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TFHS Students Share "A Day of Concern"

TURNERS FALLS- "A Day of Concern" a quiet, soul-searching relaxing day on the lawn under the pines at Turners Falls High School yesterday reflecting on the pros, cons and moralities of the Vietnam war and the Cambodian invasion, proved to be an interesting and enlightening experience for TFHS students, according to school administrators, teachers and other observers.

The TFHS Student Council, with permission of Prin. Donald J. Lapierre, set up a speaking-discussion rally with a Vietnamese Catholic priest, two University of Massachusetts government department professors, a retired professor of engineering and two students taking part.

Also on hand were St. Mary's folk singing group which was slightly upstaged halfway through the program by a rock group know as "Wrought" ("Like in Iron," one student explained.)

Moderator for the program was Junior High School Prin. Paul C. Bassett who, with LaPierre and others late termed the whole program as "enlightening," "deeply moving", and "excellent".

Fr. Hua, a Vietnamese Catholic priest who is a doctoral candidate at UMass and attached to the Newman Center there, began the speaking by reviewing the backgrounds of Indo-Chinese nations and the events that led to their current situations. Fr. Hua was "born in North Vietnam, moved to South Vietnam in 1954 and became a chaplain in the South Vietnamese army.

The first speaker advocating a quick withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam and Cambodia and denouncing Pres. Nixon's decision to send troops into Cambodia as "unconstitutional" was Dr. Charles Burke, a UMass government department professor.

He said he was in favor of a government amendment that will prevent money from being appropriated for troop movement in Cambodia after a certain date and the same in Vietnam after 1970 without a declaration of war by Congress. No matter how you call it, the action is a war, he said.

"The time has gone by on all such power being given to a president," he said. "I don't want all my eggs in the hands of one official. This is the position of a good many of my colleagues."

Carl Keyser, an Amherst resident who is a former professor of engineering at UMass and now retired, spoke in favor of Pres. Nixon and his administration's stand, reviewed the history of Communist aggression all over the world bringing the situation up to the present time. Speaking on the move into Cambodia, Keyser said, "Carrying the war to its source of supply in Cambodia is an improvement over fighting the war in Vietnam alone. This should have been done long ago in North Vietnam too."

In a question and answer period after his talk, Keyser defended Vice-Pres. Spiro Agnew's "stand and rhetoric" against the news media. He flatly denied an implication that he was a member of the John Birch Society, but did but did point out, "At least the Birchers don't go around smashing windows and creating violence," this drawing a round of applause.

Keyser also quoted himself further as a member of the Amherst Republic Town Committee but said that he had "become dislusioned" with the Republican Party in Massachusetts and was "about to get out." He told news reporters after his speech that he had gladly given up his career as an engineering professor to follow his conscience and speak at such rallies at yesterday's here. "I find it a much more rewarding experience," he said.

Following the musical selections of Wrought, which were met with mixed but attentive reactions, Prof. Joseph Braunthal of the UMass government department continued the theme of withdrawal set up earlier by Prof. Burke.

Prof. Braunthal described many "democratic countries where students are jailed. He said also that the South Vietnamese government only can remain in power with the presence of United States military might.

He said, "Where are our democratic allies?" he claimed the answer to much more than just communism against non-communism. "The average peasant in these countries is not interested in ideology. He is interested only in getting enough to eat. He doesn't want foreigners on his soil."

"Why is it we always align ourselves to governments which continue to cater to wealthy landlords and keep the working man down. We support reactionary governments and military juntas which do not have the majority of the people in back of them."

He claimed also that the differences between the United States and the USSR are vanishing.

Noting again the average peasant doesn't want foreigners there he said, "It was an error to go there (Cambodia). They will only establish sanctuaries elsewhere. The 20-mile invasion limit does not make sense. The invasion is only an expansion of the war and will make sense. The invasion is only an expansion of the war and will make it more dangerous. It's a guerilla war that cannot be won by either side."

He advocated pulling out of Vietnam as soon as possible. "Enough blood has been spilled already. Continued American presence will only lead to more." He also predicted the Vietnamization policy of this country will be a "big bust."

TFHS's Dave Simanski spoke quickly in favor of with drawal concluding with, "Men have learned to fly like the birds. Men can swim in the sea like fish. But man has not yet learned to walk the earth in peace."

Speaking for the administration and its policies, Gertz? Bonnette noted, "The south of today is concerned. That is good. Many disagree with President Nixon. War is wrong. But no man in Nixon's position would deliberately do anything that is going to ultimately hurt the nation and its ultimate goal of peace.

"I wonder who has filled the heads of students and steamed them up to attack their own leaders and country." Bonnette likened this to goals of communists established years ago.

"I am not saying youthful dissenters are supporting communism, but I am saying youth does not know enough about communism to understand how it works," he finished. For this he received much applause.

Classes were suspended for the day at 9:30. The rally lasted until well after 1 pm. Students for the most part were interested and attentive from the start. The questions they asked the speakers were well thought out and responsible.

"They all seemed to have gained much experience and knowledge from this program," said Prin. LaPierre, who had given consent for the rally, provided good speakers on both sides of the issue could be found. And they were.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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There is currently no available "Beginner" label. The following is the default level label: After the United States invasion of Cambodia and the death of Kent State University students in May of 1970, it was not on college and university campuses alone that anti-Vietnam War protest could be found. While college students struck against the war, students and school officials at the high school in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, a small mill town in the Pioneer Valley, organized a teach-in to hear both critics and defenders of the Vietnam War. The interest of high school students is perhaps not surprising since young male graduates could be drafted into the military at age 18. University of Massachusetts faculty members were the speakers at the teach-in. Asserting that Congress should take back the war powers that it granted to the President with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Dr. Charles Burke said that "he was in favor of a government amendment that will prevent money from being appropriated for troop movement in Cambodia after a certain date and the same in Vietnam after 1970 without a declaration of war by Congress." Other speakers at the teach-in defended the invasion of Cambodia.


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"TFHS Students Share "A Day of Concern" article in The Greenfield Recorder newspaper

publisher   Greenfield Recorder
author   Charlie Keller
date   May 13, 1970
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
width   5.75"
height   6.75"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L06.045

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See Also...

"Communication Trouble" editorial in The Greenfield Recorder-Gazette newspaper

"War Protest Keeps New England College Campuses in Ferment" article in The Greenfield Recorder newspaper

"Students Trying to Convert Congressmen" article in The Greenfield Recorder newspaper

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