Meet the WannaBeatles…

A very long time ago, a young version of myself watched, in astonishment, a band of four guys with crazy long hair rock the normally staid Ed Sullivan show.

If you were there, you remember the moment. It changed you. It changed everyone, in ways that were impossible to imagine at the time. For young people, it ended the shock that set in after John Kennedy’s assassination, months earlier. We needed something new and exciting, and there it was, from England, of all places.

Those who were most inspired went out and got guitars or drums and learned to play them. My friend and drum master, Peter, formed a band that year, and they a had a local hit in Chicago the next year. Many other musicians followed suit. Some of us were a little slower. I took up the guitar a few years later, clumsily imitating the Beatles and Dylan, as I describe in Some Way Outa Here. I didn’t start playing electric guitar for decades, but I’ve played with a few bands and done a few gigs over the last decade.

But I’ve always dreamed of doing a gig of all-Beatles songs. My latest band, named in a moment of utter honesty, is The WannaBeatles and we’re doing it!  My 1960s self would have been ecstatic at the idea of playing songs from Rubber Soul, the White Album, Let It Be and Abbey Road on stage. Oh, plus “A Day in the Life,” complete with a delirious ending.

I’ve been amazed at how younger folks, my kids included, have also been drawn to this music. The songs are deeply linked to a moment in time…but they’re timeless, too. Who could listen to Eleanor Rigby without a twinge of sadness, Here Comes the Sun without feeling a warm glow, or Strawberry Fields Forever without being drawn into John Lennon’s through-the-looking glass boyhood memories?

Perhaps my favorite Beatles memory is from the night that my band played behind a chorus of seventh and eighth grade girls, singing an all-Beatles concert for their parents, on the 50th anniversary of that first US TV broadcast. The programs featured some kid-friendly songs like Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da and Octopus’s Garden. It seemed a little uninspired, the girls singing songs that weren’t connecting.

Before we started the last song, our other guitarist said, “let’s pump this up a little,” and we launched into Here Comes the Sun. It seems like a simple song, but Peter the drummer and Steve the bassist were putting a little extra drive into it. Playing behind the singers, I saw that for the first time, the bottoms were starting to sway, and when we got to the chorus, “sun, sun, sun, here it comes,” the voices seemed to blossom. And from nowhere, the music teacher began the intricate hand-clap that drives the middle of the record, unrehearsed, done perfectly. The voices soared, suddenly a choir of angels. We in the band, too, felt lifted to a new level.

At the last notes faded, there was an instant of stunned silence…like, “what was that?” And as the applause filled the room, I saw that some of the standing parents had tears on their faces.

It took me a long time to bring my own versions of these to the stage, but it’s been a good journey. Want to see the result? Come see The WannaBeatles at the Boom Boom Room (John Lee Hooker’s wonderful club) in San Francisco on Tuesday night. We’re the finale band, after 10pm, with other bands all evening, in a benefit for the terrific Blue Bear music school. Hope you can make it!

The Most Beautiful Face of All

Whose face inspires you, more than any other? Is it a beautiful woman, or man? Is it the facade (the “face”) of a delightful building? The face of a towering mountain? Or is it more cosmic than any of these?

Long ago, when I was a science-obsessed teen, I wanted to be an astronaut. I wouldn’t have admitted it to myself then, but there was one reason…I felt that if I could orbit the earth, just looking down, I wouldn’t need anything else, just watching the planet turn and turn. It would be bliss.

I was, no doubt, inspired by Ed White, the first American to “walk” in space. After 20 minutes floating above the planet, White was due to return to his Gemini spacecraft. He refused. He told mission control that he couldn’t go back…it was just too magnificent. Finally he was ordered to return, and he gave in. He said, “I’m coming back in… and it’s the saddest moment of my life.” When I saw the photos he took, I understood.

Later, I found my own version of White’s rapture. I would take plane rides, careful to get a window seat, and watch the planet roll by for every minute of the flight, watching cloud formations when they got in the way, avoiding bathroom breaks for fear of missing something. Sometimes I got a very stiff neck.

On my first cross country flight to California, I found myself sitting next to a five year old girl, traveling alone, going home to San Francisco. The stewardess asked if I minded helping her, and I agreed, a little reluctantly. Myesha was a brave little African America girl who was apparently unafraid of flying alone or sitting next to a stranger. I wasn’t a dad then, and I was more nervous than she was.

As soon as we took off from Boston, I gathered in the view of the harbor, then the city, and Myesha asked what I was looking at. I sat back, and she leaned toward the window from the middle seat, straining her seat belt. “Is that Boston?” She asked. Before I could answer, she squealed happily, “It is! It’s a city! Look at all the buildings!” She continued to strain toward the window, until finally the seat belt sign went off and I switched seats with her. Together, for six hours, we leaned into the window, spotting roads, farms, towns, rivers and clouds. Myesha shared my bliss, multiplying it. We flew over the Grand Canyon, on the way to a stop in Los Angeles, and the pilot tipped the plane a bit so each side could look down. The beauty was astonishing. Myesha looked at me and asked, “Is that real?” I told her “I think we’re dreaming.” She smiled and said, “You’re right,” and pressed her nose back against the window. After the flight, I never saw Myesha again, but I hope she grew up with her courage and sense of wonder intact.

Now, decades later, we can see beauty that was unimaginable then. We have images from the Hubble telescope that show amazing nebulae, the remnants of cataclysmic star explosions, and countless galaxies spinning through space, myriad shapes and sizes, sometimes colliding in spectacular encounters. And there are closeups of our own neighbors, planets that we could once only see as fuzzy discs. Hubble brought them into focus, and we could see the especially lovely faces of Jupiter and Saturn.

When a series of spacecraft visited these planets we discovered that their moons, too were equally spectacular, each unique and fantastic. Now, the Juno mission has sent back Jupiter’s close-ups…gorgeous views of an endlessly varied, ever-changing face, full of mystery and drama. Could there be a more fascinating, beautiful face than this, anywhere?

Jupiter 1

Well, yes. It’s the one Ed White saw.

Earth from Space.jpg

You can watch the world roll by in this lovely video.

The story of my life as a science-obsessed teen, from the first moon landing to the first Earth Day, and beyond, is told in Some Way Outa Here. In part, it’s a story about where inspiration comes from, and how to recognize it when it smacks you in the face.


