Well, I’d gone to the spring mobilization against the war in April of ‘67 in New York, then had gone to the march on the Pentagon that Norman Mailer wrote of in Armies of the Night and just was, you know, aflame in these kinds of debates at Williams and wherever else. But this also was a time in which all the surveys indicated that there was still huge support for the war, particularly in the South. So having lived in the South I thought maybe that’s the place I can make a difference. So I went to Boston to be trained by the Boston draft resistance group on one weekend and with that little bit of knowledge I just jumped in and decided, well, I’ll go to New Orleans and see what I can do. What I had hoped, the movie I saw in my mind, was that I would be dealing with working people who needed to know their rights. But what really happened is that once you go down there it was students who were having trouble with 2S deferments. A lot of what I ended up dealing with were kids from Tulane and Loyola just trying to beat the draft. And that sort of wasn’t what I signed up for. I wasn’t really having any impact. It was an isolating situation. It was pretty clear to me either I didn’t know what I was doing or whatever I was doing I wasn’t doing well enough. So by November of that year I left and headed for California and ended up going back to Williams in February.

The experience I remember best is a course I took from Prof. Gaudino coming back the spring term of ’69. Gaudino insisted as part of the paper for this course that I try to write up the experience and what I thought I had learned–frustrations, mistakes, any small successes whatsoever. I think the thing that most engaged him is that on the way back I’d stopped in Ann Arbor and there had been some winter meeting of the national SDS [Students for a Democratic Society]. I’d gone for a day and sat in on the meeting. It was a time when they were having a huge conflict between the Progressive Labor faction and some other faction lead by Bernadette Dohrn and it was just an awakening to me. Having worked in oilfields and having worked that year I was off as a lift truck driver and shipping clerk for Louisiana Coffee Co. in New Orleans, they were all talking about a worker-student alliance and it was just bizarre. I mean they had no idea what it would be like to talk to working people. But there was this bitter ideological sectarian kind of argument that was just like visiting another planet. I think that’s part of why he pushed me so hard to do this paper. It obviously was hugely shaping to me just because you finally realized if you were going to do something you pretty much had to figure it out yourself. There was a lot of wildness out there. Either you figured it out and jumped in and did it or you didn’t. But it was a very valuable experience.

During that spring, March or April, the Black Student Union took over the administration building. And once again having been out and organized and known some of the leaders, Preston Washington, Cliff Robinson, I ended up with a guy that I knew doing the support work. I remember a meeting at Gaudino’s house talking through the issues. Craig Brown was there too. This was as it happened. Within hours of it happening, as we were trying to raise the demand that they should shut down the school for a moratorium or teach-in about the racial situation, they were great sounding boards asking, you know, the right questions, pushing back on whatever I might have been thinking. I wouldn’t call them fans of it. I have no idea what they really felt.

We were movin’ the food in on one side and you had a stalemate between the administration and the Black Student Union and it’s a classic organizing situation. You had to somehow move the rest of the base. I mean they were isolated. If you could build some middle ground of support or curiosity or some way to get traction on what their issues were, then you had a chance of winning whatever their articulated grievances were. He may have helped in terms of helping us figure out where we could find [Dean] Hyde. He may have made a call to help set that up. Whatever there was, it worked. There was a period of discussion, a semblance of a negotiated settlement that got people out of the administration building.

I don’t remember there being any value judgments that he placed on this. This was obviously what was happening and I think it was incontestable that there were issues. It was a real crisis in the life of the campus. He happened to have enough of a relationship with me that there was a way to have a conversation. Once again it’s an organizing lesson. Whatever’s out front, you have to have some way to build bridges to communicate with the target, to the opposition, sometimes in order to realize some change.

You know, Gaudino was not didactic about this stuff. I certainly didn’t consider him somebody who thought I should go back and take another look at what the SDS was saying in Ann Arbor—I mean that wasn’t his point of view. I knew that. I never certainly thought he was a radical and didn’t think of him as a conservative. I mean he was very supportive of the quest to try to find a way to have impact.

Wade Rathke '71, who left Williams after that spring to organize welfare recipients in Springfield, then founded ACORN, the nation’s largest community organizing effort until its voter registration drives came under attack during the 2008 presidential campaign, when Republicans accused it of trying to steal the election for Barak Obama