Thursday, April 26, 2007

Janie's fifteen minutes with David Halberstam

Yesterday’s post, David Halberstam, the best and the brightest, was not only about honoring the recently deceased Halberstam but also about the sorry state of the media in this country. For more about the failure of the media to tell us the truth during the run up to the war in Iraq, I urge you to watch Bill Moyers’ “Buying the War,” which can be viewed here.

The report below, by my friend Janie Sheppard (who has written two articles for this post and been the subject of one, with links to all three of these articles available here), is her personal story of a significant interaction she had with Halberstam in 1964. This little story tells us so much about what kind of person David Halberstam was.

Janie's fifteen minutes with David Halberstam

I have a little David Halberstam story. My father, a foreign service officer, was stationed in Saigon in the early 1960's just as the war was ramping up and David Halberstam was reporting on it. I was an impressionable high school and then college student who was mightily impressed by Halberstam and other members of the press corps, Malcolm Browne and Neil Sheehan.

Whenever I accompanied my parents to a Saigon cocktail party where Halberstam, Brown and/or Sheehan were present I tried to think up witty conversational gambits to gain their attention. Mostly I failed in this endeavor, or so I thought.

My moment of notoriety, approximately 15 minutes of it, arrived after my family had left Saigon and my father was stationed in Washington, D.C., attending the National War College. That would be 1964. In December 1964 I was arrested in the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. When I called my parents from jail, they were none too happy. Evidently my father viewed my activism as a potential set-back to his career, which he hoped would be advanced by his attending the National War College.

When I went home to Washington, D.C. for Christmas, my father let his unhappiness be known. He grumbled. But then David Halberstam called, asking if I had been part of the Free Speech Movement (FSM), and, if so, could he come over to interview me. He told my father that he figured I would have been arrested as “my father’s daughter.” Imagine my delight.

Halberstam asked me all about the FSM, Mario Savio, going to jail, free speech, and life as a Berkeley student. I loved it. My father sat quietly, listening to my every word. When Halberstam left my father apologized for his grumbling, gave me a big hug and said he was glad I had been arrested for such a noble cause. He said he was proud me.

Thank you, David Halberstam!

(photo -Janie on her bike last summer)

No comments: