Archive for May, 2017

How America got to where it is today…

Monday, May 29th, 2017

JFK at 100

By Paul Craig Roberts

May 29, 2017 “Information Clearing House” –  This Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017, is the 100th birthday of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.

JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, as he approached the end of his third year in office. Researchers who spent years studying the evidence have concluded that President Kennedy was assassinated by a conspiracy between the CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secret Service. (See, for example, JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass)

Kennedy entered office as a cold warrior, but he learned from his interaction with the CIA and Joint Chiefs that the military/security complex had an agenda that was self-interested and a danger to humanity. He began working to defuse tensions with the Soviet Union. His rejections of plans to invade Cuba, of the Northwoods project, of a preemptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, and his intention to withdraw from Vietnam after his reelection, together with some of his speeches signaling a new approach to foreign policy in the nuclear age ( see for example, 

https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/BWC7I4C9QUmLG9J6I8oy8w.aspx ), convinced the military/security complex that he was a threat to their interests. Cold War conservatives regarded him as naive about the Soviet Threat and a liability to US national security. These were the reasons for his assassination. These views were set in stone when Kennedy announced on June 10, 1963, negotiations with the Soviets toward a nuclear test ban treaty and a halt to US atmospheric nuclear tests.

The Oswald coverup story never made any sense and was contradicted by all evidence including tourist films of the assassination. President Johnson had ro cover up the assassination, not because he was part of it or because he willfully wanted to deceive the American people, but because to give Americans the true story would have shaken their confidence in their government at a critical time in US-Soviet relations. To make the coverup succeed, Johnson needed the credibility of the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Earl Warren, to chair the commission that covered up the assassination. Warren understood the devastating impact the true story would have on the public and their confidence in the military and national security leadership and on America’s allies.

As I previously reported, Lance deHaven-Smith in his book, Conspiracy Theory in America, shows that the CIA introduced “conspiracy theory” into the political lexicon as a technique to discredit skepticism of the Warren Commission’s coverup report. He provides the CIA document that describes how the agency used its media friends to control the explanation.

The term “conspiracy theory” has been used ever since to validate false explanations by discrediting true explanations.

President Kennedy was also determined to require the Israel Lobby to register as a foreign agent and to block Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. His assassination removed the constraints on Israel’s illegal activities.  http://www.voltairenet.org/article178401.html

Memorial Day is when Americans honor those in the armed services who died serving the country. JFK fell while serving the causes of peace and nuclear disarmament. In a 1961 address to the United Nations, President Kennedy said:

“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us. It is therefore our intention to challenge the Soviet Union, not to an arms race, but to a peace race – to advance together step by step, stage by stage, until general and complete disarmament has been achieved.”

Kennedy’s address was well received at home and abroad and received a favorable and supportive response from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, but it caused consternation among the warhawks in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The US led in terms of the number of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, and this lead was the basis for US military plans for a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. http://prospect.org/article/did-us-military-plan-nuclear-first-strike-1963 Also, Many believed that nuclear disarmament would remove the obstacle to the Soviet Army overrunning Western Europe. Warhawks considered this a greater threat than nuclear armageddon. Many in high military circles regarded President Kennedy as weakening the US viv-a-vis the Soviet Union.

The assassination of President Kennedy was an enormous cost to the world. Kennedy and Khrushchev would have followed up their collaboration in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis by ending the Cold War long before the military/security complex achieved its iron grip on the US government. Israel would have been denied nuclear weapons, and the designation of the Israel Lobby as a foreign agent would have prevented Israel’s strong grip on the US government. In his second term, JFK would have broken the CIA into a thousand pieces, an intention he expressed to his brother, Robert, and the Deep State would have been terminated before it became more powerful than the President.

But the military/security complex struck first, and pulled off a coup that voided all these promises and terminated American democracy.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, How America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

Memorial Day

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Manchester Bombing Reflection — Civilians Killed by US Largely Ignored as Endless Global War Continues

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Manchester Bombing Reflection — Civilians Killed by US Largely Ignored as Endless Global War Continues

Reflection by Jim Albertini  Wed. May 24, 2017

“My heart goes out to the families of innocent people (especially children) killed or injured in the Manchester, England, bombing.  To see the faces of the people killed and hear the grief of families who lost loved ones is heart wrenching.  When will this violence end?   As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” We need to look at the root of this escalating violence.  What gave birth to ISIS?  Al-Qaeda? 

