Students for a Democratic Society cofounder Tom Hayden is scheduled to speak Thursday night at Curry College in an event presented by Milton for Peace, whose members hope to increase local awareness about war and its victims.
“It is absolutely important to have events like this in towns like Milton,” said Louis Pierro, a spokesman for the group. “We need to keep the fact that we are at war in the foreground, so people can understand the horrors it brings to nations where [war] is happening, to families of soldiers who come back so wounded in physical and mental ways.”
Hayden, who served 18 years in the California Legislature, but is perhaps best known for his 16-year marriage to actress Jane Fonda and opposition to the Vietnam War, is flying to Boston solely for the Curry College appearance. In a phone interview, he said that small events like Thursday’s have a cumulative effect that has pushed changes such as gradual removal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This has been done by small groups pressuring representatives from a grass-roots level, making their voices and votes heard,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to see progress through the pain, but nothing in my life has ever persuaded me that it would be easy.”
Hayden was a leader in the 1960s peace, justice, and environmental movements and was cofounder of the activist group Students for a Democratic Society in 1961 and the author of its manifesto, the Port Huron Statement. In 1968, he was accused of conspiring to incite a riot at the Chicago Democratic Convention, making him one of the famous Chicago Seven, who were charged with conspiracy but later acquitted.
Today, Hayden writes for publications like The Nation and serves as director of The Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, Calif. He has written or contributed to nearly 20 books and regularly travels to speak against war and to advocate for political reform through participatory democracy.
Hayden said Massachusetts has been a longtime leader in pushing for direct democracy.
“A lot of [democratic] ideas came from Massachusetts,” he said, “from the farmers that rose up against the British crown and the abolitionists who supported John Brown and demanded immediate abolition of slavery, all the way down to the present time.”
Thursday’s event starts at 7:30 p.m. in Keith Auditorium in the Academic and Performance Center, 1071 Blue Hill Ave. It is open to the public, although there is a $5 suggested donation. Hayden will be signing copies of his book, “Inspiring Participatory Democracy: Student Movements from Port Huron to Today.”