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October 7, 1972

Antiwar activist and Christian socialist David Dellinger, a leader of the group that brought three American airmen imprisoned in North Vietnam back to the United States on September 28, delivered a sermon in the Chapel. “Don’t worry,” he said, “about the Vietnamese; they are doing better than you and I—they know why they’re living and why they’re dying…. They will save themselves. The struggle now is to save America.”

A defendant in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial arising from riots during the 1968 Democratic Party convention and co-chair of the antiwar Committee of Liaison responsible for the pilots’ release, Dellinger told his audience that it exemplified what North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh told him in 1966. Ho made, he said, a “distincition between pilots in the air and the ex-pilots on the ground; the pilot who has been shot down, as a prisioner, is deserving of the ‘highest compassion…. Nobody must minimize the [war] crimes they have committed: [but] we understand that [Americans] were brought up in that way.” Ho, Dellinger said, told him that the North Vienamese felt compassion for American prisoners of war and “hope that they will go back as better citizens than when they came.”

“Dellinger concluded,” wrote Rochelle Flumenbaum ’75 in The Miscellany News, “that it is the American people and not the Vienamese who should be pitied and must be saved…. Americans lack ‘the love of community,’ ‘the relatedness,’ ‘the vitality,’ ‘the will to live—the will to survive’ of the Vietnamese.”

The Years