Barbara Helmcke Garlock '68 shared with Bucknell Magazine a series of letters she wrote to her future husband, Gayle, during the 1967-68 academic year. Gayle was studying at the University of Texas, while Barbara was at Bucknell observing how the tumultuous times played out on this campus. She and Gayle fled to Canada a few months after her graduation so he could avoid the draft, and they have remained in that country.

October 22, 1967 (Barbara's letter to Gayle)

Amazingly Bucknell has really been swinging lately. They had a "Teach In" earlier this week — a 24- hour round-the-clock session about Vietnam — discussion, debates, movies, etc. And the professors have compiled a booklet discussing the war — sociological, psychological, religious, philosophical, political, economic, military aspects of the war. The psych professor's article was excellent. He discussed the psychological reasons for people becoming insensitive to war and the tragic implications. I'm being bombarded with very one sided arguments against the war but they seem to make sense.

October 29, 1967 (Barbara's letter to Gayle)

The Colloquy programs were just amazing, especially two debates that I went to yesterday.

The first debate — "Are the killings in Vietnam justified?" There were 5 panelists ... and they had 5 different views ... The John Bircher advocated going in, "bombing the bastards out" and getting the war over with ... The Army Chaplain sounded as if he had been brainwashed by the Army... The English professor opposed the war on humanitarian grounds and refused to accept the idea that we have no choice. He saw all kinds of alternatives — number one on his list was immediate withdrawal ... The newspaper editor took the view that only the killing of "the invader" in Vietnam was justified and he defined "the invader" as the USA. Finally, the minister denied the justifiability of the war on "dignity of the human being" grounds ... After presenting their views all hell broke loose in the discussion period.

The second debate involved the validity of the draft. Again five panelists but they broke down into two camps. Basically the issue became: do you owe ultimate allegiance to your individual conscience or to the state?

Programs like these are so good ... I was constantly amazed by what people said and sincerely believed. And I've asked myself a lot of questions. The one thing that has really been bothering me is that nobody could seem to come up with any sane or logical reasons for our staying in Vietnam.

Spring 2017 Online Exclusives


A Season of Action

Spring semester is always an active time on Bucknell's campus, but this year "activist" is also an apt descriptor.

Read a Bucknellian article on the history of activism at Bucknell, see letters by Barbara Helmcke ’68 and explore photos regarding campus activism that echo this spring semester’s events.

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We loving hearing, and seeing, what our Bucknell family is up to. Share your photos, past and present, with us, and we'll post them in the web and app versions of Bucknell Magazine.

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