The 40th May 4 Commemoration

Remember the Past, Frame the Future
The 40th May 4 Commemoration

The tragic events of May 4, 1970, at Kent State University had a profound impact on our university, the nation and the world. The 40th commemoration of the events of May 4, 1970, presents important opportunities for Kent State University, as a learning community, to apply what we can learn and have learned from the past in ways that shape a better future--here and across the globe.

Historian Jay Winter of Yale University recently addressed the Kent State community as "the silence-breakers, who recognize, with Joseph Brodsky that ‘the past won’t fit into memory without something left over.  It must have a future.’" Winter noted that it is our "achievement to shape that future through [our] framing of active knowledge in this place and at this time about the injustices that occurred here." In his presentation here this year on genocide by famine in the Ukraine, scholar Roman Serbyn defined "collective memory" as "what people as a collection make of their past history in order to serve the future." 

A broad range of events, year long, offer opportunities for students and members of the public to engage with the far-reaching and important issues significant to sustaining civil and human rights inherent in May 4, 1970, which include the prevention of violence, freedom of expression, civil discourse and civic engagement. The University community expresses its appreciation to President Lester A. Lefton for his leadership and vision for this inclusive approach to commemorating the events of May 4, 1970, that reflects on the past in order to shape a future that acts on democratic values.  

Throughout the 40th anniversary year, Kent State will engage in acts of inquiry, reflection, and engagement. The University invites alumni, faculty, staff, students and members of the community local and worldwide to participate in this landmark commemoration. A significant component of the 40th anniversary will be the Democracy Speaker program featuring a prominent national speaker. Other university events include the official ribbon cutting and plaque installation of the May 4 National Register of Historic Places and the dedication of the May 4 Walking Tour on the historic site. The Walking Tour includes visitation panels at eight strategic locations across the site, each representing a key moment in the day’s events. Each panel is supported with historic video and iconic photography representing the events of the day. The tour is narrated by Julian Bond, a student activist of the times.

The May 4 Task Force student organization will hold its annual candlelight march and vigil beginning the evening of May 3 and commemorative program from noon until 2 p.m. on May 4. Classes are recessed during these hours on May 4. The university recognizes and appreciates the May 4 Task Force's long-standing dedication to coordinating these important annual remembrance activities. 

The Events page outlines activities that will take place throughout the 40th May 4 commemorative year. Please use the Submit an Event form to list events in your area that tie in to the issues and themes of May 4.

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