Few Ann Arbor residents know that The Statement, the Daily’s weekly news magazine, is named in memory of the Port Huron Statement, drafted by myself as the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society 50 years ago.
The Port Huron Statement
Fifty years after its drafting by Students for a Democratic Society, Tom Hayden and 12 other contributors revisit the seminal document, The Port Huron Statement, and provide an original and comprehensive analysis of its historical impact and its increasing relevance to today's social movements.
Six hundred cheering students, faculty and staff, and area residents welcomed Tom Hayden to Port Huron, Michigan, for a college appearance last week, fifty years after the Students for a Democratic Society was founded at a vanished lakeside retreat outside the town.
In March 1962, a 22-year-old student journalist and activist named Tom Hayden sat down in his Manhattan apartment to begin work on an "agenda for a generation," a manifesto that would distil the fears and hopes and values of the student movement then rising on American campuses. Three months later, members of the newly formed Students for a Democratic Society, the leading organization of the New Left movement, came together to debate and edit Hayden's draft at a five-day retreat near Port Huron, northeast of Detroit.
Few symbolized 1960s radicalism as boldly as Tom Hayden: co-founder of Students for a Democratic Society, Freedom Rider in the South, member of the Chicago Eight put on trial for disrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Vietnam war protester. Later he earned fame in other ways, by marrying actress and activist Jane Fonda (from whom he is long divorced) and serving in the California legislature. Now in his 70s, Hayden writes every day — newspaper columns, books, tweets — as part of a “moral obligation” that he says he feels to speak out. “I made that commitment after my heart surgery, which was at the time of 9/11, and I have kept that pledge,” he says. Hayden spoke to The Post from his office in Culver City, near Los Angeles.
On June 15, 1962, members of the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, gathered in Port Huron, Mich., to combine voices and opinions in the creation of a statement which still holds relevance almost 50 years later.
The hopes of Students for a Democratic Society stalled as the 1960s soured. But our ethos of participatory democracy survives.
Looking back at that summer 50 years ago, it feels as though the Port Huron Statement wrote us, not the other way around.
This June will be the 50th anniversary of the completion of the final draft of the Port Huron Statement. According to Kirkpatrick Sale’s SDS, published in 1970 (and still the most comprehensive history of the Students for a Democratic Society), the Port Huron Statement “may have been the most widely distributed document of the American left in the sixties,” with 60,000 copies printed and sold for 25 cents each between 1962 and 1966.