On the passing of Robert Pirsig

A note of appreciation on the passing of Robert Pirsig…
I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at an age when it addressed (and helped form) the urgent questions that filled my mind, like,
“what the heck are we doing here?” and
“why is it so hard to be both rational and emotional/spiritual?”

Pirsig didn’t really answer the first one, but he dug into the second one, deeply. He found some answers, but for me, the joy was in the digging. Robert Pirsig taught me how to dig.
At the time, I was discovering the joy of making things out of wood. Pirsig worked in steel, but his lessons were profound.

He wrote about “quality,” a seemingly simple idea that turns out to be quite elusive. He helped me understand two of my friends who had opposite understandings of quality. One, David, referred to the native American notion that if you make something that’s perfect, put a little ding in it, because only God makes things perfect. The other friend, also named Robert, could make extraordinary things from wood. But if he made something that was flawed, he would ceremoniously take it to the river that ran by our woodshop and toss it into the passing current. The two of them were best friends, but they couldn’t have approached quality more differently.

Robert was passionate about quality on a level that few people could understand. It was a philosophy to him, rather than an obsession. He had to live up to his standards, there was no choice. Pirsig would have understood. Robert, my friend, applied the same standards to his life. He excelled at many things, mastered architecture, became a successful entrepreneur, and was a dedicated father. But when his life crashed down and he couldn’t fix it, Robert did something that only a few of us understood. He ended his life by throwing himself into a river. Pirsig would have understood that, too.

Robert Pirsig’s ideas had an enormous impact on millions of people. He was able to reach so many because he mastered one marvelous skill: he was a great storyteller. For me, that was as much a gift as the ideas themselves.

When I wrote Some Way Outa Here, Pirsig was never far out of mind. He taught me how to tell a story that’s grounded in ideas, that seeks to find truths that surpass the facts of the story. And I learned from him that the most interesting stories are those that cross the chasm between what we think and what we feel, and help us discover who we are.

Earth Day and the know-nothings

This year, we’re celebrating Earth Day with a march to support the very existence of science. How did we get to the point where know-nothingism is winning?

It’s easy to forget that first Earth Day, in 1970, wasn’t a basket of roses. It was the culmination of a bitter fight for clean air and water that was just beginning to gain traction. Environmentalists were commonly called “Communists,” and calls for clean air were considered an attack on American workers. From the beginning, we were swimming upstream.

Now the stakes are higher – despite 47 Earth Days, the planet is overheating and the future is in doubt. And a cadre of greedy idiots have seized power.

But just as a broken clock is right twice a day, the Trump forces are right about one important thing: There are people being hurt by the transition from a carbon-intensive economy to a clean-energy world. The problem is that Trump is more concerned with the owners of the coal companies than with coal miners. Did you see the photo of him with the “miners”? They were coal executives. The miners were behind them, out of the picture. That’s Trump’s energy policy in a nutshell.

Coal miners deserve better. They could be building wind farms on top of the mountains that the coal companies have flattened. The miners could be making electric vehicles. Instead, we’re going to subsidize more coal production.

The miners are, well, the canary in the coal mine. We need to work with them, not against them. They are not attacking science – they’re being lied to about the role of science by Fox “news” and craven politicians like our new Energy Secretary.

Earth Day is about ecology – the interrelationship of living things and their environment. That means all living things, including miners and other victims of the carbon economy. The best hope for those most at risk from a changing economy and deteriorating environment lies with…science.

So let’s march today. Let’s show the know-nothings that we outnumber them – bigly – and we’ll sweep them away if they persist. In the name of science.

In 1970, I began Earth Day in a courtroom, and finished it in a school encounter that opened some minds – including my own. Read about it in Some Way Outa Here.

The Women’s March opens a new era of resistance

San Francisco Women's March

Yesterday millions of people marched to declare “we’re not gonna take it!” It was an outpouring rarely seen in the US and across the world. Led by women outraged by the new president’s misogyny, racism and habitual dishonesty, huge crowds filled streets in cities and towns to say “no” to Trump. It was the birth of resistance to his administration.

There was an air of disbelief that, the day before, Donald Trump had become President. His blustery inaugural address, a dark statement of a country rotting and beset by “carnage,” was nightmarish. But it was a nightmare from which there was no awakening: the next day, he was bragging and lying at the headquarters of the CIA, a dark cartoonish thug who won’t go away.

Against this backdrop, I took to the streets in San Francisco, along with tens of thousands of my closest friends. Under threatening skies, our Women’s March filled United Nations Plaza – the birthplace of an organization that Trump derided as “a club for people to get together and have a good time.” It was a fitting spot. The crowd displayed a sense of unity and optimism that was rare for any demonstration, much less one under such grim circumstances.

The march was filled with women of all ages and colors, many wearing pink knitted pussy hats in defiance of the pussy-grabbing president. The signs and speeches proclaimed that all issues – health care, immigrant rights, climate change, racism and especially economic justice – are women’s issues, and that women’s issues are everyone’s issues.

Perhaps a quarter of the crowd were men, supporting the women while expressing their own determination to resist. The ease with which the men supported their female friends and relatives was remarkable, the fulfillment of a dream of early feminists: Now, we are all feminists.

The march in Washington was possibly the largest ever held. I attended the previous record holder – the November 1969 march for peace in Vietnam. It was a central, formative event in my life (you can read about my experience there in Some Way Outa Here), but yesterday’s events were very different is some important ways.

In 1969, the grotesque Vietnam war had been raging for four years. We went to Washington full of fury and desperation. On that frigid day, 600,000 people filled the streets chanting, shouting, jeering at a president and congress who were oblivious. The huge crowd showed that the antiwar movement was real and a force to be reckoned with, even as Nixon declared that a “silent majority” supported him. We were mostly peaceful, but the unifying theme was anger.

Yesterday’s march was utterly different. Instead of a long-simmering movement finding itself, as in 1969, this was a new one being born. Young people were discovering that they had much in common with older demonstrators, many of whom were veterans of previous movements. There was a sense that the many issues of the day were urgent and inseparable – this was no one-issue movement. There was a newfound outrage that our country has been seized by an unstable man who was foisted on us by a foreign autocrat, and who lost the popular vote to an unfairly vilified woman. Most of all, there was a fierce sense of commitment to resisting whatever atrocities lie ahead.

The 1969 march was a response to atrocities past, still being committed daily. The Women’s March was a statement that there is a vast movement ready to take on a president who seems hell-bent on committing new atrocities. All were agreed: grim events lie ahead, but we are ready to resist, and to someday sweep these people from power.