“The US and the CIA supported Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan when he was fighting the Russians.  Then came escalating US intervention, regime changes, and endless war in the Middle east — and the growth of Al Qaeda and ISIS.  Where is the violence headed?  As the article below states, “Civilians killed by US are largely ignored as endless global war continues.”  Perhaps if the faces of all the innocent people (especially the children) the U.S. has killed with bombs could be seen across the U.S. like the faces of Manchester bombing victims, and the grief of the families heard, we would all say “this violence has to stop.”  But by and large, we don’t see the faces of our innocent victims or hear and feel the grief of the U.S. victims families, hence the killings go on and on. 

“We point to the Terrorist violence of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, but fail to see the terrorizing violence of the U.S.A.  Or to put it another way: 

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:5

“To prevent further violence, and to break the existing escalating cycle of violence, we need to see the faces and hear the grief of all the victims of violence, especially the violence being conducted in our names.  Otherwise the bombs will continue to explode, including eventually nuclear bombs in cities all around the world.  It is up to each one of us to Stop the Violence.  Wage Peace not War!  Embrace the spiritual command to “Love your enemies.”  Practice non-violence.  Build a world of peace based on a foundation of justice for all.  It starts by taking the log out of our own eye.”

Jim Albertini

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/05/24/civilians-killed-us-largely-ignored-endless-global-war-continues

Published on
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Civilians Killed by US Largely Ignored as Endless Global War Continues

Borderless ‘War on Terror’—now operated by President Donald Trump—continues to claim innocent lives around the world… but pattern holds that not all victims receive equal attention

 
 

A man displays the bloodied shirt of a child victim at the rubble of houses destroyed by an Saudi airstrike in the Okash village near Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen continues with the backing and support of the U.S. (Photo:Reuters)

Contradicting a version of events presented by the U.S. military and reported widely by the corporate press, a human rights group and a journalist in Yemen are citing witnesses who said a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs on Monday night killed multiple innocent civilians and not just “Al Qaeda militants” as the Pentagon claimed.

“This new flawed raid by President Trump shows the US is not capable of distinguishing a terrorist from an innocent civilian.”
—Kate Higham, Reprieve
Reprieve, a UK-based human rights group, cited witnesses from the village of Al-Jubah in Marib province, where the raid took place, and offered the names of five civilians killed as Nasser Ali Mahdi Al-Adhal; Al-Ghader Saleh Salem Al-Adhal; Saleh Al-Taffaf; Yasser Al-Taffaf Al-Adhel; and Shebreen Saeed Salem Al-Adhal.

The witnesses said that none of those five were fighting for al-Qaeda and that Nasser al-Adhal, identified as being approximately 70-years-old and partially blind, was the first one shot by the U.S. soldiers when he mistook them for arriving guests and came out to greet them. According to Reprieve:

The four other villagers were killed when they started to argue with the Navy Seals after the shooting of Nasser al-Adhal. Six villagers were seriously injured, including another elderly man who was around 69-years-old.

Al-Qaeda fighters gathering nearby, who are thought to have been the original target of the raid, were alerted by the gunshots in the village and firefight ensued in which at least two of them were killed. The Navy SEALs then left with the help of air support from a helicopter.

Independent journalist Iona Craig, who has reported from the ground in Yemen for years, helped corroborate the version of events provided to Reprieve. “Five tribesmen amongst killed in US raid last night were not AQ,” Craig tweeted on Tuesday. “They were tribesmen of young activists who drove me from Mareb into Yakla.”

Part of the wider “global war on terror” that the U.S. began in the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, Yemen has been a target of drone strikes and clandestine operations for years. But as foreign policy experts and the people of Yemen have repeatedly stated, the use of drones and clandestine raids have only hardened Al-Qaeda’s position in the country and the killing of innocent civilians as provided a nearly perfect recruiting tool for the militant group.

In addition to backing the ongoing Saudi-led war against Yemen, the military under President Donald Trump has continued to target Al-Qaeda aligned forces in the country. In January, just days after his inauguration, Trump was roundly criticized for a botched raid that led to the death of one U.S. soldier and as many as thirty civilians, including children.

Kate Higham, head of the Assassinations Programme at Reprieve, said this week’s killing of more innocent Yemenis proves that Trump is no better than his predecessors when it comes to protecting civilian lives. 

“This new flawed raid by President Trump shows the US is not capable of distinguishing a terrorist from an innocent civilian,” Higham said in a statement. “When even a 70-year-old is shot dead, it is clear these attacks are not targeted or precise. President Trump must order an immediate investigation into what went wrong and halt all raids and drone strikes before more innocent Yemenis are killed.”

Yemen, of course, is not the only place where the U.S. military is claiming innocent lives. On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks casualties amid Syria’s ongoing civil war, reported the number of civilians killed by U.S. bombings over the last month has been the highest ever recorded over a 30-day time period. According to the group, 235 civilians were killed in U.S. airstrikes from April 23 to May 23. That number includes 44 children and 36 women.

