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Vietnam Era Vividly Recalled

I enjoyed reading about Carl Levin ’56 in the spring 2015 Bulletin. But I wonder about one point. The article says that Levin recalled “helping to lead a book drive to provide a library in war-torn Vietnam.” As a member of the class of 1956, Levin was extraordinarily aware of world events to have contributed to a library there before Vietnam had entered the consciousness of most American college students. 

The conflict in Vietnam was very much in our consciousness at Swarthmore in the mid-1960s. The Senate passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in August 1964, in response to an alleged attack on American ships by the North Vietnamese (an allegation since disproven). I remember one day that fall being approached as I lunched in Sharples by a fellow student drumming up support for a statement of opposition to this act.

In April 1965, dozens of us boarded buses to Washington, D.C., to participate in the first big march against the war. I vividly recall sitting on a grassy hillside as Paul Potter, then president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), told us that while it was good of us to come out in protest on a particular day, it took commitment every day to bring about important social change. (Paul Booth ’64 and Nick Egleson ’66 also served as presidents of SDS.)

I learned a great deal about the background to American involvement in Vietnam at a one-day teach-in on campus; if memory serves, it happened in 1967. These extracurricular events were every bit as important to who I am today as the superb education I got in Swarthmore’s classrooms and faculty living rooms where seminars were held.

Finally, I applaud Sen. Levin’s intention to continue attacking the forces that increase income inequality in American society. More power to him.

—Caroline Jean Acker ’68 Berkeley, Calif.