50 year ago, I vandalized the ROTC offices at Northwestern. Here’s why (and how) I’m now atoning
On Friday, I will attend the solemn ceremony at Northwestern University in which Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps students will take the oath to become members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. As both a faculty member and graduate of Northwestern, I try to attend each year as these outstanding young people commit themselves to a life fraught with potential danger in service to our country. They have earned and deserve our solidarity and support.
Almost 50 years ago, as a Northwestern undergraduate, I was arrested for damaging the NROTC offices during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration. At the time, many of us believed that NROTC contributed to the war effort, and therefore had to be removed from campus.
As a leftist then and now, I have no qualms about admitting to my errors, one of which was a wholesale misunderstanding of the importance of the ROTC program — Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Air Force — on college campuses.
A few years ago, retired Gen. Karl Eikenberry spoke to a full house at Northwestern and asked how many of the students had parents or siblings who had served in the military. Few stood up. Then he asked the rest of us, ranging widely in age. As the audience began to stand, we could see that the older people — folks around my age — were rising almost to a person. We were the children of veterans of World War II and the Korean War, and the generation that might have served in Vietnam. Those were all wars in which young men were subject to conscription. There may not have been universal service, but the military ranks included every segment of the population.
Today we have no draft. Instead, we have an all-volunteer military, few in number, high in technology. On the …read more
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