“The past month of operations is the highest civilian toll since the coalition began bombing Syria,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence-France Presse in an interview. “There has been a very big escalation.”

According to Rahman’s group, which is also based in the U.K., the U.S.-led coalition has now killed 1,481 civilians since operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) began in 2014. Of that total number, the groups says, 319 were children.

And as people mourned the horrific loss of life in Manchester this week, where innocent children and other concert-goers were targeted by a suicide bomber, it was difficult not to notice the difference between the attention various killings—all of them horrific and none of them possible to justify—received in the dominant western press.

As journalist and columnist Glenn Greenwald, citing the killings of those civilians in Yemen on Monday, asked, “More reporting that US killed 5 more innocent Yemenis yesterday. Will the media tell their stories, hear from their grieving relatives, etc?”

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Where is the Pohakuloa Clean Up & Exit Plan?

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Aloha ‘Aina! Protect Pohakuloa!

                                                                                                                                                                 

     Military command officials of the 133,000-acre Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), located in the center of Hawaii Island, held meetings May 18 in Hilo and May 19 in Kona. These meetings were required under the National Historic Preservation Act concerning cultural, religious, and historic sites at PTA. Peace activist Jim Albertini said “the Hilo meeting was one of the most insulting I ever attended in my life.” The military turned away people at the door that had not sought prior permission to attend even though the notice sent out did not state that requirement.

     It is clear the military has no intention of seriously addressing questions that may restrict or stop their bombing plans, even on a base known to be contaminated with Depleted Uranium (DU) radiation. As for a question that the military address an exit plan for Pohakuloa with their lease expiring in 2029, it was very clear the military has no intention of leaving. That is how occupation works. How dare we raise that question and insist that the the entire area of Po-haku-loa –“the Land of the Night of Long Prayer” is sacred. From a spiritual perspective, Pohakuloa is viewed as the heavenly realm of unity between the three great mountains –Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai. This entire area should be designated an historic site of cultural and religious significance. To bomb such an area is desecration pure and simple! Auwe!

                                                                               

                   

Where is the Military Exit Plan?

  1. Mourn all victims of violence. 2. Reject war as a solution. 3. Defend civil liberties.
    4. Oppose all discrimination, anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Hawaiian, etc.
    5. Seek peace through peaceful means and work for justice in Hawai`i and around the world.

Contact: Malu ‘Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action
P.O. Box 489 Kurtistown, Hawai’i 96760 Phone (808) 966-7622. Email: ja@malu-aina.org

Sign up on our website to receive our posts  http://www.malu-aina.org/

Hilo Peace Vigil leaflet May 26, 2017– 818th week – Friday 3:30-5PM downtown Post Office

A timeless Graduation Message by the late Howard Zinn

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176285/best_of_tomdispatch%3A_graduation_day_with_howard_zinn/#more

Graduation Day With Howard Zinn
 

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: These days, when the only fully funded, expanding institutions in Washington may be in the national security state, when infrastructure is buckling nationwide, environmental protections are being radically stripped down, and ours is increasingly a government of the plutocrats, by the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats, when the White House is a daily producer of chaos news, the generals are riding high, America’s never-ending wars trundle onward, the Oval Office is a personal business venture, and the health care of millions stands in danger of being defunded, when climate-change denial is the order of the day on a fast-warming planet and our president’s dream world is a fossil-fuelized 1950s America, in a gerrymandered nation where voting is once again becoming a white privilege, if you happen to be a member of the class of 2017 graduating from college in the coming weeks, how could you not worry about the world you’re entering and what your lives in it might be like? How could you not feel unnerved, discouraged, and dismayed? With that in mind, I thought it might be appropriate to offer a classic graduation speech by Howard Zinn, famed author of A People’s History of the United States. It was first featured at TomDispatch in another moment of potential discouragement back in May 2005. Zinn’s words then — “The lesson… is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change” — ring no less powerfully today. (And just to set the scene, I even included my little introduction of that moment.) 

One other note: remember that our recent offer for Peter Van Buren’s new what-if novel, Hooper’s War, about the last days of World War II in the Pacific is still available at our donation page. For $100 ($125 if you live outside the U.S.), you can get State Department whistleblower Van Buren’s new book signed and personalized and, at the same time, help support a site that’s hell-bent on seeing a less discouraging world emerge from our present chaos. Tom]   

It’s a beautiful day in May. The sun is streaming down; the birds are on their migration paths north; the first daylilies are just breaking into bloom — and students are gathering for their graduation ceremonies on an afternoon when everything seems just right in a world where so much seems so wrong. These are the students who began their college lives within weeks, possibly days, even hours of that moment when, on September 11, 2001, the first hijacked plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. Certainly they — above all classes of recent times — have the right to peer into a murky future and wonder, with a certain trepidation, what’s in store for them. Through no fault of their own, they have earned the right to discouragement, even perhaps despair.