The 1969 March on Washington was a pivotal moment in American history. The peace movement went mainstream, no longer a fringe. It changed the lives of millions of Americans, myself included. You can read about the personal drama of that weekend in Some Way Outa Here.

Want to join the Resistance?

Ivanka Trump has inspired Darcie and me to design a bracelet, in the spirit of her 60 Minutes bauble. It’s a solid-silicone statement of how we intend to resist her daddy’s administration:

Wrist Rebel Resistance bracelet

Long ago, when our government was terrorizing Southeast Asia and drafting young men as cannon fodder, I joined an organization called the Philadelphia Resistance. We did whatever we could to throw a wrench in the works, to stop the madness.

Since then I have disagreed with many of my government’s policies, I’ve demonstrated in the streets and spilled much ink (and many electrons) to protest new military adventures, a stolen election in 2000, and racism in its many forms. But only now am I ready to say again:

As loyal Americans, it’s time to resist the extremists who have taken control of our country. They will stop at nothing to impose an order that threatens our safety, health and freedom. I won’t cooperate.

Resistance to the Nixon administration may (or may not) have shortened the Vietnam war – it certainly drove the president into deep paranoia that ultimately drove him from office. And resistance ended the military draft.

Our actions then took many forms. Virtually all were peaceful, but many were militant…blocking access to draft boards, blocking streets (a tactic I came to regret), attempting to close down a military base, political street theater, destroying files, and, most of all, refusing to cooperate with the bureaucracy. Two of these tactics landed me in jail, and a third led to a year-long entanglement with the FBI. (You can read about these in Some Way Outa Here.)

The symbol of the Resistance was the omega: Ω  It’s the symbol for electrical resistance. We’ve proudly incorporated it into the bracelet.

Wrist Rebel Resistance bracelet

OK, so other than looking good, what is this “resistance” thing about in the 21st century?

For starters, resistance means that the proceeds from the bracelet go to the Natural Resources Defence Council, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. (Yes, the same ACLU that defended me in court 1970.) These organizations are dedicated to serving Americans as the Trump administration tries to attack (not too strong a word) the environment, take away women’s health services, and silence those who point out what’s happening. Providing these services is resisting.

Resistance means defending law-abiding, hardworking immigrants from discrimination, detention, or deportation (in many cases, to countries they have never lived in). These are people who have cared for our children and our parents, who write the software that underpins our economy, who pick our food and who are our friends and neighbors. Protecting them is resisting.

Resistance means standing up for Muslim Americans.  It means, if a Muslim registry is implemented, being the first one in line to say “I am a Muslim.” It means, when Muslims are attacked, wearing a head scarf. When Muslims are under attack, we are all Muslims. Standing together is resisting.

Resistance means preserving our right to health care and a secure retirement. When our health insurance is taken away, it means insisting that until everyone is guaranteed health care, no one is safe. (Especially the middle/working class Trump supporters who will be devastated by the destruction of the Affordable Care Act.) It means refusing to cooperate with private insurance companies if they refuse to serve all Americans. Fighting for universal health care is resisting.

Resistance means stopping new coal and oil power plants, and working with states and private companies to promote the use of low-carbon fuels. And it means helping dislocated coal and oil workers transition to new careers, especially in wind and solar energy. Saving the planet for ourselves and our grandchildren is resisting.

Resistance means standing up for women’s’ rights to control their bodies – especially when those rights are being taken away, one state at a time, and providing safe, affordable alternatives even when they are outlawed. This is resisting.

Resistance means doing the hard work to reduce violence by police against minorities, and to fight the vilification or scapegoating of minorities. Refusing to accept racism is resisting.

Resistance means thinking about what is happening, every day, and not accepting that greed and stupidity is the new normal. The billionaires who have seized power are about to begin looting our country on a scale never before imagined. Standing up for our economic rights – decent wages and a fair share of our prosperity – is a way of saying, “we, and our parents,  built this country, and you’re not going to take it away from us.” Providing services, even when illegal, is resisting.

If we decide it’s just too hard and look the other way, they win. If we just wait till the next election, there may not be another election. If we keep our heads down and do our jobs, we may not have jobs.

It’s time to actively, peacefully, and passionately resist the madness.

Get your Resistance bracelet at!

How I Ended 2016 in the Twilight Zone

On the morning New Year’s Eve, 2016, I sat on my bed and opened Facebook. The first post I encountered was a picture of the Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling in the Oval Office. Behind him sat Donald Trump at the President’s desk.

What a strange, outlandish idea, I thought. Frightening. I showed it to Darcie.

“I posted that picture,” she said. Sure enough, she had. “I thought it was funny.”

“That’s just too weird,” I said. She looked at me funny. I switched to the Times front page, and there was an article about “President-elect Trump.”

I looked up at Darcie. “Is this a joke? What’s going on? That’s a crazy idea…Trump is a lunatic…”

“Uh, Mark, who won the election?”

I thought hard. “Obama, but that was a few years ago.” Trump hadn’t won an election. That wasn’t possible.

Darcie looked scared now. “Do you remember who lost the election?”

I remembered that Hillary Clinton was running…then…”Oh my god, she lost? She lost! Trump won the election? Oh damn, we’re screwed!” I was shouting now.

This is a true story.

I was recovering from a weeks-long fight with bronchitis, and I had been having trouble breathing. On New Year’s Eve, I decided to exercise. I needed it. And then I was sitting on my bed.

There’s a medical condition called Transient Global Amnesia. (Look it up.) It can happen after intense exercise, especially if the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. You forget everything that’s happened  for the previous months – in my case, a whole year.

“Where do you work?” asked Darcie.

I told her I worked at the company I left a year ago. Now she was really freaked out.

I wasn’t. Because this happened to me once before, years ago. Then, it was terrifying. But I knew the feeling. And I knew that it was transient – I was certain it was the same thing and that it would all come back. I explained this to Darcie, and she looked it up on Wikipedia. “Yikes, that’s it! That’s just what you’re…doing.” She said “doing” as if I was standing on my head and singing in Hungarian.

I went back to the Facebook picture. “This Twilight Zone picture, it’s real?” I felt very much like I had entered The Twilight Zone.

Darcie looked a little flummoxed. “It’s not real…but…it’s a thing. It’s kind of real…sort of. I guess this whole election could have been on the Twilight Zone.

