“History is always written by the winners.”

“History is always written by the winners” is a quotation by Tom Hayden that was included in the 1972 Tower Yearbook at Loyola Marymount University. The speaker of the quotation, Tom Hayden, was a member of the Students for a Democratic Society who worked to promote student activism, equal rights, participatory democracy, and marginalized groups; he was a leading voice in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Students at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California have been participating in movements and student activism for decades. They have organized marches and movements to support many marginalized communities such as Chicano/a students, as well as to protest events such as the Vietnam War. Tom Hayden had visited LMU earlier in the 1971-1972 school year, and that visit combined with students’ participation in social justice movements which may have led them to including the quote in the 1972 yearbook. The students of this era left a legacy of student activism on LMU’s campus going forward. 

Department of Archives & Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) formed a New Left program for college students and became the primary organization for implementing student activism on college campuses across the U.S.. The leading document of this organization was the Port Huron Statement, originally drafted by Tom Hayden. As a child, Hayden attended a Catholic elementary school and went to a church thet was led by frequently antisemitic Charles Coughlin. He became disillusioned with the church and decided to break ties with Catholicism. Hayden went on to focus on journalism, which would later help with his activism. At the University of Michigan, he became involved with the student organization Students for a Democratic Society and became one of their most prominent founding members as the writer of the first draft of the Port Huron Statement, as well as as President from 1962-1963.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) began to formulate the argument for the so-called New Left while encouraging youth to take control of their futures through student activism on their college campuses. SDS formed in 1960 as a splinter from the League for Industrial Democracy or LID (Pekar 3). LID was originally the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, which had been created in 1905 by Upton Sinclair and Jack London (Pekar 3). In the 1930s the organization fractured and formed SLID or the Student League for Industrial Democracy (Pekar 4). The main division for this paper’s focus happened in 1960 when SLID splintered into Students for a Democratic Society. This organization focused on demanding more rights for students, which was a hot topic at this time, and developing a participatory democracy. SDS was originally centered at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. Al Haber was the organization’s first president, and his connections with important labor leaders in Michigan were critical for his goal of promoting a better relations between the conservative, bureaucratic labor leadership and the radical students (Pekar 5). Haber’s goals also included cooperatively aligning SDS with civil rights and the anti-nuclear movement (Pekar 4) . For example, SDS members went into the South to promote and participate in the civil rights movements. These actions fostered solidarity but also helped train the students to know how to run social movements. In addition, SDS formed the Economic Research and Action Project with the goal of organizing impoverished communities. Members of SDS wanted to emulate the grassroots origins of other movements, specifically the idea of participatory democracy, to stress the impact that individuals, especially students, can have when working together, ideas that were articulated in the Port Huron Statement.

“Students for a Democratic Society.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, December 7, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Students_for_a_Democratic_Society.

Tom Hayden drafted the Port Huron Statement, which focused on analyzing the failures of the US government domestically and internationally, on demands for participatory democracy, and on issuing a call to action for students on college campuses. The Port Huron Statement was read at the United Auto Workers summer retreat on June 15, 1962 (Pekar 5). The statement took inspiration from the Civil Rights protestors of SNCC to argue how their radical tactics were extremely effective (“Resistance…1972”). The statement described college students’ “existential crisis,” their feelings of disenchantment with the world around them, and a push towards political education, continuous discourse, and a participatory democracy (“Resistance…1972”). The students felt disillusioned with the American Dream, as they had grown up facing the nuclear arms race of the Cold War as well as the violence against the Civil Rights Movement (“Resistance…1972”). It is clear that the students felt a change was needed to right the course American was seemingly charging down. The writers of the Port Huron Statement believed that students could make a difference in the political and social spheres through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience (“Resistance…1972”). The main goal of the Statement was to reform American domestic and foreign policies, specifically those involving nuclear energy and arms policies, as well as university policies (“Resistance…1972”).