And yet, as our commencement speaker steps to the podium, that sun is shining brightly enough to imagine the world begun anew — and don’t we all, these students at the end of their college careers and the rest of us, don’t we all have the right to graduate, all those of us who, whatever our ages, come from the class of 9/11?

So all of you, settle into your chairs, take off your hats, feel the comforting heat of that sun beating down, and consider the words of Howard Zinn as he urges the students of Spelman College not to be discouraged, not to despair, but to enter the world with their heads held high, imagining what each of them might do for him or herself — and for the rest of us. Tom

Against Discouragement
By Howard Zinn

[In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights activities. This year, he was invited back to give the commencement address. Here is the text of that speech, given on May 15, 2005.]

I am deeply honored to be invited back to Spelman after forty-two years. I would like to thank the faculty and trustees who voted to invite me, and especially your president, Dr. Beverly Tatum. And it is a special privilege to be here with Diahann Carroll and Virginia Davis Floyd.

But this is your day — the students graduating today. It’s a happy day for you and your families. I know you have your own hopes for the future, so it may be a little presumptuous for me to tell you what hopes I have for you, but they are exactly the same ones that I have for my grandchildren.

My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war — still another war, war after war — and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend, is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged by all that.

But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you must not be discouraged.

I want to remind you that, fifty years ago, racial segregation here in the South was entrenched as tightly as was apartheid in South Africa. The national government, even with liberal presidents like Kennedy and Johnson in office, was looking the other way while black people were beaten and killed and denied the opportunity to vote. So black people in the South decided they had to do something by themselves. They boycotted and sat in and picketed and demonstrated, and were beaten and jailed, and some were killed, but their cries for freedom were soon heard all over the nation and around the world, and the President and Congress finally did what they had previously failed to do — enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many people had said: The South will never change. But it did change. It changed because ordinary people organized and took risks and challenged the system and would not give up. That’s when democracy came alive.

I want to remind you also that when the war in Vietnam was going on, and young Americans were dying and coming home paralyzed, and our government was bombing the villages of Vietnam — bombing schools and hospitals and killing ordinary people in huge numbers — it looked hopeless to try to stop the war. But just as in the Southern movement, people began to protest and soon it caught on. It was a national movement. Soldiers were coming back and denouncing the war, and young people were refusing to join the military, and the war had to end.

The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies. I know you have practical things to do — to get jobs and get married and have children. You may become prosperous and be considered a success in the way our society defines success, by wealth and standing and prestige. But that is not enough for a good life.

Remember Tolstoy’s story, “The Death of Ivan Illych.” A man on his deathbed reflects on his life, how he has done everything right, obeyed the rules, become a judge, married, had children, and is looked upon as a success. Yet, in his last hours, he wonders why he feels a failure. After becoming a famous novelist, Tolstoy himself had decided that this was not enough, that he must speak out against the treatment of the Russian peasants, that he must write against war and militarism.

My hope is that whatever you do to make a good life for yourself — whether you become a teacher, or social worker, or business person, or lawyer, or poet, or scientist — you will devote part of your life to making this a better world for your children, for all children. My hope is that your generation will demand an end to war, that your generation will do something that has not yet been done in history and wipe out the national boundaries that separate us from other human beings on this earth.

Recently I saw a photo on the front page of the New York Times which I cannot get out of my mind. It showed ordinary Americans sitting on chairs on the southern border of Arizona, facing Mexico. They were holding guns and they were looking for Mexicans who might be trying to cross the border into the United States. This was horrifying to me — the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call “civilization,” we have carved up what we claim is one world into two hundred artificially created entities we call “nations” and are ready to kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary, so fierce it leads to murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking, cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on, have been useful to those in power, deadly for those out of power.

Here in the United States, we are brought up to believe that our nation is different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral; that we expand into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy. But if you know some history you know that’s not true. If you know some history, you know we massacred Indians on this continent, invaded Mexico, sent armies into Cuba, and the Philippines. We killed huge numbers of people, and we did not bring them democracy or liberty. We did not go into Vietnam to bring democracy; we did not invade Panama to stop the drug trade; we did not invade Afghanistan and Iraq to stop terrorism. Our aims were the aims of all the other empires of world history — more profit for corporations, more power for politicians.

