The Port Huron Statement at 40 : ON THE OCCASION OF ITS ANNIVERSARY, TWO OF THE STATEMENT'S AUTHORS ASSESS ITS RELEVANCE FOR ALL THOSE TRYING TO CREATE A MORE DEMOCRATIC WORLD TODAY

By Hayden, Tom; Flacks, Dick | The Nation, August 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Port Huron Statement at 40 : ON THE OCCASION OF ITS ANNIVERSARY, TWO OF THE STATEMENT'S AUTHORS ASSESS ITS RELEVANCE FOR ALL THOSE TRYING TO CREATE A MORE DEMOCRATIC WORLD TODAY


Hayden, Tom, Flacks, Dick, The Nation


In the movie The Big Lebowski, the aging, stoned hippie played by Jeff Bridges announces that he helped write the Port Huron Statement. We don't remember the "dude" being there, but it's gratifying that the founding manifesto of Students for a Democratic Society still lives in the nostalgia and imagination of so many.

A glance at the web will show tens of thousands of references to "participatory democracy," the central focus of that document, which still appears as a live alternative to the top-down construction of most institutions. Participatory democracy has surfaced in the campaigns of the global justice movement, in utopian visions of telecommunications, in struggles around workplace and neighborhood empowerment, in Paulo Freire's "pedagogy of the oppressed," in grassroots environmental crusades and antipoverty programs, in political platforms from Green parties to the Zapatistas, in participatory management theory, in liberation theology's emphasis on base communities of the poor and even in the current efforts of most Catholics to carve out a participatory role for laity in their church. The Port Huron Statement appears in numerous textbooks and has been the subject of thousands of student papers. This continued interest is the more impressive, since the statement was never marketed or even reissued as a book. It was produced only as a mimeographed pamphlet in 20,000 copies, which sold for 35 cents. We were jaundiced toward the very notion of public relations.

Recent celebrants of the Port Huron Statement include authors Garry Wills and E.J. Dionne, who see in its pages a bright promise of rational reform that was later lost, when they say SDS became too radical. At the other end of the political spectrum, Robert Bork says the "authentic spirit of Sixties radicalism issued" from Port Huron in "a document of ominous mood and aspiration" because it embodied a millennial vision of human possibility. The former radical David Horowitz reads the statement as encoding a "self-conscious effort to rescue the Communist project from its Soviet fate." At different moments, both Democrats and Republicans (under Richard Nixon) have invoked the rhetoric of participatory democracy in campaigns. This perplexing spectrum of reaction reflects, we believe, the statement's attempt at a new departure from the conventional dogmas of left and liberal thought.

Did we succeed, and if so, how? This year's occasion of the Port Huron Statement's fortieth anniversary provides a chance to ask whether its importance today is primarily symbolic and nostalgic, or whether, as we believe, the core of the statement is still relevant for all those trying to create a world where each person has a voice in the decisions affecting his or her life. It remains, as we described it then, "a living document open to change with our times and experiences."

The original idea, conceived at a winter meeting in Ann Arbor in 1961, was modest: to produce an organizing tool for the movement we were trying to spread through SDS. Then the statement became more audacious. The roughly sixty young people who finalized the statement during a week at a United Auto Workers retreat in Port Huron, Michigan, experienced what one could only call an inspirational moment. As the words flowed night and day, we felt we were giving voice to a new generation of rebels.

The two of us had arrived in Port Huron from different paths that symbolized the cultural fusion that happened at the beginning of the 1960s. Tom was a Midwestern populist by nature, rebelling apolitically against the boring hypocrisy of suburban life--until the Southern black student sit-in movement showed him that a committed life was possible. Tom was drawn to the mystique of citizen action and away from left ideologies based on systems far different from America, with its vast middle-class status system. Many others at Port Huron were mainstream student leaders inspired by the civil rights movement, the South African antiapartheid movement and even the youthful ideals of John Kennedy's New Frontier. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Port Huron Statement at 40 : ON THE OCCASION OF ITS ANNIVERSARY, TWO OF THE STATEMENT'S AUTHORS ASSESS ITS RELEVANCE FOR ALL THOSE TRYING TO CREATE A MORE DEMOCRATIC WORLD TODAY
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.