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Keep On Keepin’ On
By: Cy King

Like me you are probably wondering why Cy King is up in front of you delivering what has been labeled a “Keynote” address. I’ve thought about it, talked with Carolyn about it, and here is what we have concluded. “He is getting old, probably the oldest rat in the Peace Action barn, and he was an original member of the Wake County Chapter of SANE. And maybe most important of all, He's cheap, no airfare, no motel bill, no honorarium.

I of course prefer to think that I’m up here because of my uncommon wisdom. After all I had the wisdom to marry Carolyn. That alone should qualify me, but there is more. I had the wisdom to to invite Christina and Tom and Tema to speak at Community United Church of Christ maybe a year or so ago, and I am so pleased to be here tonight to be part of this occasion when we honor them for all that they have done and are doing. And believe it or not there is still more that attests to my wisdom. I have had the wisdom to associate myself with the likes of you. That showed real wisdom.

Maybe this is a good place to explain the Raleigh Hall of Fame even though I fear it will sound self-serving. A couple of years ago my friends Bill Tucker and Vicki Gerig conspired to nominate
Carolyn and me to the Hall of Fame. When Carolyn heard about this she said: “You get on the phone this minute and tell Bill Tucker, No! That's ridiculous.” Well, like Carolyn's mentally
challenged brother, Sonny, “I mind good” and I got on the phone and told Bill what Carolyn said and we thought that was the end of it. But this year a good friend and a great lady called and she said, “I know you said no but listen to me before you say no again. This isn't so much about you and Carolyn as it is about the community you represent, The Peace Community.” Well that was enough to make us say “We'll call you back.” Well we did call back and she called Clay Stalnakerand Clay agreed to nominate us and he got some of you to write letters of support and strangely enough the Committee selected us. So, on Septement 24th when this will
happen you and some who have passed on like Father Charlie Mulholland, Phyllis and Lloyd Tyler, Mary Leuba, Jim and Mary Berry, Sister Evelyn Mattern, and others are going to be with us, like it or not, as we stand on the stage and receive a medallion or a placque or whatever. We will try our best to represent you well, and we thank you for letting us be part of this community.

Some years ago my Minister, Cally Rogers Witte asked me to say a few words about peace and justice during morning worship. I said“Cally I don't preach.” She replied, “ yes I know, but you
pontificate and that's close enough.” So let me pontificate a little about the peace movement in general and SANE, Sane/Freeze, Peace Action in particular.

One thing that all of us know from our own experience is that peace movements rise and fall. Probably the period between World War I and World War II was when the peace movement was
strongest in this country. The carnage of the first world war was so great and the literature written as a result of that terrible and that unnecessary war fueled a strong peace movement. “All Quiet on the Western Front” was a best seller, and novels by Hemingway, Dos Passos and others dealt with the horrors of trench warfare. It was during that period that so many of the peace organizations that are still around came into being: Women's International League for
Peace and Freedom in 1919, Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1914, National Council for Prevention of War had a Civil Liberties Bureau to protect the rights of Conscientious objectors that became the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920, the American Friends Service Committee was founded in 1917 and the War Resisters League in 1924. All of these antedated SANE, SANE/FREEZE, Peace Action and all of them are still around doing good work.
Norman Thomas, a young Presbyterian Minister then, and Socialist candidate for president later and Reinhold Niebuhr, America's preeminent theologian and many other religious leaders were
pacifists active in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Niebuhr was its President They preached “that war and Christianity are incompatible.” But then came the Spanish Civil War, Hitler,
Mussolini, the invasion of Poland and the peace movement was overwhelmed as one peace leader after another opted for intervention; antifacism was stronger than pacifism. Those of us
who were part of that generation, “the Greatest Generation”, still struggle with the question of whether we were right to fight, but of course we are dieing off at such a rate that it will soon become academic and no longer personal.

