This week in 1965, teachers and students at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor introduced a new type of antiwar demonstration. Approximately three thousand faculty members, students, and members of the public participated in a “teach-in” protest of the Vietnam War. Instead of teaching their usual subject matter, instructors held 12-hour pacifist seminars and rallies.
Although the United States had supported South Vietnam in its war with the communist North since 1961, troop commitments had been low and the American role largely advisory. Escalation began in earnest in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson sent additional forces to Vietnam.
This development distressed many in the academic community, and faculty members at Michigan discussed initiating a form of nonviolent protest modeled after the sit-ins of the civil rights movement. New York’s Columbia University held its first teach-in on March 26, and by the end of the academic year, the movement had spread to 120 U.S. campuses.
A lot of us are still like that today. When we see an injustice in the world, we have two choices. We can stand up and make a difference – or we can sit down and just protest. Make a difference or be a whiner. It’s up to us.