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Vigilers bring candles from Prentice lot to the Kent State Commons at 12:24 PM on May 4.
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Kent State Commons, May 4, 1998
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28th Annual Commemoration banner with theme.
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March to President Cartwright's office in the KSU library.
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Demonstrators sit down in front of KSU library.
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Ron Kovic addresses crowd in front of library.

28th Commemoration Speakers
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Timothy Moore

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Ruth Gibson

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Robbie Stamps

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U Sam Oeur

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The main commemoration program is held on May 4 each year and begins at noon on the Kent State Commons, weather permitting. This year rain did threaten, but rapidly moving clouds and brisk winds provided a sunny and somewhat chilly atmosphere for the crowd of about 500. This year's featured speaker, Ron Kovic, spoke early in the program. Ron is a Vietnam Veteran who was paralyzed in action during the war. Before the war, Ron was a typical baby boomer growing up in America, involved in sports, patriotic and approaching adulthood with naive optimism about his future. His experiences in Vietnam changed all that. Even after he returned home and found himself bound for life in a wheel chair, he felt that the American dream would be within his grasp. But he was learning rapidly that the dream and reality were much different. As a disabled Vet he found himself ignored by the government he went to war for. As he investigated the war in Vietnam it became obvious to him that he and America were being lied to. Since then Ron has dedicated his life to peace and justice issues, whether it be the plight of all Veterans or protesting against U.S. militarism abroad.

Other speakers included Ruth Gibson ,U Sam Oeur, Timothy Moore and Robbie Stamps. In addition, four past and present members of the M4TF gave presentations on behalf of the four students killed on May 4, 1970 relating to the crowd advice Allison, Jeffrey, Sandra and Bill might have offered to today's youth had they not been killed in 1970.

Ruth Gibson, now a practicing attorney in Akron, OH, was a Kent State Student and anti-war activist in 1970. Robbie Stamps was protesting on the Kent State campus on May 4, 1970 and was one of nine students wounded by the Ohio National Guard. Robbie is currently a member of the Kent State faculty. Timothy Moore is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Pan-African Studies and an Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State. U Sam Oeur is a renowned Cambodian poet who survived the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia in the 1970s.

Each of these speakers spoke of those events in their lives, whether the events of May 4, 1970 or the conflict in Southeast Asia and how it changed them forever. Each had many poignant lessons for those in the audience.

Throughout the program there was much discussion by speakers and audience alike of the events of the proceeding evening after the Vigil March. At the conclusion of the program, Ron Kovic spoke to the crowd about the parking lot where cars still park on the spots where the four students were killed in 1970 and Kent State University's continued insensitivity towards the wishes of the parents of these students. Over 200 marchers followed Ron from the University Commons to the University Library which houses the Administrative offices including that of President Carol Cartwright. On the way they stopped in Prentice parking lot for a moment of silence. At the library they were met by a confused and somewhat disoriented Kent State Police Department who immediately closed the library in order to prevent the protesters from entering and presenting their concerns to President Cartwright.

The protesters promptly sat down and vowed not to leave until their concerns were addressed by the the administration. Eventually, a group of representatives were allowed in to speak to president Cartwright. After about an hour the group emerged from the library. President Cartwright had agreed to consider closing the parking spaces in Prentice lot and would render a final decision on July 1. (Prior to July 1 the university announced that it would indeed close the spots and erect permanent markers in the Prentice parking lot. For more information link here.) Two generations, unified in purpose and determination making a difference.


All photos on page by Mike Pacifico

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