January 16, 2005
I remember that the one great stalwart in my life when I was at UVM and besieged by the imperialists and the liberals and the jealous "comrades," the one true friend who consistently stood by me was you. And you did so out of your great humanity and also because of your superbly fine and uncompromising politics, your unswerving dedication to truth and social justice.
And that solidarity continued through the years when it seemed you almost alone among the surviving UVM lefties continued to organize, educate, and agitate. Indeed, it was you, thru your efforts mostly, that I was able to return to speak at UVM at least two--or was it three--times over the years. And it was always great to see you and Ann and visit the ole sheep farm.
I am sending good wishes and strong "vibes" as we used to say (oh, you probably still say), and if love can cure, then the love that comes from me and so many of your friends whose lives you have touched in such meaningful ways, should help you in regaining your health. Please get well soon, Will. We need you more than ever.
January 15, 2005
I recall first meeting you when you moved to Shelburne in 1969, I was just out of college. Although I'd quit ROTC in college in protest over the war, attended sit-ins, demos, and a few SDS meetings, I'd not begun to assemble a perspective on things until I'd had a few enlightening and empowering conversations with you. The particulars of these are lost to time, but I clearly recall that you held forth with power, intelligence and conviction. Of course this has been your trademark style as a teacher and an activist, and so many people have been so deeply affected by your words and your actions.
Do you recall the April '71 action in D.C.? I took a photograph of you and other dedicated Vermont activists as we gathered on the park benches someone had conveniently hauled into the street to serve as a barricade. Although our intention that day was serious, to bring to a halt a government that had spun out of control in pursuit of a cruel and illegal war, the photo shows that you all are joyous and appreciative of the humor of the pose. And, after all, nowhere else would Will Miller be found taking a "middle of the road" position!
Please know that your work has touched my life. I continue to teach in an alternative high school program for kids who suffer from cultural and economic oppression. I am committed to a leadership role in my union, and I am presently undertaking training as a counselor in conscientious objection. Thanks to you and so many other committed leaders in my life, I have a perspective that guides my actions and a strong belief that the people united can never be defeated. Thank you.
In peace and solidarity,
January 15, 2005
It gives me great honour to be able to share my testimonial with you and to be able to add to those amazing testimonials of others whose lives you have touched.
I remember the first demonstration I participated in Burlington, Vermont--the protest against the Gulf War in 1999, where I saw you for the first time standing under the 'