In August 1973, the War Resisters League marked its 50th anniversary during the annual conference at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA. Over 550 attendees gathered to commemorate the occasion through reflection and rededication over three days. On the first evening, Larry Gara presented a slideshow to a packed hall. He had spent several years bringing together WRL’s history thus far through photos and stories of the individuals who dedicated themselves to nonviolence and pacifism. Titled “A Glimpse at Our Past: Contents and Images of WRL's First 50 Years”, the slideshow is now available online including the complete script with notes accompanying each slide.
Larry Gara spoke of the individuals that shaped WRL and described the struggle against war and militarism. He closed with an aspirational view of the future: “Much, of course, remains to be done before the WRL can put itself out of business…We are the first to admit that we do not have all the answers. But we do have a vision and a strong faith that people working together can abolish the scourge of war, and with the imaginative use of nonviolence can begin to create a new and more just society within the broken shell of the old order.” Writing for WRL News, Wendy Schwarz proclaimed that “his slides are the ones you’d want flashed on your wall when you feel depressed about the general performance of the peace movement over the years.” Marty Jezer also wrote a detailed “WRL: The First 50 Years” for a special anniversary issue of WIN magazine prior to the conference. Looking back now, these histories tell the first half of the story of WRL. What will the next 50 and 100 years bring?
The War Resisters League's First 50 Years Slideshow has been added to the War Resisters League Publications Digital Collection at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. You can read more about the 50th anniversary conference in the September-October 1973 issue of WRL News and the September 6, 1973 issue of WIN.
- blog post by Laura Melbourne