I was hearing this for the first time, it seemed. All of it. Darcie explained, almost apologetically, about the election, Hillary’s electoral college collapse, about the tweets, the cabinet appointments, the Russian hacks. I learned it all at once. I looked at the Times again, which confirmed it all. I still didn’t remember any of it.

I went through denial, anger, pleading, depression and acceptance in a few minutes. Actually, the acceptance took a while, and I only accepted that it was all true, not OK.

That was the most remarkable feeling: Hearing all this at once for the first time…how can this be OK?  How can anybody be OK with this? It’s preposterous!

And gradually my memory returned. All of it. Nothing is missing, so far as I know. But the feeling of rediscovering the events of the last few months haven’t left me. It’s raw. It’s very, very upsetting.

As one friend told me, “You, of all people! I don’t know anyone who would be more tortured by having to go through all this again, all at once. This is cruel!”

But I challenge him, and you, dear reader, what if this happened to you?  Would you see the madness of the campaign, of Brexit, of the FBI director’s intervention (I really had trouble believing that happened), of the cabinet of right wing billionaires and generals…what would you think if you found your world transformed like this?

Remember the boiling frog? Put a frog in a pot of water and turn up the heat, and the frog will stay there as the water gradually boils. I had become the frog who is tossed into the pot of boiling water, and felt the heat. I wanted to jump out.

If you can’t arrange an attack of Transient Global Amnesia for yourself, begin the new year with an imagination attack. Force yourself to consider what your year-ago self would have thought about what’s happening to us. We’re slowly boiling, my friends.

It’s not OK.

During the Nixon years, young people struggled to find creative ways to stop an out-of-control president. Read about it in Some Way Outa Here.


For the reader on your holiday list…

…a delightful book about an incredible time.

Millennials and teens are fascinated to discover an era when young people discovered they could change the world.

Boomers can relive a time when the world was changing faster than anyone could believe, as people walked on the moon, a youth culture blossomed, and a distant war raged.

Over a thousand people have purchased Some Way Outa Here since it was published last winter. They’ve posted 30 five star reviews on Amazon, with praise like…

  • “A terrifically engaging memoir that captures a pivotal year’s drama, daring and urgency.”
  • “This gentle, sensitive narrative is told with compelling characters that capture the innocence, idealism and intensity of the era…with vivid imagery, fast paced storytelling and fun-to-remember details.”
  • “I can’t recommend it highly enough!”

As we enter a new, uncertain future, Some Way Outa Here will inspire readers. It’s a story about both discovering the world and changing it. What better gift to help someone start the coming new year?

Order on Amazon.
Mark Lauden's memoir

The Trump Con and Fake News

Last week I posted a suggestion that the Electoral College might consider honoring the popular vote and select the winner as president. Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory has passed a million votes and is increasing.

As Alexander Hamilton said, it should ensure “that the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

Time for them to do their job.

The response to my post was fascinating. It seems that any negative post about Donald Trump is almost instantly met with a blizzard of contrary and often bizarre, semi-literate responses. I was rapidly informed that…

  • Trump “won the popular vote in the latest count.”
  • There were millions of votes cast by dead people and illegal immigrants.
  • That our country is not a “demacracy,” but a republic. (As if that means that our representatives did not need to be chosen according to who receives the most votes.)

There were dozens of offensive, often profane comments. (I’ve deleted the most egregious ones.) But the blizzard was instructive. Here’s what I learned:

  • The Trump troll rapid response team is organized and will take on anyone who criticizes the boss.
  • Their posts show a remarkable lack of interest in facts.
  • Insults and crude references reign. These seem to be a substitute for making a coherent argument.
  • Fake news has won the day among these folks. Many of them cite made-up statistics or refer to things that never happened.
  • Challenging them is pointless…you just get accused of being a gullible consumer of “lamestream media.”

The impact of fake news on the election is gradually becoming clear. It was enormously effective at spreading myths and lies about Hillary Clinton. Fake news spread on social media like a disease, and those who read it absorbed its relentless, often-ludicrous, sometimes-monstrous assertions.

As sucker was born every minute.

Someone who has been conned spends a long time in denial, even when faced with the facts of the con. It may take a long time for the voters who wanted to send a message by electing Trump to realize that he will sell them out at every opportunity.

But when their jobs don’t come back, and a trade war costs them more jobs; when the wealthy get enormous new tax breaks and working people lose their health insurance; when their non-white neighbors lose their rights, and when a presidential temper tantrum leads us into a new war, the world may look different than it does now.

And then, hell will have no fury like a voter conned.

For a good article on the election and the Electoral College, see this article in the San Francisco Chronicle by John Diaz.

How much do elections matter? Read about the way the election of 1968 transformed America in Some Way Outa Here.

It’s Time for a Main Street Movement

My pal Darcie Lamond just published a call to beat Trump at his own game, with a message and a movement. It’s a call for the majority – yes, a clear majority voted against him – to band together around our shared values.

A Main Street Movement to Challenge Trump’s Brand

by Darcie Lamondmain-street

Post election divisions continue to grow deeper and more pronounced, yet this trend does not seem to be motivating our president-elect to broaden his appeal and heal the wounds. With each passing day and each announcement, the battle lines are being drawn and we are being asked to choose sides. The Trump team is either determined to inflame or is just tone deaf with picks like Steve Bannon as strategic advisor. Forget Lincoln’s Band of Rivals favored by Obama, the Trump team is willing to float the likes of Sarah Palin as Secretary of the Interior. While these lighting rod characters keep the Trump team in the news, now that the election is over, the shock-jock tactics that helped elect him only fuel resistance and serve to remind us that we are bitterly divided.

Without a candidate to rally behind and without a majority in congress, there are few paths left open to the opposition. For many, the stakes seem extremely high with policies that will result in irreversible damage to the environment, women’s reproductive rights, universal healthcare and immigration reform. Such core principles do motivate people to action. Joining a resistance takes tremendous energy, drive, and deeply held commitments. Election campaigns have funding to maintain key staff and to run effective communication efforts that are required to brand and define a movement. Still, movements do come out of moments like this. The Tea Party is an extremely successful example of a movement that managed to brand itself and amass tremendous political power.

An anti-Trump movement could be quite successful, if it were to align with positions that actually enjoy majority support – abortion rights, responsible gun control, reasonable immigration, sensible environmental protection and tax cuts for the middle class. The movement could brand itself as The Main Street movement and lay claim to the mainstream values that it supported.

