Tom died last October surrounded by people who loved him. For the last 4 months, Tom’s widow Barbara Williams, Troy Garity, my son with Tom, and I have been working together to create a memorial that honored and celebrated Tom’s 6 decades of commitment to peace, justice and democracy.
In the course of preparing the memorial, I reread many of his books and speeches, watched films, news footage and interviews of Tom that Troy and Barbara assembled and read letters that friends and colleagues of his were sending in about the impact Tom had on their lives. And I was able to see with even more clarity than when he and I were together what an extraordinary life of dedication he lived and what a lasting impact he had on countless lives.
From a working class family in Royal Oak, Michigan, a student and alter boy in the arch conservative Father Coughlin’s Temple of the Little Flower, Tom became editor of the prestigious Michigan Daily and, after reporting on the new Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in the early 60’s, the civil rights bus boycotts and sit ins in the South, he stepped out from behind his notepad and became an organizer and builder of movements. He was able to whisper to me the day before he died that seeing people willing to die for their beliefs changed him forever. And it was ‘forever.’ He never stopped trying to make Democracy a reality.
We held the memorial at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Sunday February 19. People came from all over the country who had been in the trenches with Tom, some from the very beginning. There were people who were part of creating the seminal Port Huron Statement on which Tom was the lead writer and editor— the document that laid out in beautiful, even soulful, language an entirely new vision of what a Democratic society would look like. It was a profound departure from the doctrinaire, ideological view of the “old Left” and it brought hope and inspiration to a new generation of young activists who came together as SDS: Students for a Democratic Society. To illustrate the cultural impact that the Port Huron Statement had, we were able to get clips from “Mad Men” and the film, “The Big Lebowski” in which characters talked about the document and how “cool” it was.
Two of the Chicago 7 defendants, Rennie Davis and John Froines, were at the memorial.
Troy, Barbara and I had the speakers arranged in chronological order so that one could see the entire sweep of Tom’s life as an organizer/strategist/movement builder/writer/journalist/State Senator.
Troy, edited a wonderful opening video called “Who the Hell is Tom Hayden?” and then started everything off with an emotional, funny and welcoming speech that really set the perfect tone.
A beautifully emotional Alfre Woodard read from Tom’s memoir, Ed Begley spoke about Tom’s commitment to the environment and how it changed his life, ending by saying that he named his daughter Hayden in Tom’s honor.
Bobby Kennedy Jr spoke about Tom’s Irishness and why the Kennedy family asked Tom to be one of the pall bearers at Robert Kennedy’s funeral. Kevin DeLeon, President Pro Tem of the California Senate, talked about what Tom accomplished as a member of the state legislature for 14 years when term limits forced his retirement. Delores Huerta spoke. Bonnie Raitt, a longtime friend and supporter of Tom’s, sang “Change is Gonna Come.”
Two of the most moving speeches were made by Alex Sanchez and DeWayne Holmes. Both former gang members who evolved into becoming successful peace activists. DeWayne, born in Watts, and Alex who as a child immigrated from El Salvador to escape the bloody civil war that ravaged his mother county. Both spoke of how Tom had believed in them despite their troubled pasts. Tom had been able to see “ past their tattoos to who they really were” and made it possible for them to completely turn their lives around. He hired them to work on his Senate staff, and even traveled with them to El Salvador to witness the gang violence that forces so many young people to seek refuge in the US. I was far from the only one in tears as I heard them speak about Tom. For years Tom worked tirelessly to stop the gang wars, helping support Homies Unidos and other efforts which allowed young men and women to leave the gang life and become community leaders. This is what is needed instead of walls.
I will summarize some of what I said at the memorial because I think it speaks to what needs to happen today in this country: I spoke of my 17 years with Tom which began in 1972 when the peace movement was flagging after years of repression and sectarian divisiveness. Tom knew that the recent release of the Pentagon Papers had changed the national landscape and that it was time to pull back from radical action and take the anti war message right into the heart of middle America.
I didn’t realize at the time what a brave and controversial departure that was for the Peace Movement and how much heat Tom took from the left for adopting this educational, grassroots strategy with it’s congressional focus. As I said in my speech, “… let’s think about that strategy for today.” It was called the Indochina Peace Campaign, IPC.
Together with singer Holly Near, POWs Bob Chenowith and George Smith and others, the IPC tour began at the Ohio State Fair and traveled to 100 cities in 3 months during the fall of 1972. Our message was that Nixon was lying about ending the war. Yes, our ground troops were coming home but the air war was being escalated unbeknownst to most Americans and, in the south, our allies were imprisoning, torturing and corrupting Vietnamese civilians in our name. We delivered our message— demand that Congress cut aid to our puppet regime in Saigon—in union halls, churches, editorial boards, on campuses, to crowds of sometimes 10,000 people. We distributed over a million pieces of educational literature. I got pregnant during the tour in a motor home en route to Buffalo, NY. That was part of our shared commitment to the future.
What a soaring speaker Tom was. He had a non-rhetorical way of putting big new ideas together so that people saw themselves in the narrative. I would watch the audience hanging on his words as he broke their hearts open and then filled them with hope and new understanding.