Wilson's League of Nations had failed at least in part because of our unwillingness to join, but with the leadership of Roosevelt and Truman the United Nations came into being and offered hope after World War II. Some of us joined the “American Veterans Association” the “Veterans for Peace” of that time and sent money to some of the peace organizations mentioned above. We struggled in the 1948 election over whether to vote for Henry Wallace or Harry Truman. We probably should have voted for Wallace. The Pentagon, massive new headquarters for the
military, was completed in 1947 and Truman appointed James Forestall as the first Secretary of Defense, and Allan Dulles as the first Director of theCIA. They set us on a militaristic and an
imperialistic course that extends to this very day. Read James Carroll's “House of War: a history of the Pentagon” to get the full distressing story. The Cold War was raging. Eisenhower warned
of the “military industrial complex” and Kennedy made a wonderful speech on “peace for all time” at American University and Senator Fulbright warned that “America is showing signs of
that arrogance of power which has afflicted, weakened, and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past.” Lyndon Johnson inherited Kennedy's “Best and the Brightest” advisers but his “War on Poverty” gave way to War in Vietnam and protesting students filled our streets and some of us old folks were there with them. Read Tom Brokaw”s “Boom” for a good account of the turbulent '60s if your memory is getting fuzzy like mine. “Clergy and Laity Concerned about the War in Vietnam” came into existence under the leadership of William Sloan Coffin who later became President of SANE, and Martin Luther King Jr., a member of Clergy and
Laity Concerned, preached his remarkable sermon at Riverside Church in New York opposing the war. The Peace Movement was alive and well, but all mixed up with the Civil Rights Movement,
flower children, drugs, the pill, George McGovern, Richard Nixon, and for some of us here in this very building “effete snobs and others for Ramsey Clark for President.” “Roll on Ramsey Clark,
Roll for the USA.” Ramsey, incidentally, has stayed the course. He is still out there working for peace and justice. What a different world this would be if we had been successful and elected him. But there was a reaction to all of this “Activity” and that reaction gave us Jesse Helms, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. “Give Peace a Chance” gave way to “Morning in America” and “Peace through Strength.”

SANE was formed in 1957 by Norman Cousins, Clarence Pickett of American Friends Service Committee and Norman Thomas to “lift a voice of sanity against nuclear fear.” It was endorsed by many prominent figures such as Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, theologian Paul Tillich, Eleanor Roosevelt, Benjamin Spock, Steve Allen and others. Through a series of creative ads in the New
York Times SANE gained public attention and popular support. Within a year the organization had 150 local committees and some 25,000 members. It concentrated on stopping the testing of nuclear weapons but it also adopted a program that included “comprehensive disarmament, a strong UN capable of enforcing world law, and the transition to a peacetime economy.” SANE
waxed and waned, strong in the early 1960s, then somewhat dormant until the 1980s when it gained even greater strength with the fear of what President Reagan might do.

SANE in North Carolina began in 1981. Jean Wood, a Quaker lady got the chapter started, the first new chapter that SANE had had in several years. She showed the film that Helen Caldicot did “If You Love this Planet” and Norris Frederick saw it, decided he needed to do something and soon became the first Executive Director of SANE in North Carolina. National SANE and North
Carolina SANE managed to get a grant from Z Smith Reynolds and used some of the money to produce radio spots calling for a freeze on nuclear weapons. UNC basketball coach Dean Smith did those commercials and they strengthened the Freeze movement and strengthened SANE.