Read the whole article…

Me and Bob

We go way back, me and Bob Dylan.

I knew Dylan’s early songs from a young age, but they were a little esoteric and to young ears, the voice was grating. But when other people started recording his songs – first there were pop-folksingers like Peter Paul and Mary – and then the Byrds, I started paying attention. Then I heard “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Since that day, Dylan’s lyrics have filled a disproportionate amount of space in my brain. It wasn’t long before I knew all the words to “Desolation Row,” all ten verses (but who’s counting?). Even now, I can sing (and play) most of the songs from Highway 61 Revisited.

Dylan’s way with words is surely Nobel-worthy. He has written serious songs that still resonate – “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain,” “Hurricane,” “Gates of Eden.” There are love songs that are achingly beautiful – “Tomorrow is a Long Time,” “Don’t Think Twice,” “If You See Her Say Hello.” There are short stories in song – “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Black Diamond Bay,” and many more. And songs that make no sense but are unforgettable – “Memphis Blues Again,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

The words have sunk into our language the way Shakespeare’s words did. “Don’t think twice” or “something’s going on, but you don’t know what it is;” “one more cup of coffee,” or “how does it feel?” – none of these lines are unique to Dylan’s songs, but you may hear the melody when someone says them. Dylanisms like “to live outside the law you must be honest” or “she breaks just like a little girl” ring familiar. And the poetry – “sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, where the sad-eyed prophets say that no man comes,” “yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky, with one hand waving free” – can bring tears to my eyes.

When I wrote my book, I knew from the start that the title had to be drawn from Bob’s songs. Since the book is about my journey through the politics, culture and music of the late 1960s, it was just a question of which song, which words. In the end, it was easy: the book is my search for some way out of adolescence, out of my suburban hometown, out of here. All “Along the Watchtower” says it plainly, “there must be some way outa here.” It also tells a mysterious, ambiguous story about “too much confusion,” where “there are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.” The sense of urgency rang true for me: “let us not talk falsely, the hour is getting late.”

Dylan’s Nobel prize is a well-deserved affirmation of his craft. But even now, there is one big part of his work that is underappreciated: his 21st century songs. When Rolling Stone listed “Dylan’s best” songs a few years ago, only a handful of recent songs were included. They haven’t been paying attention, and if you haven’t either, take heed:

Spend a little time with Modern Times, Love and Theft, and the others. Listen to “Mississippi,” “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Spirit on the Water,” “High Water,” “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” and “It’s All Good.”

It is…all good. Very good.

Thanks for everything, Bob.

Check out Some Way Outa Here on Amazon!

The Bull in the China Shop

A Trump supporter, quizzed on the PBS Newshour, explained that “America needs a bull in the china shop. Trump is the bull.”

Her statement vividly shows how angry people are. When you’ve been dragged down by an economic collapse, when the jobs you trained for disappear, and when your friends and family turn to addictive painkillers for relief, what do you want to do?

You want to tear it down. You want pull down the roof and crush the people who have done this to you. You want the bankers and the insurance companies and the auto executives and the Harvard lawyers to suffer too.

When Donald Trump rhetorically, insultingly, asked African Americans “what have you got to lose?” he was speaking to his angry, despondent white working class supporters too. When you’re working at Walmart, your spouse is sick and you can’t afford your deductible, and your kid’s on Oxycontin, what have you got to lose?


When you invite the bull into the china shop, the result is pretty predictable. All you will be left with is a pile of rubble.

You can’t glue the china back together. All you can do is throw out everything, along with the bullshit.

Have you ever felt that anger, wanting to tear everything down? If you aren’t feeling it now, can you remember it?

Once my anger about the daily carnage in Vietnam was so intense that I told a college professor that if we couldn’t stop the war, we should just start blowing things up here at home. It was a fleeting terrorist idea – the feelings of impotence in the face of terrible events was just too much.

Others succumbed back then, and actually blew up a few buildings. Some went out and broke windows, much as we’ve recently seen people do in frustration over police killings of blacks. Rage and despair are not a healthy mix.

The professor asked me, calmly, whether I believed that blowing things up would help change things for the better. I replied that the war would stop if people felt the pain at home. “Do you really think you’ll change their minds that way,” he asked, “or do you think that the mess you create will just give the bastards even more power?”

That stopped me short. Of course he was right. When things fall apart, the people who clean up the mess may not be your friends.

If Donald Trump breaks the china, as he could surely do by deporting 11 million people, throwing out environmental protections, invading who-knows-what country, and jailing his opponents, who will clean up the mess?

Trump has created the illusion that bluster, threats and imaginary grandiose “solutions” will bring back industrial jobs that will never exist again, anywhere. He’s selling a dream that a privileged billionaire can tear down a corrupt system and save us from the greedy bankers, lawyers, and politicians.

This…coming from a man who employs thousands of minimum wage workers and says “wages are too high.” Who has repeatedly declared bankruptcy in order to avoid paying the people who built his businesses. Who brags about “buying politicians.”

There are real problems with the way our government works. Most of them are related to the enormous influence that corporations and wealthy individuals hold over politicians. Trump would leave that system intact while tearing down environmental protections, the minimum wage, international security pacts, health insurance assistance, as well as appointing right-wing ideologues to the supreme court.

Trump won’t address the underlying problems – the lack of any meaningful voice or influence by non-wealthy Americans. He has benefited from this system his entire life, and his business continues to depend on his ability to buy politicians. As president, he would do what he has always done – build his personal wealth and seek boundless self-glorification. His claims to be “your voice” are the claims of a con man.

Trump may break the china by disrupting Washington, but he won’t break his own gold-monogrammed china.When the china breaks, don’t expect to ever be able to eat off it again. Don’t even expect that the shop itself will still be standing.

Remember, this is a man who asked “if we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”

Read about the peace movement’s struggle between pacifism and terrorism – and how it affected me as a teenager – in Some Way Outa Here.


You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Mr. Trump

Let it bleed Donald Trump

Let it bleed Donald Trump
When Donald Trump finished his blustery acceptance speech at the Republican conventions, rock and roll from 1969-70 filled the convention hall. Among millions of other Americans, I was perplexed by the choice of tracks. But now I think I get it.

There’s a long history of weird and often inappropriate songs being used as campaign theme songs.

