Skip to main content

[Cover letterhead:] The San Juan Star G.P.O, BOX 4187 San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936 Tel. (809) 782-4200 Cable: Star

30 August, 1971

Hon. Julian Bond
361 Lee St. SW
Atlanta, Ga. 30314

Dear Mr. Bond:

Tom did remember "parva, parva, etc." In fact, he remembers the whole thing, or led me to believe so.

He sends his greetings and I enclose my own plus the copy of your speech. Thank you for trusting me with it.

Betsy López Abrams

Julian Bond 8/21/71

The winds of changes blow hard and fast among youth people all across the globe.

The phenomenon of youthful activism is common to every nation, democratic or tyrant led, Black and white.

In Asia, in Africa, in the Americas, in Europe -- everywhere there are people, there are young people, and everywhere there are young people, there is turmoil.

The turmoil takes various forms in various lands: the red guards in the People's Republic of China, the Zengakuren, the militant youth in Japan, the early sit-in movement of the American South that blossomed into student activism across the continent -- all these have added to the rising tide of youthful participation in the affairs of the nations of the world.

But youthful activity in each of these nations has been only


sporadic, rising to meet and grapple with a specific issue, while the usual eventual outcome is a cessation of involvement or protest or militance, and a return to the status quo.

Nonetheless, young people have played an important role in the struggle of man to better his condition.

It was young Black people in Ghana in 1950, when Ghana was still the Gold Coast, who helped launch her move toward independence.

South American students played a key role in stopping dictators in their countries, particularly Peron in Argentina, in the early '50s. Students in Cuba were a vital part of the overthrow of the Dictator Batista. It was a student demonstration in Hungary in 1956 that helped trigger the Hungarian Revolt.

It was young Black students in the Southern United States who through their bravery and daring helped break the back of legal discrimination against Black people, and who set the example of


student activism for an entire generation of white college students.

In the school year 67-68 alone, the French paper Le Monde carried 2,125 articles on youth revolts or disorders on six continents.

But throughout the history of youthful activism, there has been this constant ebb and flow. It is almost as if young people are exactly the worst their elders have always believed about them: capable of great idealism and emotion, but unable to sustain any long range commitment to overthrowing evil and establishing a just order.

Too many of the young are just that, and that is why, in each of the fifty United States, the term student activism has an often hollow ring. That is why some of the young people who battled in cotton fields for the right to vote and at lunch counters for the right to vote and at lunch counters for the right to eat are not to be found when the issue becomes the right to work and live or the right to rule yourself.

That is why on college campuses that once rang with slogans


calling for power to the people you now discover more interest in music, drugs, and macrobiotic diets and the salving powers of astrology, the romantic rhetoric of revolution, and the enobling sacrifice of self induced poverty that you can discover any real interest in improving the condition of man through social and political action.

That is why you here today cannot afford the foolish preoccupations that divert so many summer soldiers from a battle that will probably last for many winters more.

That is why you must be prepared to struggle, in a political fashion, not just for immediate civil rights for young people here, now, and today, but for the extension of full manhood rights to all people everywhere for all time.

Most crucial of the civil rights is the right to vote. It is an article of faith among informed persons that the age of majority is


lower now than it ever was, and young men and women become young men and women sooner than they did ten or even five years ago.

The common argument put before the U.S. Congress is that if any one is old enough to fight, he certainly is old enough to vote. That argument has its weaknesses, the most obvious being that only men are presently drafted into military service, so that if young men are to vote because they fight, then women must be denied the vote because they do not.

Therefore, the vote has been extended to youth not for reasons of the likelihood of their killing, or being killed, but because youth today, men and women, are of an age to decide whether anyone ought to kill or be killed at all.

This new tool -- new in the hands of people who have not yet determined what, if any, worth it has -- must be used carefully.

It is quite popular among many of the youth who have never voted to demonstrate that things are in bad shape despite the


number of people who have been voting to date and that therefore nothing will change if a few new people now exercise the franchise.

Hopefully, that is because none of us who have voted to date have had your concern, your idealism, your interest in seeing that the political process became what it ought to be: a means through which people solve their problems and govern themselves.

It only becomes this through the infusion of new blood and new ideas, and through a long commitment by persons like yourself to the notion that change for the better never comes because we wish it so, only because we make it so.

That cannot be done by simply trooping to the ballot box for every election. One can have a perfect record for casting votes with never a thought about what or whom the votes go for.

Because you are young, because the education explosion has made you more knowledgeable than your elders, because this world will be


yours long after the people who messed it up have gone, then you must rise to the challenge to make it a better place for us all.

You can do this, not by mouthing rhetoric that will be gone with the wind, but by becoming an active part of the affairs that move about you.

This means that your interest must be great enough to cover questions ranging from whether a twenty-foot alley receives a street light to international complications that may turn out all of the lights all over this world.

Once again, you cannot bring this kind of leadership to your neighbors by telling them you know what is wrong -- the odds are that they knew what was wrong before you got here, and that they have had a good appreciation of how to set things right for some time.

Therefore you must be prepared to work not just for them, but with them, so as to insure that your superior knowledge of theories and strategies can be tempered with a bit of common sense.


You must also be ready to accept the responsibility for your actions, and the actions you urge on others.

The beauty of the late Martin Luther King was that he never asked anyone to do that which he would not do himself; never asked for suffering he would not, him and in the end, finally did, endure himself, and always stood ready to let the forces of oppression know that he would not turn and hide, but would face them like the man he was.

You have gathered to discuss the rights of minors. Remember if you will that today's minority is tomorrow's majority, that what in New York or Paris or Rome or Johannesburg looks like a few becomes the many when viewed world-wide.

Remember that the people who have been directing the affairs of colored peoples across the globe cannot do so much longer, at


least not with the however unwillingly granted consent of those peoples, and that this struggle will continue even without your presence.

But by your presence here, you have demonstrated you will be in the struggle tomorrow and the day after and the year after that, and that you will take as your slogan some words written nearly one hundred years ago by the greatest spokesman people of African descent ever had, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois.

Dr. DuBois said:

"I believe in God who made of one blood all the races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men-- Black and white and Brown - are brothers, varying, through time and opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

Especially do I believe in the Negro race; in the beauty of


its genius, the sweetness of its soul, and its strength in that meekness which shall inherit this turbulent earth....

"I believe in the Prince of Peace. I believe that war is murger. I believe that armies and navies are at bottom the tinsel and braggadocio of oppression and wrong; and I believe that the wicked conquest of weaker and darker nations by nations white and stronger but foreshadows the death of that strength.

"I believe in liberty for all men: the space to stretch their aims and their souls. The right to breathe and the right to vote, to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine... uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of God and love."


[Handwritten notes on the back of the final page:]

361 Lee St, SW
Atlanta, Ga

US House  Nov, 6
US Senate 3 51% →


Related Documents

Document Source


Special Collections, University of Virginia Library


Papers of Julian Bond 1897-2006


Series I: Articles and Speeches by Julian Bond


Box 3 Folder 9