Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
Sitting in the audience at the Tribute to Heroes Award
Night last week I wondered how many of the honorees had begun
their lifelong passion for community service and support for
good causes during their college days.
Just the night before that I had attended a campus rally
against domestic violence and sexual assault called Take
Back the Night. I was at least four decades older than
most of the 200 participants. I only knew two people in the crowd,
DeKalb County States Attorney Richard Schmack, and retired
NIU Communications Department chair Lois Self. Being there brought
back a lot of memories, all the way back to 1962 on that same
campus, only about 200 yards from where I stood 51 years ago
to demonstrate for another cause.
I noted that two other people at the Tribute event had
been at that same NIU protest a half century ago and they are
Marilyn (Frank) Stromborg and Jerry Smith. They seem to have
matured and mellowed over time as activists, while I probably
My last protest of any note was in 2004 when I organized
a small but notable group to protest outside a major employer
in Livermore, California from where I had just retired three
years earlier. The corporate powers-that-be had decided not to
observe the holiday commemorating Martin Luther Kings birthday
and I felt that was wrong. While I worked there I had protested
their policy to no avail, so I figured at least the negative
publicity from us standing on the sidewalk waving a sign encouraging
employees on their way to work to remember Dr. King was one way
of getting our point across.
Shown among those protesting an employer that declined
to take part in the national holiday for Martin Luther Kings
birthday back in 2004 were two Methodist ministers, the leader
of Tri-Valley CARES (a peace group), a nuclear scientist who
had been part of the UN inspection team in Iraq, and (columnist)
Barry Schrader, on the right.
(photo by Barry Schrader)
That has been the story of my life, taking a strong stand on
various issues, not always successfully, but at least I felt
better for having made the effort. I even have a humorous pin
with the slogan I Chase Windmills which refers to
the Don Quixote novel in which the character chased imaginary
enemies that turned out to be giant windmills across the landscape.
So this takes me back to 1962 again. It was in the Spring
of that year we organized a Committee for Student Rights to protest
a (perceived) oppressive NIU administration that we thought still
treated us like children instead of young adults. We drew up
a list of 13 demands and rallied 1,200 students on the lawn area
in front of Swen Parson Library and the Biology building, now
occupied by Lowden Hall. Thankfully, it was peaceful, so I didnt
get kicked out of school, which one dean suggested could happen
Now I implore young activists like Iffat Fathima, a leader
of the Take Back the Night rally and march last week,
to keep their passion for righting wrongs all through life, pursuing
worthwhile causes, whether they be in the workplace, in the streets,
or in government.