Living in the Sixties





For my research paper, I have decided to interview my teacher from Lincoln High School. He is a good man and helps guide many kids to the right path towards college. He currently visits students in other schools from Lincoln that are in the program he runs called GIRARD, this program helps students with their financial trouble, like the A.P. tests, and also takes students to college trips. His name is Walter Desmond; he is currently sixty-one years old and he made room to recall his past time in the sixties to be my interview.


He lived in the L.A. area and was currently enrolled in University of California Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.). He was in college in the first couple of years of the war, when it was quite limited. It was during the time when civil rights events were much more of an issue to college students. He recalls in 1965, “I went to UCLA – as the war was acceleration. The draft was in effect at that time, and one brother was drafted. Because I was in graduate school, I got a student exemption from the draft – I then got married and had two children. That put me way down on the draft priority list.” He was currently working very long hours on his research, adding on he was managing an apartment. Dr. Desmond was a busy man going to college, managing an apartment, and raising a family; because of this he had little exposure to the war.


Having no television, he was even less exposed to the war, even if there were newspapers everyday. He says, “the sense was MUCH as it is about Iraq today – how can we get out of this mess?” The university was a hot spot for opposition, as were most of them. Even so, most of these students were exempt from the draft, so we’re protesting from principle not experience. He says, “Again, just as the Iraq war does – it really has NO effect on the majority of people and their life or lifestyle. That’s unfortunate – it would make them examine the worth of the war more, as it would have for me, if I had been more directly affected.” The war, though a major issue, was not in the minds of the young Americans. In the minds of the young Americans, majority from colleges was focused on the civil rights. He states that the war in Vietnam was quite similar to our today’s war in Iraq. We have gotten ourselves into another corner that we do not know how to get out of. He says, “We don’t have business going to war in Vietnam, so why are we going to war for?”


“Has the war affected him in any way?” I asked.


“Strangely, it had little effect on me personally.” He answers.


He did not go to war, but knew people who did, including a friend who was killed in the war. He also had another good friend who was a helicopter pilot over there in war. (He wrote a great book about it, twenty-five years later, but he never heard about it from him at the time. He later found out that that his friend didn’t want to talk about it because it was pretty bad. He also had a brother that was in the army; luckily he never went to Vietnam.


Unlike many college students who participated in demonstrations, Dr. Desmond did not participate in any demonstrations. However, he was involved in peace activities at his church. He was more of a pacifist, and resulted into taking problems in peaceful ways.


Incidentally, he was in Paris for a year at the time of the Paris peace talks toward the end of the war. He recalls, “Our next-door neighbor was a North Vietnamese immigrant! We never discussed the war. Even though it was clear that he was anti-American government and its policies – personally he was very friendly to us Americans. Very friendly and helpful.”



Dr. Desmond experienced the sixties passively. Luckily he did not get drafted into the war and he was deep into his studies. Being a family man and a manager, he was clearly safe to stay from the