Here in Raleigh it all started with the Raleigh Peace Initiative. We still have the card file of individuals, churches and organizations that signed on to help. The centerpiece of the effort
was a petition calling for a mutually verifiable freeze on the manufacture, testing and deployment of nuclear weapons by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Many of you were involved and some of you will have better memoirs than I do but as I remember it we had to get the signatures of 30,000 registered voters in Raleigh in order to get the initiative on the ballot so that it could be voted up or down. The Ordinance would also require some specific action
and the action that we asked for was that the City Council write our President every year requesting that he negotiate a freeze on nuclear weapons. We, and that was many of you, went to shopping centers, street corners, public meetings, athletic events, everywhere there was a crowd to collect signatures. We worked so hard and gained so little until we finally had the brilliant idea of going to polling places on election day. There we found registered voters
many of whom were delighted to sign our petition and we collected the required number. We got on the agenda for a city council meeting and took our request for the ordinance calling for a freeze be put on the ballot at the next citywide election. The Council chamber was packed with proponents and opponents. Smedes York was Mayor and he gave everybody, for or against, an
opportunity to speak. The upshot was that Sandy Babb, a member of the Council and a Ramsey Clarker, made a motion that the Council adopt the ordinance without it having to go through the
ballot process and it was adopted. What an exciting occasion! And the City Manager wrote the President every year until finally the ordinance was rescinded after the breakup of the Soviet Union. You will recall that the Freeze Movement was strong nationwide with lots of support in State legislatures and in congress. We failed to get our legislature to support it even though we had folks like Dale Evart and others working full time and Collins and others working overtime, but without the support of then Governr Hunt and other heavyweights. The Freeze was a high point in the Peace Movement, one of the largest peace mobilizations in U.S. History and one in which ordinary citizens demanded a say in the most vital of all issues, the prevention of nuclear war and the survival of the human race. Raleigh and North Carolina were part of it. And it
was effective. In 1982 President Reagan started saying “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” He added “To those who protest against nuclear war, I can only say: 'I'm with
you.'”

As we have noted the Peace Movement ebbs and flows. In 1987 when Sane and The Freeze merged and William Sloan Coffin became president the combined membership was 200,000 and there were chapters in every part of the country. The name, Peace Action, was adopted in 1993. By then the membership had fallen to 50,000 and income had dropped substantially. The Raleigh Peace Initiative had merged with N.C. Peace Action. As I said, Dr. Norris Frederick was the paid Executive Director and Raleigh even had a very underpaid but wonderful staff person Margaret Hilpert. Some exciting things happened. There was enough money for SANE to provide a paid staff member to work in David Price's campaign for congress in 1986 and again in 1988. William Sloan Coffin came to Raleigh to speak and the sanctuary at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church was full. He was a wonderful speaker and he gave an inspiring address. We were on a roll. A then in 1987 a young member of the N.C. Symphony, Robert Anderson, and a member of MANA, Musicians against Nuclear Arms, had the idea of the Symphony playing a benefit concert for SANE and Physicians for Social Responsibility and The Peace Center in Chapel Hill in Duke Chapel. I don't know just how he did it but it happened with Jamie Laredo as guest conductor and soloist` and Robert Ward of Duke composing a special piece for the occasion.
Once again Dean Smith lent his name and we sold out the Chapel. Bob Anderson got everything donated: the musicians fro the N.C. Symphony, the Winston Salem Symphony and the Charlotte Symphony, the guest conductor and soloist, hospitality for the out of town musicians, courtesy cars from Coggin Pontiac etc. Everything was donated. Many people, many of you played an important part in making it happen. Other groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility and Marion O'Mally and Arthur Scherer were very much involved. This was another high point. Music has always been an important part of the civil rights movement and the
peace movement. Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger. And we had our local troubadour. The dignified Executive Director of the North Carolina Council of Churches, Rev. S.
Collins Kilburn occasionally put aside his vestments, took up his guitar and sang. Sometimes his songs were his own creation like “Do You Have Room for a Little Boom, Boom?” You may
remember that after our nation developed the MX Missile it couldn't decide where to house it: in hardened silos in Nebraska, on submarines or where. Collins song, “Do You Have Room for a
Little Boom Boom?” attempted to solve the problem.

