Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Meet an American hero you've never heard of before

Mary Beth Tinker

Meet an American hero you've never heard of before

 

Her name is Mary Beth Tinker. Today she's a nurse in D.C., but in 1965 she was an eighth-grade student in Iowa (pictured above):

But  by Christmas that year, about a thousand American soldiers had been killed in Vietnam and President Johnson had to decide whether to escalate the war or try to negotiate peace. A lot of people thought it was patriotic to support the war, but others thought we should try peace. One of them, Senator Robert Kennedy, proposed a Christmas truce. Some students in Des Moines decided to wear black armbands to support him, and wrote an article about it in their  school newspaper. The principals saw the  article and ruled that any students who tried to wear black armbands to school would be suspended.

After that, we weren’t sure what to do. We’d learned about the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment in school, and we felt free speech should apply to kids, too. We also had the examples of brave people standing up against dogs and firehoses to fight racism. In the end,  we decided to go ahead and wear the armbands, and some of us were suspended.

But that wasn't the end of the story. The students took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and they won -- 40 years ago today, Feb. 24, 1969. It's a powerful lesson in what it means to be an American, and in never giving up. It's a lesson that a lot of us need to hear today. Especially the second one.

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