For years, the Democrats used Franklin Roosevelt’s theme song, “Happy Days are Here Again,” regardless of the fit with the occasion. The last time it was featured was the catastrophic 1968 convention in Chicago, as antiwar protesters were gassed and beaten in the streets by police.

Ronald Reagan used Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” in 1984, seemingly unaware of the song’s grim lyric. The Boss told him to cease and desist, though it might have been better to let him keep playing it through the campaign.

Four years later, George Bush the First appropriated Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at the convention. Woody was spinning in his grave. The Republicans omitted the verse…

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

When Pete Seeger sang it at Barack Obama’s inauguration, the verse was restored.

The same year, Michael Dukakis featured Neil Diamond’s cumbersome epic ballad “Coming to America.” His campaign was equally cumbersome, and people tuned out for the later verses.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” echoed from Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech through to election night. For those of us who watched that campaign, the song is forever linked to Bill and Hillary.

But when we come to 2016, Trump’s song selection puts all of these to shame.

As the balloons dropped in Cleveland, the opening strains of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” rang out. Really? TV commentators immediately began commenting on the “odd choice of music” (Judy Woodruff). At first, I was annoyed that he would dare appropriate a classic Stones song for his angry, bigoted campaign. Then I started thinking about the message.

“You can’t always get what you want.” Right. “You’ll find, you get what you need…” OK, so you’re saying that neither you nor Hillary are what we want, but we’ll have to settle for what we need. Thanks for telling us, Donald, but I’m not sure that really helps you. Because, honestly, you are not what we need.

It was weird watching the balloons drop as Mick sang about standing in line behind Mr. Jimi, who said one word to him, and that was “dead.” And then thinking about the central place the song had at the disastrous Altamont festival, which wasn’t much worse in tone than the Republican convention. (Read about it in my pal Joel Selvin’s new book, “Altamont.”)

But then a second song filled the air, louder and more insistent: Free’s “All Right Now.”
The song was a minor hit in the summer of 1970, thanks mostly to a catchy, thrashing guitar hook. I used to play it, loud, driving around my mom’s car with friends, windows rolled down, hoping people would look askance at our slightly rowdy selves. It sometimes worked.

The lyrics of “All Right Now” are something else entirely. It’s a song about a really bad date. A guy pursues an attractive girl, talks her into going home with him, and he proclaims his love for her, to which she pretty much says “are you kidding me?” and leaves. This is what Trump wants us to think about as he leaves the stage in Cleveland?

In retrospect, I suspect that some clever convention planner who didn’t particularly like Trump told him “Hey, Mr. Trump, these are two great old songs that everybody loves, let’s use them!” And Donald said “Great idea!” and the planner is still laughing about it.

The two songs are perfect.

Read about our music and our lives in 1969-70 in Some Way Outa Here.

The Unforgettable Image

Ieshia Evans
I can’t get this picture out of my mind.

It was in Baton Rouge, after the death of Alton Sterling at the hands of police, and the killing of five officers in Dallas.

The woman is Ieshia Evans, a nurse from Pennsylvania who traveled to Louisiana to stand up – literally, it turns out – against police attacks on black people. (The photographer is Jonathan Bachman.) The image is surreal, a frozen moment. Evans has been characterized as a superhero, as the statue of liberty, and the small crack in the street between her and the police has been likened to the opening chasm that divides us.

Such is the power of an image.

Images have made Black Lives Matter possible. Shamefully, they didn’t seem to matter so much until cell phones began recording the deaths of people like Sterling. Finally, the deniability that protected racist police evaporated. The world could see and remember the images of people dying…and of people standing against injustice.

Pictures have the power to reframe the world. It happens all the time.

In the 1960s, the onslaught of gripping images, published by news magazines and newspapers, helped drive the Civil Rghts movement, with images of Southern lynchings, demonstrators being attacked with water cannons and dogs, and the iconic March on Washington in 1963. The pictures of brutality shocked us, but the images of courage, like that of Ieshia Evans, gripped us and wouldn’t let go.

Consider one of the iconic images from the 1968: Olympics – the award ceremony for John Carlos and Tommie Smith:
Smith Carlos 1968

The Civil Rights movement was transitioning to the Black Power movement. The demand for “power,” not just “rights,” made a lot of white people uncomfortable. Carlos and Smith had the gall to bring the movement to the Olympic podium, and the nation was shocked. This photo had an impact that is hard to imagine now – horrifying many, inspiring others. It captured the fears and hopes of the country in a single frame.

Vietnam brought a deluge of unforgettable images. Three are so memorable that most people recognize them, even now: The photo of a young girl, naked, fleeing a napalm attack; bodies stacked at My Lai, massacred by American soldiers, and a young woman bending over a student at Kent State, blood streaming onto the pavement. Each told the story that had to be told. No words were needed.

Another heroic image gripped the world in 1989. The world was in turmoil as Communist countries began to collapse. It seemed that China would be next, as demonstrators converged on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. When the army responded, a single man challenged the Chinese army, stood his ground, and stopped a row of tanks in its tracks. One person, armed only with unfathomable courage.

Images like this tell stories that can change how we see the world. They can change how we think and what we do. They make us question what we assumed to be true, and they can give us courage to act in ways we didn’t know we could act.

As a teenager, the act of John Carlos and Tommie Smith not only gave me new respect for the Black Power movement – they inspired me to similar actions (documented in Some Way Outa Here). Likewise, the photos from Vietnam and Kent State spoke to every American, and drove many of us to action, fueling the antiwar movement.

Of course, pictures never tell the whole story. How many people know what happened to Peter Norman, the Australian on the podium with Carlos and Smith? The silver medal winner, Norman wore a Black Power patch on his uniform in support of the Americans, for which the Australian sports federation banned him from competition for life. It’s easy to forget that the brief victory of Tank Man was followed by the massacre at Tiananmen Square that ended the reform movement. And a few days after Ieshia Evans confronted (and was arrested by) Baton Rouge police, several officers were killed by a gunman who sought to avenge Alton Sterling’s death.

History is never simple.

But now we all carry cameras with us. All the time. Everyone has the power to record events, to report (or even make) news, and to change how we see the world. To change our minds. And our hearts.

You have a powerful tool in your pocket. Use it well.

Mad as Hell

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!”

That’s a line from the movie Network, but it’s could be from the script of the Brexit referendum. Or the Trump campaign.

You know the feeling. Things aren’t going well, we desperately need a change, and we need to make a statement. Now.