We had state wide retreats to strategize and plan and there were SANE (Peace Action) Chapters from Wilmington to Black Mountain. But not everything was right in River City. At one of those retreats near Black Mountain Norris Frederick announced that he was resigning to accept a teaching position at Queens College. In those days SANE hired students to canvass and they
went from door to door all around the country asking people to join and to make a financial contribution. One of those canvassers was Claudia Egalhoff and we hired her to be part time director of North Carolina SANE. That was a low point for SANE nationally and locally. Membership was down and money was short. The first Gulf War precipitated another burst of enthusiasm for peace and We were able to place a full page signature ad in the N&O opposing the war, but national Sane was in debt and we were broke. We couldn't pay Claudia. We were at a low ebb. I think it is safe to say that the Peace Movement in North Carolina was on life support. And then a savior, a short ball headed savior, with a history of organizing for the Civil Rights Movement appeared. His name, as you have probably guessed, was Bill Towe. Bill is a strange mixture. I have said of him that he is border line saint, border line damn fool, and full time workaholic for peace and justice. Bill is such an unlikely peacenic. The son of a prosperous family in Wilson, N.C. He was destined to inherit and run a very successful insurance agency that would insure him recognition and standing in the community. He was born on the fast track to become an outstanding leader in beautiful small town Wilson. Here comes the border line damn fool. He threw it all over to teach school. But, but he was smart enough marry Betsy Jean, also teacher, and then the two of them devoted their lives to working for peace and justice. As you probably know Bill is stepping down as Coordinator for North Carolina Peace Action so it is appropriate that we take a look at some of the things that happened during his tenure.

He worked with the Raleigh/Wake County Chapter of SANE, joined the State Board, became Chairman of the State Board, joined the National Board, became co-chair of the National Board
and is still a very active member of the National Peace Action Education Board. I think it is safe to say that what he did in saving North Carolina Peace Action, he did in saving national Peace
Action. There is no way that we can understand just how many hours Bill put in trying to make the merger of Sane and the Freeze work, keeping Peace Action solvent, working out the inevitable
personnel problems and so much more. While he was providing national leadership he was still very involved in North Carolina Peace Action.

The first Gulf War in 1990 not only brought people to the streets to demonstrate it also led to the formation of a “Coalition for Peace in the Middle East” that brought Palestinians, Jews, Christians and others together to work for peace. Peace Action was a part of this and Bill was very much a part of it and at one point was the chairperson. For some of us it was an awakening to the Palestinian Israeli problem. We got to know Palestinians. We got to know
Jews who had the courage to challenge American policy and risk the opprobrium of the Jewish community. We held teach-ins. We brought Noam Chomsky and other speakers to inform us and some took classes in the history of the Middle East. We met once a week and forty or fifty people would show up. There were so many good folks, many of you, that provided informed leadership. Joe and Linda Burton, Joe Levine and Louise Anthony, Judith Ferster, Rania Masari and her brother Weyel were special. Rania reminded us that the sanctions imposed on Iraq at our instigation after the first gulf war were causing great suffering. UNICEF estimated that half a million Iraqi children died as a result of the sanctions, and of course we continued to bomb Iraq periodically during the Clinton administration. The first Gulf War never really ended. Bill provided leadership and made things happen. Bill also led the “New Priorities Project,” an effort to move from military spending to spending to meet human needs. “Books not Bombs.” Again he made a damn fool of himself by donning a ridiculous “Captain Boomerang” costume and handing out
literature all over the State of North Carolina showing that the weapons we sell and give to other countries frequently have a boomerang effect and are used to kill Americans. We are of course the number one arms merchant in the world.

Peace Action helped launch two important organizations: Stop Torture Now and Choices. When a nice Quaker lady was asked if there weren't some things worse than war, she replied: “Yes and war creates them all.” Her wisdom was made evident by our nation's decision to adopt torture as a national policy. We know of Christina's efforts to change that. CHOICES Tables at Enloe High School providing students with alternatives to military service: Peace Corps, Americorps other educational opportunities, etc. Recruiters are in the schools on a regular basis. CHOICES is a presence for peace and nonviolence. As you have probably read the ACLU is bringing suite against the Wilkes County School Board for their refusal to let a group like CHOICES Table . Bill Towe is the plaintive in that case.

For a good many years we used to gather at the NewBern Avenue Post Office on the night of April 15th when procrastinaters were mailing their tax returns. We handed out literature showing how much of each tax dollar goes for past present and future wars. Bill Towe made that happen.