The Watergate scandal and the unraveling of the presidency gave decisive new leverage to Tom’s Congressional strategy and in the fall of ’73 the IPC tour went out again with the same team plus 3-month-old Troy who slept in dresser drawers along the way. The strategy worked. Congress to Cut Aid to Thieu.
With the war over, Tom could see that the Watergate scandal had created cracks in the walls of the establishment and that now was the time for progressives to squeeze through those cracks and run for office. You see, Tom wanted to win. He understood that progressives had to be prepared to take power and learn to govern, not just protest…something else we would do well to think about for today.
I was with Tom when he visited Cesar Chavez to ask whether he should run for the U.S. Senate. Cesar thought for a few moments and then said, “It only makes sense if you build a movement out of your campaign structure when it’s over.” And that became CED: The California Campaign for Economic Democracy that got scores of progressives elected to state and local offices and many measures passed like Prop 65. Again, don’t we need CEDs today—-in every state?
Along with her son with Tom, Liam Hayden, Barbara ended the program by performing her song, “Push That Rock”. In 2015 Tom wrote: “My wife Barbara Williams has added a new meaning to the Albert Camus story of Sisyphus, who was condemned to push the rock back up the hill eternally. In her version, in pushing the rock we become stronger, not weaker. The chant “Push that rock” is realism for radicals and reformers today.” Following Barbaras song, members of the First AME Choir Tom Morello, Holly Near, Bonnie Raitt and James McVay and myself joined Barbara on stage for a rendition of Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn me Around, appropriately ending the memorial with everyone on their feet and singing along.
Kristy Edmunds, Director of UCLA’s Royce Hall, wrote this to me after the memorial. It captures what so many felt:
“I learned so much more about the efforts and events that have shaped and changed the directions of so many than I was conscious of—including those that have influenced and made possible my own course—I was awakened to such gratitude, and I found myself gaining inspiration and an inner charge to press forward with even more boldness. Yes, I can do more! And I will.”
I know that we all came away with a renewed commitment to making Tom’s vision of a true Democracy into a reality. Seize the time!
I have to say, Jane, that I truly admire how we’re were able to become friends with the men in your life after your time together was done. Seeing how well adjusted your adult children are tells me what a good mother you are. The fact you helped organize a memorial service with Tom’s wife is something not many people can do. His service sounded like it was beautiful and I applaud him for everything he did during his lifetime. He was truly an American hero!
That’s a beautiful tribute Jane, and I’m sorry for your loss. Tom lived an incredible life! I remember learning about him and the SDP in my history classes when I was 15. He truly has a legacy.
Whoops, I meant SDS of course.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”- Henry David Thoreau
Thank you Tom Hayden and to ALL for seeing, speaking out and doing something about what really matters.
I have a dear friend, Matt Atlee, whose father Bill Atlee traveled with you and Tom during the IPC tour. Hanging on a wall in his den in his home in Lancaster, PA is a black and white photo of Tom speaking on stage With you and Bill in the foreground, listening intently. It was one of the first things I noticed when I was visiting Matt one Christmas many years ago. I turned to Bill and asked about the picture and told him that he had better lock it away while I was staying, otherwise it would mysteriously find its way from his den wall to my suitcase.
It’s one thing to read Tom’s words or to watch footage of both you and him speaking, but quite another to hear first-hand accounts of those days and those events from someone who was there.
I wish I’d have been at the memorial, but I’m very thankful that Tom created the template for how we can work, agitate, and change our country in these trying times. For most people, the life and death of a loved one is a personal experience. But Tom’s life and his passing has had that kind of impact on many beyond the bonds of blood and friendship. We’re a better place and people because of him.
Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you for sharing this. My level of respect for Mr Hayden is unparalleled and we’re a better world because he walked among us. God bless him and those who loved him.
Emma Goldman was the first to say “If I can’t dance it’s not my revolution” and in solidarity I add:
If I can’t laugh it’s not my revolution either so THANK YOU for Season 3 of Grace and Frankie
Thank you so very much for posting this… during my college years I was a CED volunteer, working with Tom and all the wonderful people in the organization (and indirectly with you as well) was a huge influence and inspiration in my life. I was very saddened to hear of Tom’s passing, he was a good man and a fierce warrior for social justice, it warms my heart to witness how deeply he was and continues to be loved. I’m very sorry for your and your family’s loss.
What a wonderful memorial and blog entry about him.
I am heading to New Mexico in a month. I will spend a days seeing the Trinity Site and White Sands, then head up to the Santa Fe area. I know you once had a home somewhere in New Mexico. Any suggestions of places to see? I am a little overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. It looks like a wonderful state to visit.
I met Tom at a coffee shop downtown LA he was warm and sweet. I had a stack of progressive books and magazines with me and he had nice observations about them.
Then he spontaneously invited me to attend an event he was hosting for homies unidos right down the street… Great day!
I cannot believe that you were in Hamburg, my city, and I had NO idea!! How awful. We were practically breathing the same air and I didn’t know it. I’m devastated.
