January 31, 2003
As the possibility of a U.S.-led war with Iraq looms on the horizon, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is hoping to open dialogue on the issue of conflict, hosting a speaker's series that will run over three-months, featuring a distinguished group of presenters whose lives have been personally affected by combat.
Carol Hawkins, assistant professor of English and director of the writing program at UMFK, is organizing the open series in part to provide an opportunity for university students and community members to speak about relevant issues relating to war, and also as an extension of her honors seminar course entitled "Representations of Vietnam through Popular Culture: War, Resistance, and Peace".
The speaker's series, like the course, is designed to provide "a forum for reflection in a time of talk of war."
"I see this speaker's series as an opportunity for UMFK to sponsor a dialogue with the community on the current climate on war by looking at the USA's past experience with war via Vietnam. However, our speaker's series will not only deal with war, as the subtitle of the course suggests. We will also address the topics of resistance and peace," said Hawkins.
To facilitate discussion on each topic, the honors seminar professor has decided to spend each of the next three months exploring the issues. February will be devoted to talk of war, March to discussions on resistance, and April's theme will be peace.
The first of the sessions is planned for Wednesday, February 5, at 6:30 p.m., in the Nadeau Hall Teleconference Room. Speaking at the session will be Lionel Lavoie, a Vietnam Veteran from Madawaska.
Lavoie, an employee of Fraser Papers for 29 years, was born and raised in Madawaska. He joined the U.S. Marines in 1966 and was sent to Vietnam as a young 17-year-old.
In 1998, as a result of his experiences in Vietnam, Lavoie was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For 30 years, the Madawaska veteran has been silent about what he witnessed in Vietnam. However, he is now ready to tell his story.
"No movie or story can describe the experience of a combat veteran," said Lavoie.
Among other topics, the Madawaska man will speak about his time in Vietnam, what happened when he returned home, the resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and share his opinion on the current situation between the United States and Iraq.
Lavoie's presentation will be followed on Wednesday, February 19, at 6:30 p.m., in the Nadeau Teleconference Room, with a discussion led by Dorothy Hopkins, a volunteer who served in Vietnam, and the widow of an officer who lost his life in Vietnam.
Hopkins will briefly outline her experiences involving the war, first as the wife of an infantry lieutenant who joined the service and entered the war firm in his belief in service to his country and in the stated goals of the war in terms of both the Cold War and independence for the South Vietnamese people, but who was a humanitarian who spent all his off-duty time working with a local orphanage near his base camp.
Hopkins will then speak of her own experiences as a war widow serving with International Voluntary Services in South Vietnam during 1967/68 after her husband was killed in action. She will include both her visit to the orphanage where her husband had volunteered so much of his time and the effects of the Tet Offensive in her town, Hoi An, the provincial capital of Quang Nam province. She will discuss her movement from supporting the war to opposing it.
In March, the focus will change to discussion of resistance. Allen Shoaff, assistant professor of rural public safety administration at UMFK, who was a graduate student at Kent State University during the protests and riots of 1970, will talk about his experiences.
Specifically, Shoaff will discuss what might have caused the horrible tragedy at Kent State, which resulted in four people killed, and eight others injured, and how the incident drew the attention of America to the anti-war movement.
April's focus will shift to the topic of peace. Students in Hawkins' honors seminar course will lead discussions on what they've learned from America's experience in Vietnam and where they learned their lessons. They will then apply those lessons by opening up a dialogue on the current threat of war with Iraq.
The semester-long class, which Hawkins is leading, examines the legacy of the Vietnam War within the context of American history during the 1960s and 1970s. Students will recall what images they see when they think of Vietnam; what sounds they hear, what stories they were told. Responses are discussed within the context of the popular culture generated by the war, primarily American films, music, oral histories, and literature.
"We hope that through our speaker's series and the discussion that ensues we will create an awareness of how people can make a difference whether or not we go to war, or whether or not, like in the case of Vietnam, we stay in the war," said Hawkins.
More information on the speaker's series will be released at a later date.
The public is invited to participate in all of the sessions. For further details, contact Hawkins at (207) 834-7892.