I made a life-changing choice for the end of August, 1968. When I proposed to Jan in November, 1967, my proposal was not a romantic winner, even though we went to Bloomington’s Miller Park and sat at the edge of the lake. I had almost run into a tree driving through Miller Park, so Jan knew something was on my mind. (She said later she thought I might be breaking up with her.) I ruminated with Jan about the uncertainties of the future. I had just finished several months serving a small rural town congregation, but I had no other job prospects. My own anti-war choices that had placed me in some jeopardy with the Selective Service System and some administrators of Illinois Wesleyan University, but I still resolved to continue in my plan to go to seminary and pursue a career as a minister. At that point I had nothing to offer Jan except the impoverished life of a graduate student with the possibility of a study fellowship and stipend. If the fellowship materialized, we might have a small studio apartment near the University of Chicago, but she would have to find a job to support her own needs.
Whether I could stay out of trouble was not certain, having just had my first interview with an FBI agent, concerning my work with the Students for a Democratic Society, organizing an IWU Symposium on the Vietnam War, and inviting Staughton Lynd, a vigorous opponent of the war, to the campus to speak. At first I didn’t take the veiled threats of the agent and the Dean of Students seriously, but “the times…they were a’changin’.” Who knew what the future held? I just knew my own situation had begun to appear precarious after I had returned my draft card to my local draft office. (Nothing ever came of that action. The members of the local draft board knew me, my seminary plans, and my health disqualification already. ) Would Jan want to marry me when she really considered what she might face in the early days of our marriage, or the later days for that matter?
She said ‘yes.’ Would I want to marry her when she was able to make such a foolish decision? I said ‘yes, definitely.’ We proceeded to make plans to be married toward the end of the next summer, allowing time for Jan to finish her work at the Waterloo, Iowa, YWCA, and for me to make as much money as I could during the summer, painting barns, cribs, and other farm buildings, and working at Arby’s.
Many invitations arrived to come to Chicago to join in demonstrations against the war during the Democratic National Convention. The event promised to mark a momentous turning point in our nation’s history. Our own event promised to make a momentous turning point in our personal history, and who knew how much influence upon others might follow?
We arrived at our apartment in Chicago just a couple of days after the convention and the demonstrations concluded their tormented run.