Today’s America reflects on the Kent State shootings

Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives

2020 is not the first time colleges dispersed with classes on campus and canceled commencements.

Fifty years ago this month, after four Kent State University students were killed by bullets from the Ohio National Guard, some colleges feared that violence could occur on their campuses and sent students home. Some canceled final exams, and several canceled graduation ceremonies.

May 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. To learn how this tragic event continues to resonate in 2020, the Jandoli Institute posed a question:

Why is it important for today’s America to reflect upon the Kent State shootings?

We are grateful to all of those who took time to share their thoughts about Kent State with the Jandoli Institute:

If you would like to add a response to the question, reply to this post with your response or send it via email to jandoli@sbu.edu.

For more information, visit Kent State University’s May 4, 50th Commemoration page.

4 comments

  1. I was eleven years old in 1970 and the killings at Kent State on May 4 ushered me from childhood to a more grown up worldview almost overnight. Prior to that fateful Monday, the anti-war protests were like a cool television drama with its own soundtrack by the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan and CSNY.
    I was fascinated by the hippie culture and the anti-establishment message of my older cousin’s group of friends. He was a member of Students for a Democratic Society and read a lot of really thick books on the subject of government tyranny and the history of violent revolution. He took me to the campus a couple of years after so that I could put my finger in the hole of the statue outside of Taylor Hall that was pierced by a Gaurdsman’s bullet.
    Ever since I wiggled my finger through that hole, I realized how fragile our democracy is and how important it is to keep informed and pay attention to what is going on around us in the world. I think it was that summer I decided to go into some form of journalism. I subscribed to multiple news magazines and the National Geographic and began keeping a journal.
    When it was my time to attend college, I enrolled in the Journalism program at Kent State University – and, yes, the first thing I did on my first day of school was go back to that sculpture and wiggle my finger in the hole.
    I think that what we can glean from commemorating the May 4 killings is a realization that our nation is built on the shoulders of those who have suffered great loss and that we must never let complacency or apathy keep us from holding our leaders to the ideals of a democracy designed for all of us – not just the privileged few.
    “How can you run when you know?”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was turning 18 that fall and the reality of the war in Vietnam was uppermost in my mind. I was opposed to the war but was too young to demonstrate against it or at least didn’t know anyone who was in the small village of Arcade, New York. It was a time much like today of “America, Love it or Leave it.” We’ve seen a resurgence of that jingoism in the past several years in this country. Eventually I did participate in an anti-war demonstration in the spring of 1972 when I was a freshman at State University College at Oswego. Ironically less than two months later I enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve after being drafted to serve. I proudly served as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman and while I’m proud of that service I’ve never forgotten the war and those of us who protested it. Hearing the familiar melody of “Ohio” today on YouTube brought all those memories to the fore once more.

    Liked by 1 person

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