Julie Butterfly Hill
Speech at Kent State
May 4, 2000

JuliaHillCrop.jpg (11080 bytes)


Thank you so much. I'm humbled and very honored to be here today. I've been going through wave after wave of emotion as I feel the energy of our brothers and sisters lost thirty years ago. And the brothers and sisters that have been lost in the last thirty years and he brothers and sisters who will continue to be lost until all people in America and around the world decide to take a stand together for freedom, for justice, for peace, for love.

When I was still in the tree, during the war in Yugoslavia, when I was appalled after the Columbine shootings, hearing our president, President Clinton, standing up before America and the world and saying, "We must teach our children how to deal with difficult situations and conflicts with means other than violence." as he dropped bombs on innocent people running for their lives. The anger that I felt and I have since learned how to transform, turned itself into a prayer. And the answer to my prayer was in, that, in the war of politics and power and profit, all of love becomes a target. That I sat in an ancient redwood tree for 738 days because it and all of its brothers and sisters are targets just as surely as those who died thirty years ago today. And just as surely as all those who are standing up for free speech, for peace, for justice, for freedom and love, that all of these become a target in that war.

On my way here yesterday as we were traveling, I was reading over, rereading over some history of what happened here. And I saw the words "needless tragedy" in front of me. And I read past it and then I stopped because the wrong of it sank straight into my heart. Needles Tragedy. As if tragedy is ever necessary or needed. And when I was reading through it a poem came to me that I'd like to share with you today. A poem that is based on what is needless, what is tragedy. A poem based on what happened her thirty years ago today and a poem that then says, "What is our responsibility today as living people on this planet? How do we honor those who have given live for a life?" This poem is dedicated to May 4, 1970 with much respect.

I read the words "documented history of a needless tragedy."
As if tragedy is ever necessary or needed.
A moment in time before my time,
Locked away in the archives of bitter regret.
Four dead, nine wounded, four dead nine wounded.
Some of many all over this country and around the world
Echoing in my mine the haunting memories
Refusing to be silenced, refusing to be forgotten.

Tears streamed down my face
As the imprint of lost lives weighs heavy upon my heart.
My body shakes with sadness, anger and outrage.
I want to scream out loud enough for the world to hear and understand
That America is not all apple pie and baseball,
That in this "land of the free"
We are only as free as the confines of our complacency.

To take a stand for freedom, for justice
Brings us one step closer to what they call reasonable use of force.
Of bullets shot into a crowd and pepper spray
Poured into the eyes of those who are willing
To put their bodies where their beliefs are.

Oh America, our ancestors, from whatever land they came
Turn over in their graves, hands pressed to faces in horror
Of what we have allowed ourselves to become.
Our sickness of uprooted consciousness spreads its dis ease
Into the hearts and minds and spirits of those who have bought the lies,
Sold in pretty packages and over consumption under the guise of freedom.

In its wake lies broken, hurt, devastated, destroyed
Consciously active people, hurt, tortured, killed
For taking a stand for what they believed in
Exercising muscles that we five up every day
As we fall one moment deeper into the numbing stupor of America.

But today is the day to remind us that every moment counts. Be willing to take a stand and do something, knowing the pain associated with struggle transforms itself into our strength. Today is the day to remind us that every moment counts, that every action changes the world, that every word shapes our reality, that our inactions succumb ourrights to our oppressors. Today is the day to challenge our perceptions and the status quo, to speak truth into the darkness of ignorance, to hold ourselves accountable for the impact of our choice. Today is the day to be willing to die for all that we beleive in, not because we should live in a world that feeds upon martyrs, but because them we truly understand how to live.Today is the day to remind us that every moment counts. Our lasting legacy is the live we leave behind. That is our legacy.

As I was listening to the speakers today it was resonating with me how many things they were talking about that came to me in this poem. I think that truth is inherent with all of us. Are we ready to wake up and look at it? Are we willing to wake up and respect our responsibility with how this world has changed every moment of every day?

I'm here today because I understand that the environment and the social justice issues are one. That is,  it is all becomes a target because we as peoples stand up and exercise our muscles. When we do not exercise our muscles,they atrophy and we lose them. Every time we allow an injustice to happen without speaking out, without acting out, another muscle is gone and another person or another species will pay the price. I am honored and so blessed to be here because I see how all of live is truly connected.

