On the Battleground Bus Tour, we’ve met some extraordinary people. Usually, our focus is talking with the swing voters in swing states who will decide this election. But while Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, we started reporting a story on the ground game being implemented by both campaigns in Ohio.
At the Stark County Democratic Party Headquarters, we met a dedicated volunteer who lived through a dark chapter of American history and retained his sense of civic commitment.
His name is Dean Kahler and he was shot at Kent State in 1970.
For younger Americans, the memory of Kent State might come only from anguished black and white photographs or the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young anthem “Ohio”.
But the memory of that day is still fresh in Dean’s mind. He was a first-quarter freshman, who came to watch the protests before a class. He was frustrated by how Richard Nixon’s “Secret Plan” to end the Vietnam War, promised in the 1968 campaign, had resulted only in an escalation of the war. But as the National Guard released tear gas canisters and protesters began throwing stones, he tried to remove himself from the crowd. He saw the guardsmen raise their guns and heard shots fired. He was hit and woke up six days later after an induced coma. Four students died. He remains in a wheelchair.
Dean’s parents were in what he calls a “mixed marriage” – his father was a Democrat, his mother was a Republican. After being shot- and hearing President Nixon call the protestors “bums” and Vice President Agnew call him “an effete snob”, Dean became a committed Democrat. He worked for the Ohio Secretary of State and held local elected office. He is now retired and takes care of his aging father.
But he is passionate about this election and protecting the social safety net. He is a patriot who patriotism was painfully tested and still endures. He is just one face from the Ohio campaign trail.
Watch the video to hear Dean tell his own story in his own words – and maybe take a second to reflect that however divided our country might feel in this final week of the 2012 election, we have survived far worse divisions within living memory.