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1960's era activists weigh in on student response to gun violence


Two Delaware activists who came of age during the turbulent 1960s say they’re impressed with the burst of student activism over the gun violence issue.

“We’re seeing a sea change in consciousness across the whole country,” says George Wolkind of Bear, a leader in the 1960s of antiwar protests on the University of Delaware campus. “In the ‘’60s, we had the war in Vietnam. Now, in 2018, we have the war in America.”

Wolkind is optimistic that young people – both Millennials and today’s high school students – “are going to change America for the better.”

And he believes that older Americans – both the Baby Boomers who took sides in the Vietnam era and the subsequent generations who have endured U.S. involvement in conflicts in the Middle East – have become more aware of how change occurs, and have become more accepting of it.

“Change came in the civil right movement, the women’s movement. Now you see the benefit of it in our children,” he says.

“Change comes from the young,” Wolkind says. “They’re going to put an end to automatic weapons. They’re not going to end the Second Amendment. They’re going to end the excesses of the Second Amendment.”

Bill Hutchison, a retired Capital School District social studies teacher who reluctantly served in Vietnam, made his pacifist feelings known during the first Persian Gulf war, when he decided not to stand with his students during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. “I told them, if you want to sit, you may. If not, it’s your right. You can decide,” he said. Most of his students stood for the pledge, he recalls.

His action drew some media coverage at the time, “but the school district said it could not take any action against me,” he says.

He looks favorably on the current student activism, and believes students’ voices should be heard, no matter what their opinions.

“There may be kids who would want to walk out and participate in favor of [having] guns. If they want to do it, it’s their right,” he says.

He hopes school administrators encourage students to express their views. “If administrators say no, it creates a real problem. If a kid feels strongly, he will circumvent the order, or do it without supervision, and create a situation that could cause problems,” he says.

The activism begun at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “has galvanized the country,” Hutchison says. “It’s great for kids everywhere to realize that.”

Larry Nagengast, a contributor to Delaware First Media since 2011, has been writing and editing news stories in Delaware for more than five decades.