The SDS also demanded free speech and academic freedom on college campuses (“Resistance…1972”). In the late 1960s, university students felt as if they had been stifled by their universities, and in student led movements such as the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, they mobilized for their rights. SDS called for a continuing of student activism on college campuses. Historian Micheal Kazin declared that the Statement was “the most ambitious, the most specific and the most eloquent manifesto in the history of the American left” (Roberts). To strip the statement down to a minimum, Columbia Professor Todd Gitlin stated that “for the S.D.S., the prime enemy was apathy” (Roberts). The Students for a Democractic Society used this statement to gain momentum with students on college campuses across the country. It served as a call to action for many students at Loyola Marymount University, whose mission statement focuses on “the promotion of justice.” 

“Students for a Democratic Society.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, December 7, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Students_for_a_Democratic_Society.

The Port Huron Statement had both immediate and long term effects on the youth of America on college campuses and on their activism. Initially, the Statement led to the recognized credibility of the Students for a Democratic Society (Pekar 3). It was a hit with college students as well as with young activists, both of whom were the initial target audiences (Pekar 4). It allowed students to grasp an argument for reforming the American political and social spheres that they believed had let them down (“Resistance…1972”). In addition, the Port Huron Statement radicalized the ways people addressed the need for change (“Resistance…1972”). Tom Hayden stated in an interview with the New York Times, “for a long while I thought the Port Huron Statement was a relic of a hopeful past, but frequently students would read it and say how surprised they were at its sounding like the present.” The messages of the Port Huron Statement are clearly still thought to be relevant by some and continuously, students find it relatable to modern day and their current disillusionment with the world around them. Students were encouraged to take action and responsibility for their futures and they responded through activism across the country. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, while SDS worked to promote student activism on college campuses across the country, students at Loyola Marymount University, whose mission statement declares the promotion of justice, had been participating in activism revolving around current events and would continue down this past in the future; all events were chronicled in the school newspaper, the Loyolan. In May 1972, the Loyolan reported on a major peace rally that began on Regents Terrace at LMU with speakers and eventually led to a march out the back gates and down Loyola Boulevard to Westchester Playground (Loyolan 1972). The rally included faculty, staff, and students and was in response to the Vietnam War. Those involved chanted “Peace now!” over and over, as well as sang songs (Loyolan 1972). Once at the park, the students knelt down and prayed. They were met with a police presence at the park, and the students approached the officers, offered a handshake, and wished them peace (Loyolan 1972). The event was formed at the suggestion of the university president, Fr. Donald P. Merrifield, who later spoke at the rally. He asked for the students to donate in order to send a telegram straight to Richard Nixon to show their disapproval and speak their minds (Loyolan 1972). Following the conclusion of the peace protest, student speaker Rick Humm asked the audience to aid in bringing down the American flag atop Alumni Mall in an act of civil disobedience (Loyolan 1972). Many joined but were soon confronted by another group of students who refused to let the flag fall so they compromised with half mast (Loyolan 1972).

In Loyola Marymount’s long history with student activism, another highlighted movement was when an LMU law student formed the Chicano Law Students of Loyola and “Católicos por la Raza” (Loyolan 1971). This group was reported in the 1970 Loyolan to have the goals of calling to attention the disinterest in the problems faced by Mexican-American students on the part of the archdiocese of Los Angeles. There were three demonstrations in total led by this group.

In addition to the promotion of justice and student activism on campus, LMU has also supported social justice by hosting controversial speakers on campus. On November 23, 1971, LMU hosted Tom Hayden who had been teaching at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood that semester (Loyolan 1971). His visit may have increased his already present influence on campus during this time and led to his quotation being included in the 1972 yearbook. In addition, in May of 1972, Jane Fonda came to speak about the Vietnam War on campus, perhaps to show solidarity with the peace protest on campus earlier that month (Loyolan 1972). Tom Hayden returned to LMU on February 24, 2016, for a discussion, moderated by Dr. Elizabeth Drummond, with the Polish dissident Adam Michnik about the 1968 student movements. LMU has worked over the years to show support to its students who participate in protests and movements in the name of promoting justice. The numerous amounts of student activism reported in the Loyolan indicates that it affected campus culture at the time and may have continuing effects now with LMU students still involved with activism today. 

