awe as Hayden declared that in addition to the Arab-Americans and Muslims who are being unjustly persecuted, "The war in Iraq itself is a violation of civil liberties."
As efforts to set a timetable to pull combat troops out of Iraq were recently denied through a presidential veto, Hayden presented the ACLU members with his own plan for gracefully withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. He said that because "a Machiavellian state must protect its manhood," the magic exit formula involves arranging for the Iraqis to ask the U.S. to leave.
He also stressed that citizens cannot simply sit back and rely on political figureheads to pull America out of the war, but that we must "cut funding for the Iraqi police state." He voiced concern that current political operations dealing with Iraq may turn out to be "a poison pill for the Democrats so they get blamed for the catastrophe in Iraq."
When questioned by an audience member, Hayden announced that he would vote for Barak Obama in the 2008 presidential election, should he win the primary elections. If not, he would vote for Hillary.
Hayden's speech also incorporated aspects of the same principles he held in his SDS days: the average citizen holds the power to make political change.
Hayden hasn't been a college student for 46 years, so he spent his day Monday reliving his youth talking with Daily staff members and browsing the archived bound volumes of the newspaper he used to call his own while he chatted about sweatshops with a member of SOLE. He also said he had lunch with Juan Cole, Professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian History, and paid an unexpected visit to the students who currently inhabit his old residency on Arch street.