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A panel discussion on Vietnam War protest activities, sponsored by MU Peace Studies, happened on Monday, April 2, 2014, at the Tucker Hall. Around 100 people attended including Vietnam veterans, spring 1970 protesters, professors, students, and several MizzouVSA members. The evening started with Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger protest songs, recalling the anti-war spirit of America during the 1970s.

Bill Wickersham shared his experience, and summarized events that led to the May 1970 protest. Wickersham, an assistant professor of Recreation and Park Administration, was a faculty advisor during the May 11 anti-war demonstration at Jesse Hall, which was triggered by U.S invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four student demonstrators at Kent State University on May 4 and shortly thereafter the killing of two student demonstrators at Jackson State University.

The MU protests against the war attracted more than 3000 people gathering together on Stankowski Field or in front of Jesse Hall. Wickersham recalled the time when police arrested 30 students and faculty members, including him, and took them to the police headquarters. The protest was successful in persuading the chancellor to meet and negotiate with the anti-war leaders the next day. Wickersham lost his job after the protest.

Paul Wallace, now Professor Emeritus, but Assistant Professor of Political Science at the time, told about his involvement in the protests. He participated in Committee of Concerned Students “teach-ins”, along with other professors, who decided to cancel classes, and helped organize nonviolent anti-war protests on the campus and in the community.

Musa Illu, a professor at the University of Central Missouri, was at MU during the anti-apartheid movement mentioned the importance of the lessons from academic intellectuals and political engagement that occurred in May of 1970. The fact that the university administration agreed to sit down and negotiate with students after the nonviolent protest against the Vietnam war and the challenges in South Africa were great wins. Professor Illu said the lesson that we learned from the protests is that if academic people collaborate together, they can influence the politics.

Curtis Edward, a current MU graduate student, discussed about how social movements affect public policy. He gave several examples and encouraged current students to learn from the previous generations about to continue to fight for peace and justice on many other contemporary issues such as housing injustice, low paid workers and other issues that have major effects on the lives of the underprivileged.

Long Le, a PhD Candidate in American Literature, shared his opinion about the Vietnam War protest from a Vietnamese student perspective. “The War happened because of the misunderstandings between the U.S government and the Vietnam government,” Long said. He also thanked MU faculty and students, who bravely took part in the protests, even at the cost of their jobs. When someone asked him if Vietnamese people need an official apology from U.S. for the war, Le responded: “We don’t really need an official apology. What we need is U.S action on helping Vietnamese veterans and the many families who are still being affected by the war, especially through use of Agent Orange”.

The evening ended with John Betz, a Vietnam veteran, who emotionally accused the U.S government for the great crimes that were committed on the Vietnamese people. Betz was drafted to participate in the Vietnam War during 1966-1968, and returned home very distressed and suffering from the killings and inhumane treatment of Vietnamese citizens in which he had participated. “We murdered 2 million people for what? For what? For what?” He said. He decided to devote the rest of his life to tell the truth about the miserable and immoral Vietnam War.