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Jun 23 2011

The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam

Contributed by Kelly Murray

Students protest on the Brickyard, 1968

As the Vietnam War (1955-1975) raged on, demonstrations objecting to the conflict became a part of the American political landscape. On October 15, 1969, activists across the nation took part in one such rally. With an estimated two million participants, the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam remains one of the largest demonstrations in American history. Students and faculty at North Carolina State University took part, devoting the entire day to Vietnam-related protests, exhibits, discussions, and classroom activities.

As word of the approaching demonstration spread, the Student Senate requested that the university acknowledge October 15 as “a day to examine, appraise, and express opinions regarding the Vietnam War.” The NC State Faculty Senate granted their resolution in early October, approving of the university’s participation and affirming October 15 as a day “to focus on the particular problem of the Vietnamese conflict.” A joint student-faculty committee led by Dr. Murray Downs and student Paul Giessler formed shortly afterward with the purpose of providing an educational day on campus “open to all points of views.” The upcoming event quickly became known as “Vietnam Day.”

On the evening of October 14, Chancellor John T. Caldwell delivered the keynote speech, “The Effect of the Vietnamese Conflict on the University Administration.” During the speech, he declared, “May the exercises on this campus prove helpful and clarifying to all who are concerned enough to participate.” After the Chancellor’s speech, Reverend Taylor Scott and the Peace Players held a religious service.

On October 15, during the moratorium, activists on campus read the names of the nearly 39,000 American casualties over a twenty-four hour period. Additionally, several events on campus ran in tandem with the protest: D.H. Hill Library presented an exhibit of books about Vietnam, while a documentary on the war, In the Year of the Pig, played three times. Several discussion sections were also held on a variety of related topics, including “U.S. Foreign Policy and Vietnam” and “Moral Implications of the War.” At neighboring University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, students took part in a rally during which Mayor Howard Lee and other speakers stressed their opposition to the war.

Students, faculty, city officials, servicemen, and even housewives participated in the moratorium. Observers and participants noted that despite the “convention-like crowds,” NC State’s Vietnam Day remained peaceful throughout the proceedings. In response to the demonstration, an editorial in the Technician that ran on October 17 asked, “Will Nixon listen now?” President Nixon had perhaps already given his response when he declared before the moratorium that he would “under no circumstances…be affected whatever by [the protest].”

The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was not the first or last time NC State students took part in political demonstrations. For more information on the university’s long history of student protests, please visit Historical State.


Sources: Technician (29 September 1969, 1 October 1969, 8 October 1969, 10 October 1969, 13 October 1969, 15 October 1969, 17 October 1969)