Pages from Michael Butler's Journal


The media is full of stories about the UN Women's Conference, with considerable reference to the NGO situation. China sought to have the Conference for the prestige of the event, not realizing that the NGO (Non Governmental Organizations) would probably be vocal about the host country's (China) lack of human rights--particularly those of women. This has brought back memories which I thought I should share.

One morning in 1969, I was sitting cross-legged in my library at Rising Glen (Los Angeles) reading The Times, when I came across an article about the UN Youth Assembly. The UN had put this conference together to hear from the young people of the world. What were their fears and aspirations? This was a time of great unrest. Youth all over the world were manning the barricades in opposition of the estabished order. They questioned all aspects of the systems of governance which threatened their perceived freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Most of these feelings were expressed in a quest for dialogue. But unfortunatly surrounding any movement there are always extremes, either reactionary or revolutionary. The status quo was threatened and a lot of people--mostly not of the young--were very frightened.

The major purpose of HAIR was to create a dialogue between generations. Accepting the fact that there was increasing polarization and witnessing riots which grew out of this stand-off, I had to return to the bedrock of my involvement in HAIR. I was a political animal. I got into HAIR because of politics. I withdrew from that arena because I felt that HAIR could better express my beliefs than I could in the US Senate or any other political body.

We had to do something about the UN Youth Assembly. The story informed us that the assembly was not going to happen because the Russian and US governments had reniged on their promise to finance it. They could not tolerate this exposure of the existence of the problems facing young people, particularly those young Americans who did not want to go to war in Vietnam. Hud (the black leader in HAIR) says, "The draft is white people sending black people to make war on yellow people to defend the land they stole from the red people."

I called Michael Gifford, our PR genius in New York who understood the social agenda of my endeavours better than anyone else in HAIR. Michael contacted the UN and I flew to New York to meet with the Deputy Secretary General. The results of our meeting were published on the front page of the New York Times, with a photo of the Deputy looking at me, resplendant in my hippie garb, as if were a creature from outer space. What I worked out with the UN was a fundraiser. We would do special performances of HAIR to raise money for the youth assembly. We proposed to raise as much money as the Americans and the Russians.

We were successful. We shamed those two big governments into coming up with thier contributions and the UN Youth Assemby was able to be convened. Still, we raised over a third of the total budget. I personally put up more than $250,000, and it was worth every penny to go to Assembly and receive the accolade of helping to produce that event. My most treasured momento was a personal letter from U Thant.

The Assemby accomplished much in being able to be a forum for the interests of young people all over the world. It is a shame that this is not being continued at least as often as the gathering for women. After all, it is supposedly our--and I mean all of our-- desire to leave this world for our young in a better way than we found it . We are certainly doing a terrible job of this. Perhaps we should hear more from them--our inheritors.

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