Anytime there was a peace demonstration like the ones at Fort Bragg on the anniversaries of the war in Iraq, Bill and Betsy Jean were always present with their card table and their literature
advocating for Peace and spreading the Peace Action word. Another high point for the Peace Movement was the worldwide expression of opposition to the War in Iraq. There were
demonstrations all over the world and we had ours on the Capitol Square downtown. Bill had a lot to do with putting that together. If you have email and you were foolish enough to give your
address to Bill you have received reminders of events that you should participate in and you have received more action alerts than you can possibly respond to. But if you complained, as I
sometimes did, you should be reminded that not only was Bill sending out those emails, he was participating in all those demonstrations, going to all those events, writing all those letters
that he was asking you to write but he was at the same time keeping North Carolina Peace Action alive and making a significant contributions to national Peace Action. And something
else we need to remember is that he has not only given unstintingly of himself, he has given nobody knows how much of his own and Betsy Jean's money to keep Peace Action afloat. Bill Towe we can never thank you enough, but just maybe there is something we can do that will mean a lot to you. We can “Keep on Keepin' On.” We can “Keep Hope Alive.” We can keep the Peace Movement going. We can continue your good work to make Peace Action the
effective organization you and we want it to be. I have only scratched the surface in describing Bill Towe's contributions but I have done something else I have arranged for copies of the
marvelous article that Bob Geary wrote when Bill was given The Citizens award by The Independent to be available on the literature table. Don't fail to pick up a copy.

I really ought to stop right here but since this is undoubtedly my one and only chance to be a keynote speaker I can't resist saying just a little bit more. One day when I had my sign saying “End the War” a friend said “Cy, even if you folks succeed in stopping the war, and you won't, you still won't have solved the problem. The problem is that we have a culture of war and we need a culture of peace.” Of course he was right. And, under the able leadership of Slater Newman we took immediate action. We changed the heading on our handout from “Stop the Arms Race” to “Stop the Arms Race and Build a Culture of Peace.” Have you noticed how
much more peaceful the culture is? Even so we need to do more. You will recall that our new Governor campaigned on the fact that she had saved our military bases. A news story a few weeks ago described the mini boom in Fayetteville's economy because Ft. Bragg is expanding. And the Governor promises to get more military procurement dollars spent in North Carolina. This is the Military Industrial Complex that President Eisenhower warned us about. And of course every governor and every congressperson and every mayor wants that economic stimulus that comes from training young folks that violence is the way to solve problems in Afghanistan, Iraq and all too often in their own families. I hope you saw the documentary “Why We Fight” which tells of our failure to heed Ike's warning about the Military Industrial Complex.

Martin Luther King said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is a nation approaching spiritual death.” And of course there is the abbreviated message of the Pope that fits on our bumper stickers and should guide our lives. “If You Want Peace, Work for Justice.”

“Keep on Keepin' On” means different things to different people. For some it means writing or visiting Brad Miller and David Price Kay Hagen and Richard Burr, calling the White House Hot Line:
after all we still have two wars going on. For others it means walking with Gail Phares across North Carolina on a Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice. For some it means standing on street corners holding signs saying End the War or Bring them Home Now. For others it means writing a letter to the editor. I hope for many of us it will mean going to Quail Ridge Books on April 24th to hear Chuck Fager read from his new book “Yes to the Troops, No to the Wars.” Many of you have worked and will work in the Peace Booth at the State Fair with Judy and Leo and Patrick. Some will go to Washington to join with thousands of others calling for “Jobs, Justice and Peace.” Some will pray and we hope that prayer in this instance will be like Garrison Keeler's Powder Milk Biscuits, and that it will give them the courage to get up and do what needs to be done, work for peace. If you are like me you can't possibly respond to all the action alerts that come to you by email but we can respond to a lot of them. Are we smart enough to develop a new foreign policy? Probably not, but can we do any worse than the “experts” that have created the culture of war that haunts us? The United Nations Association is a good place to start. Whatever your passion is “Keep on keepin' on.” And one thing wecan all do without hesitation and that is, we can support John Heuer and Wally Myers as they take the reins to Peace Action from our border line saint, border line damn fool, Bill Towe. “Keep on Keepin' On. Keep on Keepin' On.”