Thich Nhat Hanh, poet and activist

line from Thich Nhat Hanh's "Condemnation"

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, peace activist, and poet.  By 1971, when he joined Studs in the studio, he had spent years campaigning for peace in Vietnam; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh and Studs discuss the Vietnam War and two books of his poetry that had been translated into English at that time: Cry of Vietnam, and Vietnam: Lotus in A Sea of Fire.

In this clip, Studs tells Thich Nhat Hanh that he has heard about American soldiers finding poems in the pockets of the dead Vietnamese.  Thich Nhat Hanh uses this story to demonstrate how important poetry is in the Vietnamese culture.

They continue the conversation about poetry in Vietnam, and its importance even among non-literate populations.  Thich Nhat Hanh recites an example of one of the spontaneous poems of the farmers.  This leads to a conversation of the ongoing destruction of this culture: “The kinds of things imported, together with this war, has been destroying much of our way of thinking and creating.”  To show how hopeless things have become, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story of Vietnamese people trying to raise earthworms in order to save the land that was destroyed through defoliation.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks with Studs about his experience of speaking and reading his poems to a group of anti-war veterans in Washington, D.C.  He tells Studs they are “very, very brave in recognizing the truth.” One of the poems he reads to the veterans is “Condemnation,” which you can read here.

Studs asks Thich Nhat Hanh about his feelings on the war.  Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the policy of “Vietnamization” as opposed to a cease-fire.  He also says that “most of the Vietnamese people feel the same way — they want the war to end at this very moment.”

Thich Nhat Hanh tells Studs about a family he knows whose home was burned six times in five years; they continually moved to escape the violence but were unable to.  “Sometime[s] we don’t know [if] what we have in our heart is hope or just illusions, because life would be impossible without some hope in the future.  That is why sometime[s] we are very ready to accept illusions as hope.”

Photo by James K. F. Dung, SFC, Photographer – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 530610. Public Domain,

The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a partnership between the WFMT Radio Network and the Chicago History Museum.

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What Really Happened At Kent State? A Conversation with Peter Davies & Barry Levine

kent stateImmortalized with Neil Young’s song, Four Dead In Ohio, this week marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State University shootings, one of the most pivotal moments in the Vietnam War protests.  On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on students who were protesting the announcement by Richard Nixon on April 30, 1970 of the Cambodian Campaign. Killing four and wounding nine others combined with the conservative nature of the student body sparked national outrage and escalated the anti-war movement.  The response was immediate causing the closure of hundreds of universities, colleges and schools as over 4 million students went on strike and parents all over the country began to worry about whether their children could protest in peace.

Photos from the 1970 Valley News-Dispatch.


In 1973 Studs spoke with Peter Davies about his book Truth About Kent State: A Challenge to the American Conscience and Barry Levine who was a student at Kent State at the time of the shootings. They discuss the hardline tactics used by school and public officials to quash any protests, as well as the lack of charges filed against anyone in law enforcement or the government in the shooting of 13 peaceful demonstrators. Much of what they discuss is as pertinent today as it was 45 years ago and bears scrutiny during our latest national debate on the right to peacefully protest. Are those who forget the past really doomed to repeat it?

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