Peter Yarrow leads off the conference talking about his recent visit to a home for children disabled by Agent Orange. He sings the songs that helped to rally a nation of protesters to say to the commercial war machine, “stop it,” and to finally be heard. A demarcation line winds through the audience — younger folks respectfully sing along, but those of us over 50 are in tears. The wounds are that deep. This isn’t Pennsylvania or Ohio or any other of the 50 US states that sent their proud youngsters over here to die. And so many lives lost among the Vietnamese, so much destruction. For what? After 30 years, we are still asking.
In a soft voice, mixing song with spoken word, he reminds us how music is a universal language and that we still need to rally against war. Not speaking about Iraq, he is talking about the ongoing wars in our schools. Along with Peter and Mary they are working with to promote and organization called Operation Respect. a It offers a free curriculum to schools to stop school bullying and violence, the centerpiece being a song, Don’t Laugh At Me. He reminds us that war is the ultimate disrespect, but that we are training our children to be warriors when we tolerate disrespect in schools, on television and on playing fields. At this point the demarcation line disappears and everyone is teary-eyed as videos are shown and the song repeated, the audience singing along.