Anyway, being ever the upbeat optimist, I’m sure you’ll be back. 🙂
Congratulations on the lifetime achievement award.
I took the liberty to excerpt from “CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF TOM HAYDEN: A COMMITTED MAN” and an email from Terry Provance who wrote:
Subject: April 4, 2017 MLK Speech Anniversary
I am writing because after the Tom Hayden memorial in Los Angeles in mid-February, our committee met and decided to resurrect our organizing and hope you will consider joining and participating…
Always remembering the Chicago 7 and the force of that moment in time.
I’m so happy for all your success with Grace and Frankie. It really was an excellent season, this show just keeps getting better and better. Much love!
What I want to ask is something you may not know, but I hope an administrator or someone can help me. I want to order a mug shot t-shirt, but it seems that Hungary is not an option among the countries that I can set in the billing adress part. I want to support your charity. OK, it may not be that unselfish of me, because that t-shirt is so cool I’m desperate to have it and also put my I<3Isabelle Huppert pin on it, to have my two queens with me (what an outrage she lost the Oscar… I hope you voted for her!!! If not… grrr and do so next time lol). 😀
I saw on Great Glenn's page that you and Lily watched Sunset Blvd. I saw it back in London. What an event that was… Blown away by it and normally I'm not a huge musical fan. I bet you both loved it.
Daniel P., what size are you? Do you want black or white, long sleeves or short? xxx
Hi All. Sorry to post here in an unrelated topic, but I am unable to navigate to the original post by Jane describing her very personal relationship with God. I am prompted to post and correct two misconceptions written in reply to Jane’s beliefs. One, Adam and Eve were not ejected from the Garden of Eden. Cain was ejected from Eden for killing his brother Abel. Second, the accounting of God’s creation process includes the creation of man and woman on the sixth day made in the “image of us”. Following the creation narrative God see’s he needs someone to work the soil. He then creates man from the dust of the earth. Nowhere, in the initial creation of Adam does it say that this “first man” (Hebrew definition of “Adam”) is made in God’s image. Later, after God ejects Cain from Eden and Cain makes love to his wife (we must assume Cain found human beings living outside of Eden that were the product of the sixth day of creation and not made from the dust of the earth but rather, in the “image of us” and took one as his spouse) who eventually gives birth to a son. After Cain, so to speak, cross- polinates with his wife whose origins are outside of the Garden of Eden does The Torah re-state that man is made in God’s image.
Success! Jane, I find computers and smart phomes difficult to navigate. – my age I suppose. But my admiration of you as a beautiful woman, a wonderful actress and your commiitment and influence re the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war sealed the deal.. I too was an anti-war activist during that unecessary and eventually fruitless war and a total disaster, a castastrophe that resulted in many deaths and cost America hundreds of billions of dollars 55. 000 young lives and I can’t even bear to mention the awful carnage and loss of life in Vietnam and Cambodia. the way you dealt with the hatred and bile of the right-wing pro-war backlash was an example of a very determined and principled woman who became an example to us all. I was determined to ‘sort’ this debilatation regarded my technilogical limitations and converse with a woman I’ve admired since the 60s. At last I’ve succeeded. There were many beautiful actors in your era like Munroe and Bardot but they wouldn’t and didn’t hold a candle to you. You are an issues’ actor – and very good at it too! I hope you read the poem I sent you from Facebook . I looked at a photo I have of you on my wall and was simply inspired. It took me 5 minutes to write that poem and its reading speaks volumnes of the esteem and admiration I have for the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen
I read about Tom in your autobiography My Life so Far. He was a man of dauntlessness and conviction whose struggle against the war in Vietnam was instrtumental in the ending of that awful conflict and it was his prompting that persuaded you to visit Hanoi. An act of supreme courage and gallantry on your part. Your visit to Hanoi played a large part in changing the conception of large parts middle America whose support was vital to President Johnston’s continuation of the war
His influence was far reaching. My dad met him many many years ago and told him that he admired his work. Tom said “what are you doing about it?” and my dad said “well I have a little girl at home, so I can’t really do much.” and Tom said “what are you going to tell her when she becomes an adult and learns about the war and the horrible things happening in the world, and asks you ‘daddy what did you do?'” And that pushed my dad to take more action. He marched, and attended sit ins and teach ins, etc.
I first met Tom at a panel discussion in Boston during the 2004 Democratic Convention there, as a protest songwriter I gave Tom a song I wrote called “1968” about the Chicago protest and the other major events of that pivotal year-he also took the street with other protesters outside the Boston Garden where the convention was. I last met him in Cambridge, Mass. at a discussion he gave there-I got his book “The Long 60’s” and he signed it for me-one of my cherished possessions. Tom’s life was a life well-lived. Tom Hayden-Presente !!(the Spanish tribute to a departed person of greatness).
Thank you, Michael
Such a beautiful tribute. Although I was quite young in the 1960’s, I found myself drawn to Tom Hayden’s works. His teachings have served me well over the years as I stood up and fought in the Wisconsin Uprising. Hayden’s teachings will always be with me to guide me to do what is right. We all do better, when we all do better.