Mosaic / January 14, 2009

Famous forgotten guests

Knox students are well practiced at bragging to their friends back home about our recent string of prestigious speakers and visitors, but this trend of important guests at Knox is not a recent phenomenon. Actually, Knox has played host to several important people over the years.

Author, educator, and poet Haki Madhubuti visited in May of 1992, and the Ramones played during the 1979 homecoming dance.

Knox also hosted Senator John Kerry in February of 1972, before he became a senator. Kerry spoke in Kresge Recital Hall as a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War about the way then-president Richard Nixon was handling the conflict in Vietnam and how it was affecting veterans returning home, especially those with had a drug addictions.

“Kerry feels we have to set a definite date for withdrawal, leaving the Vietnamese to determine their own future,” reported The Knox Student. Kerry also criticized Nixon for not making any progress with the war after taking office and spoke against Nixon’s eight-point plan as a strategy in Vietnam.

At the time, Kerry was working in Massachusetts with drug-addicted veterans coming home from Vietnam. TKS reported that he was “considering running for public office.” He later became a United States Senator and ran as the Democratic nominee for president in 2004.

Most people do not know that Galesburg had another distinguished guest in February of 1914. Helen Keller, along with her teacher Mrs. Macy, spoke at the Central Church about how Helen was able to learn to communicate. After Macy’s lecture on teaching, Keller was allowed to address the audience.

“Her voice was harsh and without much inflection or resonances, and, and those far back in the audience heard her only with difficulty,” reported The Knox Student. “Her message was one of gratitude and cheer, such as to impress upon those who heard a deep sense of her appreciation of her powers, developed so meagerly and with such difficulty.”

Keller answered questions and said she knew there was a large audience because she could smell “the odor of many clothes.”

She spoke in support of women’s rights and suffrage.

“While Miss Keller’s voice was unpleasant to listen to, the evening’s program was the most instructive in years,” reported TKS. “It is doubtful whether anything in the world can inspire greater gratitude in the hearts of an audience for their fortunate situation, and at the same time bring about a greater wonder at the seeming impossibilities of the world, than an evening with Helen Keller.”

Laura Miller

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