For Swartzlander, visiting Tinker is a hero
It’s been nearly 50 years, but David Swartzlander is still amazed.
It’s not easy to stand up for what you believe in. Let alone doing so when you’re 13 years old.
But that’s exactly what Mary Beth Tinker - one of the central plaintiffs in the seminal First Amendment Supreme Court Case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969) - did.
In 1965, Tinker and a group of fellow teenage students, including her older brother, were inspired by an anti-war rally in Washington. So they wore black armbands to school to mourn soldiers killed in the Vietnam War and support Robert F. Kennedy’s push for a Christmas truce between the United States and Vietcong forces. Tinker and her friends were taken out of class and suspended.
During the next four years, Tinker, her family and her friends endured much but won their Supreme Court case.
“How many 13-year olds have that much courage to do that?” said Swartzlander, assistant journalism professor.
The legendary activist, traveling the country on her Tinker Tour, will share her story and the importance of free speech at Doane’s Crete location on April 15 thanks in large part to Swartzlander.
Swartzlander, the past president of the College Media Association (CMA), met Tinker at a convention in New Orleans. Since then, he’s worked toward getting the tour to make a stop at Doane’s School of Arts and Sciences campus in Crete. Earlier this semester, both sides were able to make the visit come together.
The Tinker Tour, started last fall on the East Coast, is spreading the word about the importance of free speech for students through Tinker and First Amendment Lawyer Mike Hiestand. Sponsored by the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., the tour’s spring schedule is in the western part of the country.
Alisha Forbes ’14, Swartzlander’s work study student, helped coordinate the logistics of the event.
“Alisha’s done an amazing job,” he said. “Alisha’s really pitched in and excited about it. I appreciate her efforts.”
For more details on Tinker’s visit, read the formal press release here.
“I don’t consider too many people in this world to be heroic. John Seigenthaller (former journalist, First Amendment defender) is a hero in my eyes. Mary Beth Tinker is another,” Swartzlander said. “Fighting for what she and they believed in. Against all odds, all authority. Yeah, that’s heroic.”