45 Years Ago
An equivocal reaction to an all-school observation – the end of the Vietnam War.
from The Bridge, vol. IV, no.11, pp. 1,3; January 31, 1973.
On Wednesday, January 24, 1973, classes were cancelled to commemorate the unofficial conclusion of the Vietnam War, announced by President Nixon the evening before. The war officially halted on Saturday January 27, when Secretary of State, Rogers, signed the peace agreement on behalf of the United States. Many students worked through the night to draw up plans for the following day’s activities, which included a 6:30 a.m. march to Northfield by Mount Hermon students.
The same issue of The Bridge included a critical reaction to the day’s events:
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Wednesday’s “celebration” in honor of the announcement of the Vietnam peace accord was a farce at NMH. We were shaken by the school’s childish and insensitive reaction to this occasion of both joy and sorrow – joy at the end of the war and sorrow at the lives lost during America’s senseless and wasted efforts in Southeast Asia.
We were at first convinced that the cancellation of classes had a meaning beyond “recess” until the assembly at Northfield auditorium turned into a pep rally. Mount Hermon’s gestures of walking to Northfield and the opening speeches at the assembly were indications of our recognition of the day’s ambivalence. They seemed to show that we understood the combined rejoicing the day deserved. But when the glib plug for the morning’s dance at Tracy [the Northfield student center –ed.] and the afternoon’s hockey game were met with such an instantaneous shift in the audience’s attitude, we were disgusted. Yet the most unfortunate aspect of this injection of triviality was its warm reception: we cannot condemn the activities without including the appreciative audience in their condemnation.
Wednesday degenerated into an ordinary Headmaster’s Holiday because its original purpose was forgotten or subordinated. It was not the time to raise the issue of school spirit or to collapse in Tracy. Yet the day was regarded solely as a postponement of a calculus test, an extra day to finish a history paper, a recess, a play-day.
We, the school as a whole, should have been celebrating the lives that will be saved by the cease-fire but simultaneously mourning those that were lost by America’s useless meddling. Just as the world was revolted by Nixon’s bombing Hanoi back to the Stone Age, or the negotiating table, so were many of us revolted by our own insensitivity.
Other reaction followed…- ed.