With a grey beard, bright-eyed Mark Rudd looks like an ordinary man. He may be a father, brother, dog-owner and next-door neighbor. And, a terrorist?
Rudd is speaking tonight at 7 p.m. in Cowles Library Reading Room on his past as a student radical. He wrote the book “Underground: My Life in SDS and the Weathermen,” and while he is no longer protesting the Vietnam War, he is now on a new mission to “apply the organizing tradition which built all the social and political mass movements of our country’s history.”
Jump back to Columbia University in the year 1968 and Rudd was that ordinary student in appearance and studies, but extraordinary in his passion.
Inspired by a trip to Cuba, where he established his ideals on anti-war initiatives and communism, Rudd returned to the quaint college campus to be the president of the university’s Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter.
SDS, with student activists like Rudd, was heavy into protests, particularly on the subject of the Vietnam War. His most legendary act was the violent occupation of five buildings at Columbia in a statement against the institutional support for the Vietnam War and apparent racism.
This group was not enough to fit with Rudd’s anti-war ideologies. He also immersed himself in the more intensive Revolutionary Youth Movement.
His overall mission, according to Rudd’s website, was and is to “fight U.S imperialism.”
The First Amendment guarantees citizens the right to free speech and petition the government. Rudd sized this right and joined forces with other SDS leaders to form the radicalism, Weather Underground Organization (WUO).
The Bob Dylan lyrics, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” inspired the group members, including like the infamous Bill Ayers, to call themselves “weathermen.” Their first major forecast was a 1969 riot in Chicago. From 1970 to 1977 he was running from the law as a federal fugitive wanted on conspiracy and bombing charges.
The group dissembled after the 1973 Vietnam peace accord, but not after solidifying Rudd’s passion for a classless world: communism.
He now hopes to inspire student leaders on the topics of organization and activism. In his book’s website he states the similarities between yesteryears’ wars and today.
“I’ve spoken and answered questions at scores of colleges, high schools, community centers and theatres about why my friends and I opted for violent revolution,” Rudd said. “And how I’ve changed my thinking and how I haven’t, and most of all, about the parallels between then and now.”
Rudd’s lecture is part of the Cowles Library “Citizen’s Arise!” lecture series on the “Foundations of Democracy.” Come to the Reading Room at 7 p.m. today to listen to a man with a unique passion.
Click to citizensarise.drake.edu for more information on upcoming lectures.