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Carl Oglesby Obituary

Carl Oglesby (Walter Daran/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Carl Oglesby (Walter Daran/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
NEW YORK (AP) - Carl Oglesby, a leading activist in the 1960s who headed the campus organization Students for a Democratic Society and gave an influential and frequently quoted speech denouncing the Vietnam War and those who broke his "American heart," died Tuesday. He was 76.

Oglesby died at his home in Montclair, N.J. Todd Gitlin, a friend and fellow activist who went on to write several books, said Oglesby had been fighting lung cancer that spread throughout his body.

Born in 1935 and an undergraduate at Kent State University, Oglesby was years older than Gitlin and other '60s student radicals he befriended and was living a much straighter life at the time he met them. He was married, with three children, and was working for a defense contractor. But while studying part-time at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, he was so disgusted by the Vietnam War and so taken with the then-emerging Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the soc iety with him, that he soon became its president and most memorable orator.

"The only other person who compared to him was Martin Luther King," Gitlin says. "He had the mastery of vivid phrases and also the power of mobilizing people."

Oglesby's power and idealism peaked in November 1965 with his speech at an early, and massive, anti-war rally in Washington. In an address titled "Let Us Shape the Future," Oglesby spoke as a disillusioned patriot and radicalized liberal who opposed not just the war, but much of American foreign policy since the end of World War II and the free enterprise system he believed demanded endless conflict. He was equally critical of Republican and Democratic presidents as victims, and enablers, of the corporate state and insisted the country's founders would have been on his side.

"Our dead revolutionaries would soon wonder why their country was fighting against what appeared to be a revolution," he declared to ever growing applause

In his most memorable phrase, he challenged those who called him anti-American: "I say, don't blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed my liberal values and broke my American heart."

Gitlin noted that part of Oglesby's appeal was his own story, one millions could relate to. He wasn't an Ivy leaguer or angry rich kid. He grew up working class, from the Midwest, in Akron, Ohio, and had far more experience than his fellow activists. He also knew how to communicate, having briefly tried an acting career in New York in his 20s and also attempting to write a novel.

But the '60s proved an unfulfilled dream from which he never recovered, Gitlin says. By the end of the decade, King and Robert Kennedy had been killed, the Vietnam War was still on and Oglesby was being thrown out of the organization he helped make famous. Violent activists such as the Weathermen dismissed Oglesby as a "hopeless bourgeois liberal." Oglesby labeled the Weatherman's politics as "road r age and comic book Marxism."

"He suffered greatly from that, maybe more than anyone else of the older crown, from being targeted by the Weathermen as a bad guy," Gitlin said. "He used to say that the Weatherman were like the children of his generation, dismantling what had been achieved."

In recent years, Oglesby became obsessed with the assassination of President Kennedy. He wrote the books "Who Killed JFK?" and "The JFK Assassination" and contributed an afterword to Jim Garrison's "On the Trail of the Assassins." In 2008, his memoir "Ravens in the Storm" was published. He also recorded music and taught at Dartmouth College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.




Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press
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NEW YORK — Carl Oglesby, an activist in the 1960s who headed the campus organization Students for a Democratic Society and gave an influential and frequently quoted speech denouncing the... Read Obituary
NEW YORK  Carl Oglesby, an activist in the 1960s who headed the campus organization Students for a Democratic Society and gave an influential and frequently quoted speech denouncing the Vietnam... Read Obituary

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