"No one, and no one's pain, will be forgotten" - Kent State President Beverly J. Warren speaking to Chautauqua Institution
“We at Kent State feel called to play the role of convener -- to broker conversations that are more civil, braver, and more productive.”
At a time when our national conversation is plagued with division with opposing sides routinely attacking each other’s allegiances, Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren looked to the university’s history, specifically the campus shootings on May 4, 1970, and called on America to learn from its past to heal its present.
“If all we do is hunker down in bunkers alongside like-minded people, attacking the opposition, our divisions only grow,” President Warren said. “So we reflect on what May 4 teaches us, and these are the lessons we try to pass on about the world at large.”
President Warren spoke Aug. 15, 2018, to an estimated crowd of 2,000 as a featured lecturer at the Chautauqua Institution’s weeklong investigation of “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century,” which runs through Aug. 18.
“Kent State will not merely remember May 4, 1970, in an endless loop that never satisfies, the wound rubbed raw over and over again,” President Warren said during her 45-minute presentation. “We choose to remember, reflect, and renew.”
In a moving speech that covered the moment that the Ohio National Guard opened fire killing four students wounding nine others, Warren shared a poignant portrait of the long-term impact the shootings had on the victims, the university and the nation.
President Warren said that as president, she has quickly gained the insight that this “wound has not healed.”
President Warren also praised past university leaders for meeting the challenge of keeping the university on track while the campus community was still reeling from the shootings. She specifically praised President Carol Cartwright’s leadership for installing markers on campus that identify the exact spots where each of the four students was killed and President Lester Lefton, who oversaw the creation of the university’s May 4 Visitors Center.
Under her leadership, President Warren saw the 22-acre site recently designated as a National Historic Landmark.
President Warren also discussed the university’s plans for a year-long commemoration in 2020 for the upcoming 50th anniversary of this watershed moment in American history.
“This anniversary is more than a chance for a retrospective. It is an exceptional, maybe final, opportunity to connect original witnesses to a new generation,” Dr. Warren said.
The commemoration will include a mobile museum, teaching materials for middle and high schools, and a teaching workshop at Kent State’s Kent Campus.
“What I wish for them is healing – closure – peace. I know we do not have the power to bestow it,” President Warren said. “But my presidency does have the power to honor their perspectives and acknowledge their loss.
“So if we are to truly move forward together, there is limited solace, and limited power, in remembering. We must find another way. Travel another path.”
Many members of the Kent State family were in attendance at the speech, including several witnesses to the shootings and victim Tom Grace, who survived being wounded in the heel.
Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, it celebrates, encourages and studies the arts and treats them as integral to all forms of learning, and it convenes the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue.