The Class of ’67 valedictorian recalls graduating at a time of turmoil.
The one line I remember from my valedictory remarks was, “I don’t pretend to speak for all my classmates.” Some hated it—an older Jesuit insisted that future valedictorians should have their talks vetted by a mentor before the graduation. Many others, I think, appreciated it. How could I speak for all my classmates? We were a divided nation in a divided world.
Not that we didn’t talk to one another. One friend was training to be a helicopter pilot. Presumed destination: Vietnam. One day he told us casually that he would have to carry a sidearm, not to protect himself in case he was downed in enemy territory, but so he could shoot himself so as not to fall into the hands of the barbaric Vietcong. We were shocked. Catholics weren’t supposed to contemplate suicide. Luckily Terry never used that weapon.
The year 1967 was a year of turmoil, and that was what I reflected upon in my talk. We faced a world out of kilter, far more out of kilter than we had been raised to expect in the innocent, affluent fifties. The Civil Rights movement had triumphed legislatively, but it was clear there was lots more to be done. Martin Luther King Jr. would proclaim that the War in Vietnam was a moral outrage a few months after we graduated. A year later he was dead, as was Bobby Kennedy. And our class had barely started school when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The two Kennedys, Dr. Tom Dooley—these were the Catholic heroes we were asked to look up to. Later scandal would cloud their names. But the heroics they called us to continued to inspire many.
I’ve not lost my engagement with national and international affairs since those days, but I’ve added a deeper engagement with the place where I’m planted. I never “turned on and dropped out,” though I toyed with both. But when College Republicans at The Catholic University of America where I taught from 1989 to 2007 called me a “hippie” because I opposed the invasion of Iraq, I shed my suit and tie, put my blue jeans back on, and let my hair grow once again. I always hated haircuts, and I was ready for a change of life.
Today I am a farmer in Willits, Mendocino County, raising vegetables and fruit for market, running our local farmers market, and I’m co-founder of a farmer training program for the new generation of young people looking to make the world a better place with their bare hands and their ingenuity. I think there is no doubt our civilization is failing and rapidly running out of time. But I put my hope in growing things, nurturing the young, building up our local community, and gathering together the fragments of resilience that remain among us. Fears for the future and hope in the young probably summed up my valedictory address, and both occupy me today.
Michael Foley ’67
I lived in San Francisco during the infamous summer of ’67! One memory I have is of going down to the Haight with Tom Inks ’62 to see what all the fuss was about! We also used to go to the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms for the music. I don’t have any pics of this time, but I do have a roach clip with a peace symbol on it! We were in the middle of what would become a famous time and not even aware of it.
Michele McEvoy ’66
I spent that summer as a member of the 1st Marine Division returning again and again to a place called Quê Son in the southern portion of Quang Nam Province. We fought battles with the North Vietnamese Army there that are only remembered by the survivors and military historians. Thankfully, some of us survived and have revisited Quê Son to admire its postwar beauty and to remember the dead, the wounded, and the scarred. The only song I can recall that summer was “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs; it’s a nonsense song, has a great beat, and was totally appropriate for that time and place.
Mike McDonell ’66
I wish I could say “Wow, what a summer. Spent it in Golden Gate Park, high on pot, music, and love.” The truth is I spent it studying for and taking the LSAT and starting law school at SCU. Most of the summer was in a library. I only tried pot once and nothing happened! Must not have inhaled like Bill Clinton. Had a special lady who later became my wife.
Gary Shara ’67, J.D. ’70
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