The Public Square

Conrad Wetzel on “The People Speak


Hello. My name is Conrad Wetzel. I am a resident of Champaign and a member of AWARE, the Anti-War, Anti-Racism Effort.

March 19, 2008, will mark the beginning of the sixth year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians will have been killed and countless more maimed and wounded. Basic infrastructure in Iraq will have been destroyed, depriving millions of clean drinking water, electricity, sewage treatment, and health services. Trillions of dollars will have been spent, millions of which have disappeared through corporate graft and corruption. At the same time, in the US, basic health, education, employment, and other needs have gone unaddressed. Our economy is in recession. Many Americans have experienced an overall decline in the quality of their lives while wealth is accumulating in the hands of a privileged few.

To call attention to the continuing war and its devastation at home and abroad, AWARE has scheduled an event at Urbana City Hall from 7:00-9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11th. While the event will address the war and the need to end it as soon as possible, it will focus more broadly on the need for people to "speak out" and voice their dissent against the war and other social injustices.

To celebrate the "enduring spirit of dissent" in the United States, local residents will present dramatic readings assembled and edited by Howard Zinn, author of the award winning book, "A People's History of the United States". The name of the collection of readings is "The People Speak: American Voices, Some Famous, Some Little Known."

These were first read at the 92nd Street "Y" in New York City by a group of distinguished participants including James Earl Jones, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Danny Glover. Topics addressed include Shay's Rebellion, Indian Removal, the Women's Declaration of Rights, the IWW and Lawrence Strike, Vietnam, Gulf War Resistance, and Poverty in Our Time. Among the authors whose words are voiced are: Frederick Douglas, Henry Turner, Mark Twain, Emma Goldman, Helen Keller, Eugene Debs, Fannie Lou Hammer, and Malcolm X.

AWARE invites listeners to join us for this special event, either in person or by watching the live television broadcast on Channel 6. Again, the readings will take place at Urbana City Hall located at 400 South Vine Street on Tuesday. March 11 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. We hope to see you there.