The poets and artists among us seem to have a clearer understanding of the disease of nationalism. Perhaps the black poets especially are less enthralled with the virtues of American “liberty” and “democracy,” their people having enjoyed so little of it. The great African-American poet Langston Hughes addressed his country as follows:

You really haven’t been a virgin for so long.
It’s ludicrous to keep up the pretext

You’ve slept with all the big powers
In military uniforms,
And you’ve taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellows

Being one of the world’s big vampires,
Why don’t you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France,
And all the other nymphomaniacs of power.

I am a veteran of the Second World War. That was considered a “good war,” but I have come to the conclusion that war solves no fundamental problems and only leads to more wars. War poisons the minds of soldiers, leads them to kill and torture, and poisons the soul of the nation.

My hope is that your generation will demand that your children be brought up in a world without war. If we want a world in which the people of all countries are brothers and sisters, if the children all over the world are considered as our children, then war — in which children are always the greatest casualties — cannot be accepted as a way of solving problems.

I was on the faculty of Spelman College for seven years, from 1956 to 1963. It was a heartwarming time, because the friends we made in those years have remained our friends all these years. My wife Roslyn and I and our two children lived on campus. Sometimes when we went into town, white people would ask: How is it to be living in the black community? It was hard to explain. But we knew this — that in downtown Atlanta, we felt as if we were in alien territory, and when we came back to the Spelman campus, we felt that we were at home.

Those years at Spelman were the most exciting of my life, the most educational certainly. I learned more from my students than they learned from me. Those were the years of the great movement in the South against racial segregation, and I became involved in that in Atlanta, in Albany, Georgia, in Selma, Alabama, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Greenwood and Itta Bena and Jackson. I learned something about democracy: that it does not come from the government, from on high, it comes from people getting together and struggling for justice. I learned about race. I learned something that any intelligent person realizes at a certain point — that race is a manufactured thing, an artificial thing, and while race does matter (as Cornel West has written), it only matters because certain people want it to matter, just as nationalism is something artificial. I learned that what really matters is that all of us — of whatever so-called race and so-called nationality — are human beings and should cherish one another.

I was lucky to be at Spelman at a time when I could watch a marvelous transformation in my students, who were so polite, so quiet, and then suddenly they were leaving the campus and going into town, and sitting in, and being arrested, and then coming out of jail full of fire and rebellion. You can read all about that in Harry Lefever’s book Undaunted by the Fight. One day Marian Wright (now Marian Wright Edelman), who was my student at Spelman, and was one of the first arrested in the Atlanta sit-ins, came to our house on campus to show us a petition she was about to put on the bulletin board of her dormitory. The heading on the petition epitomized the transformation taking place at Spelman College. Marian had written on top of the petition: “Young Ladies Who Can Picket, Please Sign Below.”

My hope is that you will not be content just to be successful in the way that our society measures success; that you will not obey the rules, when the rules are unjust; that you will act out the courage that I know is in you. There are wonderful people, black and white, who are models. I don’t mean African- Americans like Condoleezza Rice, or Colin Powell, or Clarence Thomas, who have become servants of the rich and powerful. I mean W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Marian Wright Edelman, and James Baldwin and Josephine Baker and good white folk, too, who defied the Establishment to work for peace and justice.

Another of my students at Spelman, Alice Walker, who, like Marian, has remained our friend all these years, came from a tenant farmer’s family in Eatonton, Georgia, and became a famous writer. In one of her first published poems, she wrote:

It is true–
I’ve always loved
the daring
ones
Like the black young
man
Who tried
to crash
All barriers
at once,
wanted to
swim
At a white
beach (in Alabama)
Nude.

I am not suggesting you go that far, but you can help to break down barriers, of race certainly, but also of nationalism; that you do what you can — you don’t have to do something heroic, just something, to join with millions of others who will just do something, because all of those somethings, at certain points in history, come together, and make the world better.

That marvelous African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, who wouldn’t do what white people wanted her to do, who wouldn’t do what black people wanted her to do, who insisted on being herself, said that her mother advised her: Leap for the sun — you may not reach it, but at least you will get off the ground.

By being here today, you are already standing on your toes, ready to leap. My hope for you is a good life.

Howard Zinn (1922–2010) was a historian, playwright, and activist. He wrote the classic A People’s History of the United States, which will be available soon in a new 35th anniversary edition, and A People’s History of American Empire, told in comics form, with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle. He taught at Spelman College, a black women’s college in Atlanta, where he became active in the civil rights movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support of student protesters, Zinn became a professor of political science at Boston University. Zinn was the author of many books, including an autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. He received the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction and the Eugene V. Debs award for his writing and political activism.

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Copyright 2005 Howard Zinn