So along comes a candidate or proposition that gives us a chance to tell the world how angry we are. Easy choice – I vote for it! That’ll show ’em! But then…oops, it passed, or we elected a bigmouthed know-nothing.

What have we done?

The people of Britain have some serious problems, beginning with a stagnant economy (especially outside London), and a massively uneven distribution of wealth. (Does this sound familiar, America?) The Brexit vote gave them a voice. But did they really want to leave the European Union, and risk an even greater economic dislocation? Unlikely.

Google UK has seen a huge jump in searches like “what happens if we leave the EU?” It’s a good bet that a lot of those who voted to leave didn’t know or care what would happen…they never expected to actually win.

For Americans, that’s the scary part. Few people actually want Donald Trump to be president, but voting for him is a great way to say you’re mad as hell. And a lot of Americans are mad as hell. It’s not just unemployed, old southern white guys, either. Many of us are furious about income inequality and guns (Trump used to be for gun control, right…?), and big banks – so why not send a message?

I once knew some people who were actually bomb-throwers. They were part of the Weather Underground (not the forecasting app), and they believed that blowing up (empty) buildings was a good way to get people to change things. Surely the Vietnam war would end if America started exploding!  They succeeded in damaging a few buildings, accidentally killed a guy and a couple of themselves, and did a lot of damage to the antiwar movement. There are always unintended consequences to blowing things up.

Trump voters are often quoted as wanting to “tear it down” or “blow it up.” I get it. So do a lot of Brits. We want to yell and make our voices heard. We want to scare the bastards so that they’ll fix things.

But we didn’t really mean it about tearing it all down, did we?


One of the big questions of the Vietnam-era antiwar movement was how to make our voices heard. Sit-ins, marches, breaking windows, blowing things up? Writing? That’s what I was trying to figure out in the year of Some Way Outa Here


What’s Your Soundtrack?

Most of us are incessantly playing music in our heads. Don’t take it from me – Oliver Sachs documented it in Musicophilia. Our brains are wired that way. It’s not just you – we’re all pretty musical. It drives us in interesting, sometimes profound ways.

This week the husband of a friend passed away, after a long struggle with cancer. Very ill, Jim Barringer had a last wish – to see Bob Dylan play one more time. His wife, writer Joyce Maynard, wrote about his insistence that he go to Berkeley’s Greek Theater for Dylan’s concert, and how he spoke his last words upon returning home. Along with his love for his wife, music was part of the life force that kept him going. (For Joyce’s account of the concert, see her Facebook page.)

Music drives us in ways we are barely aware of. It frames our moods, and can change them. A good beat keeps us exercising when we’re tiring, a catchy tune cheers us, and an upbeat anthem motivates us.

Try thinking about the civil rights marchers of the 1960s without hearing “We Shall Overcome.” The song was a key ingredient of the movement. The soundtrack of the antiwar movement was everywhere in the 1960s – people hummed Dylan’s protest songs, “Eve of Destruction,” “Get Together,” “All You Need is Love,” “Revolution” and “Give Peace a Chance.” Bill Clinton took office to a resounding, looping soundtrack of “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” Rap and hip-hop have been expressing anger and outrage since the beginning, Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message.”

We’re being manipulated by music all the time. Stores pick their soundtracks carefully – Starbucks has decided what music is most likely to get you to stay around and drink more coffee. Yoga, massage and meditation all use music to relax you. Movie and TV soundtracks are often masterful manipulators. A good soundtrack is invisible, yet it drives your emotions and tells you how to feel about the characters. You may leave a movie theater humming a song you don’t even remember hearing.

It’s personal. We each have our own soundtrack. Mine is based around the blues and rock I immersed myself in as a teenager, but it includes the jazz and classical music I came to love later. The jukebox in my head plays a strange brew of Beatles, Miles Davis, bluegrass, Muddy Waters and Bach. Songs seemingly come from nowhere, but upon reflection, they often come from a lyric association: hearing “foreign movie” might trigger Steely Dan’s “Peg.” The mind works in strange ways.

I’m a musician (so was Jim, a basssist), and the music might be more powerful for people who play it. (Think of Beethoven – he was still composing when he couldn’t even hear the sounds.) When I ask others about the music in their heads, they often say, sure, sometimes I get a song stuck in my head. But then they think about it, and usually realize that songs come and go through the day.

Our personal soundtracks connect us with our past: our experiences, our friends, and our selves. Joyce writes about how Jim went back to his Beatles collection in his last months, reveling in the exuberance, the energy and the memories. I get it…that’s probably exactly what I would go back to. It’s a way to reconnect with something that’s still there inside, still strong, young and fun. It connects us with our emotions, and strengthens us. I can only hope that the last song I hear is “Here Comes the Sun.”

We need music, until the end. It’s part of who we are.

Some Way Outa Here reveals how the music of a time, the late 1960s, permeates daily life. It’s a book with a soundtrack, an homage to one of the great eras in popular music.


Why Your Opinion Matters…More than You Think

Once, there was only one way that most of us could ever share our opinions with a wide audience: the humble Letter to the Editor.

The Letters page in every newspaper was the closest thing we had to a public forum. If you felt that your opinion was worth sharing, that’s where you went.

My first newspaper letter appeared in late 1969, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, as recounted in Some Way Outa Here. Years later, I became a regular contributor on the San Francisco Chronicle’s Letters page. It wasn’t so different from writing comments on a news site – there were even trolls who sent nasty letters by snail mail or left creepy phone messages. (When I wrote about gun control, I inevitably received anonymous death threats – always full of misspellings and tortured grammar.) Many fascinating discussions – in the paper and in person – grew out of those letters.

When a friend asked how I got published so much, I realized it was simple, but not obvious: All you needed was a single idea, an interesting way to present it, and well-tuned, clear writing. Easy, right?

Now we can publish pretty much anything, any time. Whether it’s Facebook or a blog or Yelp, you tell lots of people what you think. But beyond your Facebook friends, is anybody listening?

I think the answer is emphatically YES, and here’s why…

Sites like Yelp have a huge impact on businesses. The threat of negative reviews drives business decisions. One bad review can hurt – something that, sadly, competitors and trolls know and abuse. And good reviews get read and bring in customers.

Authors – or at least their books – live and die by reviews. They help a book become more visible: Amazon’s search engine promotes books that have lots of good reviews. If you read my book, or anyone’s book, I encourage you to write a review online. Even just a few words. Think about how much these reviews influence your choices about what to read or buy: you’re helping people like yourself make decisions about how to spend their time and money.

