Comments by Marty Wood at the
rededication of the Kent State Memorial
May 5, 2003
Iím pleased to see so many here today, and very pleased
that we are rededicating the Kent State Memorial.
Itís one of several little-known treasures here at UW Ė Eau Claire.
When I first arrived here seventeen years ago, no one mentioned the
memorial in any orientation meeting or tour of the campus.
I didnít learn about it for three or four years.
Since the moment those four unarmed students were shot,
Iíve been unable to forget May 4th, 1970, and Kent State.
For me itís one of those events for which I remember exactly what I was
doing when I first heard the news. I
was an active anti-war protestor in those days, and I remember immediately
thinking that protesting had never seemed like something that could get you
killed. But the truth is,
itís rarely an easy matter to protest against your own government, especially
in times of conflict. People have
been massacred by state governments all over the world for the same offense.
Amritsar, Prague, Sharpeville, Wounded Knee, Kent State, Jackson State,
Derry, Soweto Ė just to name a few of the more recent occurrences.
But each year around May 4th, what I remember
are the four dead in Ohio. A few
years after I came to UW Ė Eau Claire, I mentioned the anniversary to a
colleague, and he told me that we have our own memorial to the victims of Kent
State. To be honest, I was quite
surprised. I found the site later
that very day, and the four flowering crabapple trees were in full, glorious
blossom. I sat on the bench, and
read the simple, eloquent statement engraved on the plaque.
I was moved, of course, but beyond this, I was impressed at the
thoughtfulness and concern expressed by our institution.
There are memorials all across this country honoring those who have
fallen in foreign wars, but none Ė none that I knew of, anyway Ė to honor those who fell at home exercising the very rights for which our soldiers fought.
One of those soldiers was a classmate of mine.
At the time, we disagreed about the Vietnam War Ė but our disagreement
hardly matters now. His name is
carved on the Wall in Washington, DC. Right
here in Eau Claire, on the plaque, we can read four other young names.
Both memorials claim our honor and gratitude.
Each year since that day, Iíve returned to the memorial to observe the anniversary. Often the timing is perfect, and the crabs are again in full blossom. You canít help but admire their quiet beauty, and think about their meaning and their promise. The memorial speaks more eloquently than I ever could about the continuing gift of life itself, the preciousness of young lives, and the vital importance of the rights for which these four young people, along with so many others, have made the ultimate sacrifice. We honor them all with this memorial.