PR for People Monthly October 2021 October 2021 - Page 17

BOOK REVIEW

by Patricia Vaccarino

Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in  the Sixties By Nick Licata  

Cambridge Scholars Publishing223 pp—Price varies

Nick Licata’s latest book is a timely, relevant, and compelling narrative that draws us into the glory days of student activism during the 1960s.These are the halcyon days of citizen empowerment when groups like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) flourished, imbuing many thousands of young people with a collective conscience to make a better world. At the very least, their attempt to make a better world became a laudable, good faith effort.

  Licata delves into his own personal journey during his time as a student at Bowling Green University. As a kid growing up in a working-class family in Cleveland, Ohio, Licata was inspired by the book Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein. The book became an imprint—his quest to explore and understand the universe. In a coincidental way, the exploration inherent in Licata’s favorite book Citizen of the Galaxy proves to be a foreshadowing of the pattern unfolding in his own life.

In politics, Nick Licata is never thought of as a front line winner or a sure bet. As a student, the first time he runs for office, he’s trailing way behind, and is the candidate everyone was certain would lose. It was through his work with the SDS that he was called upon to run for president of the student council for Bowling Green University. Then against all odds, he beats all of the popular, cheeky frat boys, winning the election to become student body president. Many years later, when he ran to be a member of the Seattle City Council, once again the odds where hugely stacked against him. But not only did he win, he thrived, serving five terms, eventually becoming the president of the council.

  The trajectory of Licata’s accomplishments are not mere strokes of luck. It’s clear how hard he worked throughout his life to form the alliances and support that always pushed him over the finish line. The son of parents who never went beyond high school, Licata is the first to go to college. He wastes no time turning that achievement—the privilege of going to college—into a rudder guiding him to make a difference in the world. His foray into cutting his teeth as an activist takes place while he is a student at Bowling Green University during the mid-to-late 1960s, the heartbreaking and traumatic era of assassination: John, Bobby and Martin. No question, these times were so turbulent, both politically and socially, that some of our leaders lost their lives.

In Licata’s book, social unrest percolated on multiple levels that were often fragmented. Racism, Gay rights, and Women’s rights were social issues that affect different sectors and strata of the society, yet they often coalesced under a unified stand against the war in Vietnam. Antiwar sentiment became an inflection point to address many different forms of social injustice in America. Cleveland might have been a conservative working-class town, but there were rumblings taking place among the young that were intent on changing the status quo. Student activists worked to achieve self-governance and to have a voice in the larger university administration. Until then the needs and interests of the students had been largely ignored by the school’s administration. Licata and his fellow student activists became the voice waking up the tone deaf, and a tour de force that sought to overturn a status quo that, until then, had been grossly unfair and unjust.