Since I published Some Way Outa Here, many readers have posted their literary criticism on Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook. It’s been gratifying to me, as an author, to see the kind words people have written about the book. And I’ve learned some amazing things about the era, the places and people that I wrote about.

Whether it’s an Amazon review, a Facebook post, a news article’s comments, or a blog like this one – share your thoughts. If you keep it simple, people will read it. A well written comment can influence someone else in ways you can’t imagine.

You can check out some of the review comments at the Amazon page for Some Way Outa Here.
letters to the editor

Ali – The Troublemaker Who Inspired Us

Muhammad-Ali-on-courageMuhammad Ali was a widely admired American icon. Many have forgotten that he was widely hated in the 1960s, a victim of racism and the Vietnam war. But amazingly, he became a hero to many who once despised him.

I first heard of Ali – then Cassius Clay – when I listened to the radio broadcast of his first championship fight in a far-off place called Lewiston, Maine. . I lived in the south then, and the consensus among my sixth grade classmates seemed to be he was the devil himself. Among adults, the term “uppity [N-word]” was common. I was intrigued. Unlike my white classmates, I had attended integrated schools in the north, and a poetry-spouting black boxer was exciting…and a little subversive.

I watched Ali’s fights over the next few years, and came to marvel at his astonishing prowess. I didn’t really even like boxing – I just like watching Ali. Then, in 1966, Ali did something remarkable.

Like so many young Americans, he was classified as eligible to be drafted for the Vietnam war. His response was “I ain’t got nothin’ against them Viet Cong.”

In 1966, this was shocking – the antiwar movement was in its infancy, and the draft was an unpleasant reality of life. Ali applied to be a conscientious objector, citing his Muslim beliefs. The press attacked fiercely, and Ali was branded a coward.

In 1967 he was stripped of his boxing title and convicted of draft evasion. He lost his livelihood at the height of his career, and faced prison. He was branded a traitor by many.

Was he a coward? I didn’t think so. He routinely faced opponents who could have killed him – I had seen the films of Benny Paret being killed in the ring, and knew well Bob Dylan’s “Who Killed Davey Moore.” Boxing took courage. Taking on the American government and giving up his career? This man was no coward.

Ali’s conviction was overturned, but he lost almost four years during his athletic prime. During those years, the war raged, the antiwar movement grew, and Ali became a symbol of resistance. He inspired many of us who faced the draft, showing us that sometimes it was more important to follow your conscience than to do the popular thing. By the fall of 1970, his opposition to the war was vindicated and he was allowed to return to his sport.

In the 1970s, Ali made a comeback, regained his title, and ultimately was brought down by the ravages of a brutal sport. But his determination to prevail gained him the admiration of many who had once despised him; his illness gained him the sympathy of others. He became an American hero.

For me, it’s young Muhammad Ali I remember most – a young man who was not afraid to do the right thing.

My own struggles against the draft are at the center of Some Way Outa Here.


High School Heroes, Villains and a Speech to Remember

Abington High School 1970

The Abington High School graduation ceremony of 1970 was a tumultuous affair, marked by protests and conflict. (You can read about it in my book Some Way Outa Here.) It was an amazing day, summing up the triumphs and tragedies not just of high school, but of a generation that was entangled in battles far beyond the school’s doors.

At the 1970 graduation ceremony, rebellion was in the air. College students had been gunned down by soldiers, weeks earlier, and the Vietnam draft hung over the heads of graduating seniors.

One memorable speech by a remarkable educator, Allan Glatthorn, bears rehearing. We didn’t know it, but it was his farewell to the school.

Abington was then a 4000-student high school, split into two separately administered buildings. It was bigger than many colleges. Some students flourished in pockets of inspiration, while others became lost or disillusioned amid an assembly line education. There were some amazing teachers, some who were less stellar, and even an English teacher named Bill Gavin, who left the school to craft some of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew’s most divisive, hateful speeches.

Like any other school, Abington had teachers and administrators who inspired students, and others who earned their wholehearted contempt. Principal Dr. Glatthorn led Abington to public notice in the 1960s by developing an innovative independent study-based curriculum for the ninth and tenth grades. After that, his efforts to build a more progressive public high school were undermined by conservative administrators and school board, but he fought the good fight at Abington.

Here is his speech, in its entirety:

Address to Graduating Students and Guests , Dr. Allen A. Glatthorn,  June 14, 1970

I say goodbye to you, the class of 1970, with sadness—sadness because I shall miss the zest you brought to our school—and sadness because you enter a world torn by violence from both the left and the right.

For these are strange days, when men commit the vilest deeds for the noblest purposes.

They lie for the sake of truth, practice tyranny in the name of democracy, and wage war in the name of peace.

And the greatest danger in our society today is from all those who commit evil in the name of good.

While man can always find good reasons for the evil he does, the harmful act is no less painful because it was done for our supposed good.

So I call upon you today, not so much to dedicate yourselves to noble causes but instead to commit the good act.

Seek not to commit injustice in the name of justice, nor to repress dissent in the name of freedom. Neither commit violence for the sake of peace, nor hate in the name of love.

And reject the flamboyant gesture.

But choose instead the simple virtues that will surely draw us together—kindness, gentleness, tolerance, and love.

So go in peace, with love in your hearts.

A sick world waits for your healing touch.

His speech was delivered amidst flamboyant gestures – students, myself included, used the occasion to protest the war and the military draft that would soon claim the lives of some of our classmates. It was loud and briefly colorful, but Dr. Glatthorn provided a somber note.

Not long after our graduation, Dr. Glatthorn was forced out.

To his credit, he began work that led to the founding of an alternative high school. It featured a level of academic freedom and opportunity that was unknown at Abington. The school, Alternative East, fulfilled the vision of a group of students working through the Suburban Action Center in 1969-70. (More on this, too, in Some Way Outa Here.)

Dr. Glatthorn’s commencement address is still relevant today. There are still hypocrites and charlatans out there, and a demagogue who seeks to lead the country into the abyss. We would do well to keep Glatthorn’s words in mind.

* * *

I discovered a copy of Glatthorn’s speech after I finished my book about that year, Some Way Outa Here – too late to include. But The book recounts two memorable speeches by students that were also profoundly moving, and worth remembering.

I would be delighted to hear from others who remember that day.

Abington High School 1970