“Tom Hayden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, April 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Hayden.

In the 1972 Tower Loyola Marymount University yearbook, students seemingly decided to include a quote from Tom Hayden as a reflection of their previous student activism and a call to action for the future classes of LMU. The quotation, “History is always written by the winners,” seems to be a dismal statement of affairs as well as a call to action to change the way the system works in the disenchanted American government. Tom Hayden wanted to call this to the attention of his audience to spark a change. Hayden focused his message to college students to force them to take a look at society and realize that the political and social atmospheres were dark and needed a fresh change. As evident by the opening line of The Port Huron Statement, “We are the people of this generation… now housed in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit,” it is clear that Hayden believed that if the world the college students would inherit was going to change, then it would be up to those students to take charge and make the change. Possible explanations of why the writers of the Tower yearbook felt inclined to include this quote involve the school visit Tom Hayden made to LMU in 1972, the numerous social justice projects, and displays of student activism by LMU students, leaving a legacy for future classes. Loyola Marymount students have taken responsibility for their futures in the past, through 1972, today, and seemingly in the future by participating in student activism. For example, in the 2019 spring semester, LMU students decided to counterprotest the Westboro Baptist Church by holding up signs and blocking students from seeing the hate that the church members were preaching about LMU, students, faculty, and curriculum. Students at LMU have continued this legacy explicitly laid out for them in the 1972 Tower yearbook.

Students from Loyola Marymount University have a long history of being involved in their local community as well as in demonstrations of student activism that tackle big events such as the Vietnam War. Tom Hayden and SDS have been proponents for students to be the driving force of change in America. They supported change from the ground up and called for the students who would be inheriting the world to work to improve it. The organization fought for years and participated in countless movements to support the rights of marginalized groups, to protest the Vietnam War, and to inspire a participatory democracy. The students from LMU in 1972 were visited by Tom Hayden and seemingly felt the need to include his quote “History is always written by the winners” to show his impact on them. Deducing from this quote, students understood his message that they can and will inspire change in the world. The quote paid tribute to LMU student activists from the past, inspired the students in 1972, and leaves a legacy to promote justice, as stated in the LMU mission statement, through student activism for Loyola Marymount students today.

Written by Allison Vanderwey, History, LMU 2022

For Further Reading

Primary

LMU Peace March (1970). Photograph. Loyola Marymount University Archives. 

Loyola Marymount University, The Tower (Los Angeles, California: 1972), n.p., Loyola Marymount University Archives. 

Loyolan. June 15, 1962. Accessed November 1, 2019. 

Loyolan. November 22, 1971. Accessed November 1, 2019. 

Secondary

Akst, Daniel. 2012. “A Manifesto at 50: The Port Huron Statement Launched . America’s New Left in 1962. Today It Seems Naive and in Some Ways Misguided–yet It Raised Questions That Still Agitate Americans Today.” The Wilson Quarterly, no. 2: 38. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsglr&AN=edsgcl.306514896&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Cohen, Robert. 1985. “Berkeley Free Speech Movement: Paving the Way for Campus Activism.” OAH Magazine of History 1 (1): 16. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx ?direct =true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.25162448&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Garvy, Helen, and Emiko Omori. 2000. Rebels with a Cause : Voices of Students for a Democratic Society. Zeitgeist Films. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true &db=cat00322a&AN=linus.b1367681&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Michael Kazin. 2012. “The Port Huron Statement at Fifty” 59 (2): 83–89. doi:10.1353/dss.2012.0037.

Pekar, Harvey, Gary Dumm, and Paul Buhle. 2008. Students for a Democratic Society : A Graphic History. Hill and Wang. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true &db=cat00322a&AN=linus.b1580508&site=eds-live&scope=site.

“Resistance and Revolution: The Anti-Vietnam War Movement at the University of Michigan, 1965-1972.” Omeka RSS. University of Michigan . Accessed November 15, 2019. http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umi ch.edu/antivietnamwar/.