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Anti-Vietnam War demonstrators march along Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House during the Moratorium Day March on Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 1969.
AP Photo

When we start our annual meeting on Nov. 15, 2023, it marks milestones in our country and our FCNL community. It formally marks our 80th anniversary as an advocacy organization and the opening of our first office in Washington, DC. 

Just as significantly, it also marks the 54th anniversary of the Moratorium and Mobilization to end the U.S. War in Vietnam in 1969. That march was participated in by up to 250,000 nonviolent peace activists to Washington, D.C. At that time, it was clearly the largest peace demonstration in our country’s history.

While I may not remember what I did on other dates in the past, I clearly remember what I was doing on Nov. 15, 1969. I was in Washington, D.C., demonstrating with friends and college classmates, plus another couple hundred thousand deeply concerned people.

I was 24 years old; a veteran of the U.S. Army who had refused orders to go to Vietnam; a graduate student at Miami University, Oxford, OH.

FCNL’s work to translate movement demands into legislative policy proposals made a difference then—and they still do today. 

As we wended our way through the streets of Washington, D.C., we called for an end to the Vietnam War “right now!” As I marched, my buddies in A Troop/4th of the 12th Cav/5th Division who were now in Vietnam were very much on my mind. I wanted them brought home immediately.

On the 80th anniversary of FCNL and the 54th anniversary of the largest peace demonstration, we might want to recall how many of us were called to demonstrate in our nation’s capital. 

Back in 1969, I did not know the Friends Committee on National Legislation. I did not know how FCNL staff and governors had labored with other peace advocates to bring me and thousands of others to D.C. on November 15. Yet somehow the FCNL community knew that I and others needed and sought opportunities to exercise our conscience in the public square. They helped me to find an opening. FCNL connected with me even when I didn’t know it.

I did not know then, until decades later, that the Moratorium and Mobilization demonstration actually made an impact that saved lives and changed U.S. policy. Robert Levering, producer of the PBS documentary The Movement and the “Madman,” wrote in an article that the demonstrations foiled then-President Richard Nixon’s plans to dramatically escalate the Vietnam War.

He quoted Admiral Thomas Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Nixon administration, saying the Moratorium and the Mobilization “served to inhibit and restrain the decision makers … both in the executive and legislative branches of the government.”

As we mark these anniversaries, let us be reminded that FCNL’s work to translate movement demands into legislative policy proposals made a difference then—and they still do today. 

People: Joe Volk

Joe Volk

Executive Secretary Emeritus (1990-2011)
Joe Volk is an FCNL Executive Secretary Emeritus, having served in that role from 1990 to 2011. Currently, he serves on the General Committee of FCNL, the Corporation Committee of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Corporation Committee of Haverford College, and is a trustee of the board of Wilmington College (OH).