Even if you didn’t know him personally, never heard him speak, or never read his writings, Tom Hayden was a friend to us all and the clarion voice of my generation. Tom was one of the leading voices in the early days of the Students for a Democratic Society. He was one of the Chicago 7 arrested, tried and convicted for speaking out against the war in Vietnam. He was a State Senator in California. And he was a leading critic of the American Empire.
I am not going to eulogize him. Our friends at Jacobin did that eloquently and I encourage you to read their beautiful recollection of Tom’s life here.
But even more important, we should all reread and think about the document Tom played a major role in writing, The Port Huron Statement.
Yes, it’s dated. It’s not as direct and challenging as statements that would come later. It is in some ways no longer politically correct. It was written in 1962 and whether you want to admit it or not it is the foundational statement upon which later, more politically “acceptable” manifestos were largely based.
It was for my generation the first post-Eisenhower declaration of discontent and unease with the American Empire. It was the document which just a few years later led many of us into the streets of Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Washington D.C.
It may be quaint now, but it was a battle-cry then.