Reading over the recent Scattergood Journal posts, I realized they are a bit disjointed. There were a number of references in them that could have been more fully explained. If you didn’t see the video that was in yesterday’s post, the reference to Don Laughlin probably didn’t make much sense. I went back and edited it to explain that a little.
What I’ve been thinking about since writing those posts are the various connections our lives are made of. I’d like to take this opportunity to provide a fuller story. Not that the specific things are important in themselves, but more as an example of connections.
When I began the first post by saying that reading Chris Matthew’s new book, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, triggered thinking about those times, I didn’t delve into how much I have grown to admire him (Kennedy) as I learned more about him throughout my life. I still remember the shock and sadness I felt when I heard he had been shot and how we hoped he might survive. The whole nation was wondering what our country was coming to, with his death so soon after the killing of Martin Luther King, and in addition to the assassination of his brother.
The Kennedy-King Park in Indianapolis is where Bobby Kennedy announced the death of Martin Luther King in what is considered to be one of the greatest political speeches of all time. The park was only a few blocks from where I lived. The power of that speech, and the fact that he insisted on giving it even though the police tried to convince him not to, fearing for his safety in addressing a crowd of predominately black people, is solemnly commemorated every year at the park.
There is a moving sculpture commemorating this at the park that I’ve taken photographs of on many occasions. Since the figures are elevated, I once spent a morning setting the camera timer, and thrusting it up in the air at the end of an extended tripod.
I also created a video of photos of the sculpture with the audio of Martin Luther King’s last speech, and Robert Kennedy’s speech announcing King’s death.
Our U.S. Congressman, Andre Carson, who happens to be both black and a Muslim, always either attends that annual ceremony and speaks, or sends a message. One connection is that I spent some time talking with his legislative director, Nathan Bennett, on a lobby visit during a Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) annual meeting. Nathan was very well versed on environmental issues and we talked about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance I was involved with. It was unnerving to be talking about committing civil disobedience while in a Congressional office. I made sure he understood this was a personal view, and not supported by FCNL. Another connection was Congressman Carson greeting those of us who were marching for Indiana Moral Mondays during the Pride Parade. I was involved in Indiana Moral Mondays, by which I had a number of connections with Rev. William Barber, the NAACP President and minister who began the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina.
I mentioned the Richmond Declaration on the Draft and Conscription of 1968, which I helped write. That happened when Scattergood faculty member Kent Van Zant drove fellow student Scott Hoskins and I to Earlham College so we could be part of that. I actually don’t remember much about that, other than the large number of Friends who attended. We broke up into small groups then came together to come up with the declaration.
The first journal blog also mentions some letters I received from some universities, one referencing a National Science Foundation program that made it possible me to spend the summer before my Senior year working with Don Laughlin in his medical electronics lab. Don is an Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Quaker who became a close friend and mentor, so there are many connections with him throughout my life. That summer project got me started on one path of my career, that of a computer software engineer. We worked on two projects that summer. One involved using the University’s mainframe computer and IBM’s Circuit Analysis Program to design an electronic circuit for a heart monitoring device. This was in the days of punched computer cards. I’d drop the three boxes of cards off at the computer center, come back in three hours, and find the program didn’t execute because of a typo. But we eventually got the circuit designed, and he taught me how to solder components under a microscope, to build the circuit. Then to see the heart signals appear across the oscilloscope screen was magic!
The second project involved the Hospital’s first personal computer. It was the size of a large suitcase, and was programmed by typing the code on a keypad, and saving it on a magnetic card. Don wanted me to write a program that would automate the calculations that were being done in the pulmonary function testing laboratory. It was nice to be able to create a program to reduced about an hour of manual calculations to about five minutes with the software. This ended up being an amazing connection, because my career eventually involved becoming a registered respiratory therapist, which eventually lead to working in an infant pulmonary function research lab at Riley Children’s Hospital, where writing computer software was one my main responsibilities. One of my first memories there was seeing signals of a baby breathing move across an oscilloscope screen. The magic this time occurred several week later, when the computer software I was beginning to write first began to show the tracings of a baby breathing move across a computer screen.
One other connection related to Don Laughlin and that summer before my Senior year at Scattergood was attending my first peace vigils. He took me downtown in Iowa City each week. I remember the fear of doing that in public, but also the powerful spiritual connection with those who stood silently, witnessing together.
Another connection related to Don was that he, along with a number of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Quakers, refused to cooperate with the Selective Service System, and, with many of those other Quakers, including Don Mott, Roy Knight, Herbert Standing and John Griffith, served time in Federal prison. Roy Knight, John Griffith and Herbert Standing were my cousins. Another connection was that Don was working at Scattergood Friends School as the farm manager when my mother was a student there.
There were quite a few other connections with Don. He wrote a letter to my draft board, supporting my application for conscientious objector (CO) status. Although it was granted, I eventually turned in my draft cards.
At the time of Don’s death, I was helping him with his project involving collecting the stories of Iowa Quakers related to war and draft resistance.
The assassinations, the draft resistance of Iowa Quakers, the widespread protests against the highly unpopular Vietnam War, and attending peace vigils, set the scene for my Senior year at Scattergood, where my journal writings began.
The most recent post talked about the Peace Walk. This was how the school decided to participate in the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, a coordinated effort to have demonstrations and teach-ins across the United States, on October 15, 1969. It was remarkable that all of the students participated, and many of the staff. I imagine we were all apprehensive about what the reactions might be. The relations between the School and West Branch weren’t very good as I remember. I had forgotten about the written statement that we were going to be walking in silence, but thinking back I do remember that’s what we did. And I don’t remember any reactions as we walked through West Branch. The kids there would have been in school at the time. I do remember Sara Berquist filling cups of hot chocolate from the back of the school station wagon at one point along the route.
The caption above mentions Stephen Evans. The final connection I’ll mention occurred several years ago during an FCNL annual meeting in Washington, DC. There were usually around 250 Quakers in the meeting room. When people spoke, they were given a microphone, and asked to begin by giving their name and where they were from. I was surprised when I heard, “My name is Stephen Evans…”. I think this was the first time we had seen each other since Scattergood. We had a nice visit later that day.