Welcome to the 1968 Democratic National Convention!

The letter below fell out of a book I was flipping through at a thrift store. Dated August 26, 1968, it’s from the Chairman of the Chicago Host Committee for the 1968 Democratic National Convention, welcoming delegates to that convention.

If you’re old enough to remember the shocking violence of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, this makes for a fairly arresting document.

If you’re not old enough to know about the 1968 DNC, I’d definitely recommend you learn about it. It took place August 26-29. The violence that rocked the nation there began on August 25, and lasted five days. On one side of the clashes were 12,000 Chicago police, 7,500 Army troops, 7,500 National Guard troops, and 1,000 Secret Service agents. On the other were desperately determined protesters of the Vietnam War. (If you’ve ever heard of the “Chicago 8,” that’s who they were: eight protesters of the Vietnam War arrested for inciting violence at the 1968 DNC. They include such famous 60’s icons as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, and Tom Hayden.)

Earlier that year, in April, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. On June 3, Andy Warhol was shot. Two days after that, Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

Interesting times.

Throughout that year, protests against the Vietnam War had been building in intensity. On March 31, President Lyndon Johnson announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. His favorability ratings were extremely low; only 23% of voters supported his policies on the Vietnam War.

And it all came to a head in the violence outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. That violence was captured by television cameras and broadcast live across the nation, forty years ago next week.

How things don’t change.

How things do.


click to enlarge


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  • Kinda makes you feel wistful about the good ol' days of anti-war activism, doesn't it? I was all of nine years old when the 1968 DNC riots took place, so I don't really remember them that much.

    During the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions, I imagine there will be the usual appearances by a bunch of disparate special interest groups (pro-life and pro-choice, pro-war and anti-war, pro-Gay and anti-Gay, etc.), but the days of unified political acitivism are pretty much over. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I'd say that young people are more interested in their gadgets than they are in political matters. Where are my pills, dammit???

  • Well, one thing's for sure: As about everyone knows, the Vietnam War taught the government how critical it is in times of war to control the media's access to it. It's what people saw on TV that made them so crazy to end the war. And now, of course, we see so little of the Iraq War live in our living rooms.

  • arlywn

    you know John, when you write articles like these, they remind me of the harsh reality that I am very young according to some. And I know very little history, and very little actual current events. Buut then I remember that hese posts must also remind the writers how very old they are to remember events such as these.

    Its a shame though about wars. We go into them expecting to change something, and fight for something, and succeed in something. And it seems, reflecting back, that all it did was stir more issues, cause more hate, and not really change things for the better. But that could me only my take on that, I'm sure our troops have a clear idea about what we're fighting for than I do. And I'm very glad they risk their lives for this country, because it makes them the best of heros.

  • Ross

    Hey about that debate with Rick Warren!

    Who knew Obama would come off so poorly and McCain so good…

    What a difference; political hack from a corrupt Chicago Democrat machine who voted for infanticide three times as a state senator and a POW who has served his country and others with distinction.

    If you missed the debate, watch it online and agree with me.

  • Arlywn: There are good wars—times you have to fight to defend the weak or your own people or friends—WWII was such a war—and, of course, bad wars, fought for reasons that have nothing or too little to do with anything honorable at all. (And no one's ever really old—or young. The two-day old baby is twice as he was the day before. Time flies so quickly no one really ever has time to realize they're "old" at all. But you knew that already, I suspect…)

    Ross: Um. Right. I'll look into this apparently conclusive proof that Obama is a political hack and McCain an honorable hero. Yes. Right. I'll get right on that.

  • arlywn

    Maybe you should tell my time that its supposed to be flying, cause it seems to be going kinda slow lately. Hmm, not sure what sort of war iraq is then, and not sure it should be a topic to discuss. But wars are fine if fought for the right reasons, and wrong if fought for the wrong ones.

    Maybe I have forgotten in the scheme of things that each day you learn more than you did the day before. I'll remember that tomorrow I suspect. Good wisdom John.

    Ross, I dont think I should give my opinion on which of our canidates are hacks or not.

  • Rachel Cabal

    this is very interesting to me. My dad died in Vietnam 11 days after the convention. I've never researched the convention, what was said or what was promised. I'm going to take your advise and read up. Thanks for the prompt!

  • Rachel: That's so sad about your dad. I imagine that is quite a catalyst for learning all that stuff about the Vietnam War, and what it meant here at home and all that. I'm very sorry to hear about your dad. Anyone who dies in the service of his country is definitely a hero, though. But you knew that.