As I was living in that tree, day in and day out, looking out at the world form a perspective that has taught me many lifetimes, that I continue to learn from every moment of every day. I saw how truly impactful we are as human beings are. It's not can we make a difference. It's that we do make a difference. Every single thing we do, every time we walk away because we're afraid, because we don't want to lose our comfortablity, because we don't want to be willing to face pain because it's too much. Every time we walk away our inactions are as much a part of shaping the word as the actions of those who are destroying it.

When I was up at the tree pointing at corporations like Pacific Lumber, pointing at government officials who are really good at saying the right thing, but their words are empty, their words are hollow. As I was pointing at all that's wrong in the world, I realized there's three fingers pointing back. Those three fingers for me stand for power, responsibility and love. Every I point at those who are doing the wrong in the world, the government leaders who will oppress us every chance they get because it is the war that they wish to perpetuate. Every time I point at the corporations who are destroying the air that we breathe  where children running around on their playing grounds now have to stop and breathe from an inhaler so they don't pass out and die. Every time I point at the corporations who have destroyed out water so much that we now spend a dollar ninety-nine on clean water that comes in a plastic bottle that furthers the destruction of our planet. Every time I point to all that's wrong in the world, there's three fingers pointing back. That is my power, Everything I do and say changes the world. I have the power to change the world.

The second finger is responsibility. We've all been given the most precious gift called life.Where we've forgotten how precious  life is because our society has decided that our values should be on money above our value for life. And so many of us have fallen into that system where we're worried about what kind of clothes are we wearing, what kind of car are we driving, what kind of jewelry do we have. We've fallen into that stupor that numbs us to the pain of what we're doing to the world, to the forests, to the animals, to the children, to the peoples, to the cultures, to our history. That our responsibility to that life is tremendous. We've forgotten how tremendous life is. I had forgotten until for 738 days I looked down at this beautiful planet we call home and was not able to touch it.

And the magic of how truly blessed we are came to me every moment of every day when I was sitting up there getting hit with the worst storms in recorded history of California, watching my life slipping through my fingers, suffering worse than I've ever suffered in my live, I realized magical life truly is.

And because we have that power to change that gift for others we have the responsibility to use our power compassionately, to use our power to bring the power back to the conscious, caring, compassionate, respectful loving people to which the power truly belongs. That is our responsibility.

And the third finger for me is love because there is no other way. It is hate that killed four and wounded nine. It is hate that has destroyed 97% of the ancient redwoods in California and continues to destroy more. It is hate that looks at people of color and says, "Savage" and "Wrong" and says "Bad." It is hate that allows us to get caught up until we become overwhelmed, until we become a part of that which we're trying to change. I truly beleive that it is only through love that our hope for a beautiful and healthy and balanced world will come back to the people and to the children and every species left on this planet.

My hope is that every person who leaves here today will realize that the best way we can honor those who died and were hurt here, all across the country and around the world that is continuing every day, that our way of honoring them is going to be more than just showing up today. It is going to leaving committed to doing our part to make the world a better place because that is our legacy, that is our hope for the future.

As we point at what is wrong with the world, as we stand here even pointing today, we must embody what is right, we must beleive in our power to change the world. We must accept our responsibility to do it for the better. And we must, through committed action, action, in love, realize that our power to change the world lies in the form of our own hands. The destroyer and the hero lies within the hearts of each and every one of us. Who are you going to choose to be? My hope for you, my hope for this planet, my hope for all the species and the children to whom we will pass on this legacy is that each and every one of you will stand up and leave here today with the renewed sense of committed action and love and a decision to stand as a here, to be willing to face ridicule, to be willing to face pain, and through love, transform to be the strongest, most beautiful, passionate people that we have ever seen in our history. Thank you.

For more information on Julia you can link to the sites below:
Julia Butterfly Hill Web Site
ProActivist.com People and History Links: Julia Butterfly Hill and the Luna Tree Sit

Other May 4, 2000 Speeches
Barry Levine on Allison Krause | Ramona Africa | Wendy Semon-Introduction | Julliette Beck | Julia Butterfly Hill | Vernon Bellecourt | Noam Chomsky

May 4 Chronology | Forum Page | May 4, 1998 | May 4, 1999 | May 4, 2000 | Jackson State | Banner Exchange | Tent City | Parking Lot MemorialsMay 4 Memorial | Arthur Krause | Links PagePentagon Demo | William Kunstler | May 4 Task Force | Mabl Iraq Page | Mirrors | Web Site Overview | Web Site Future | HOME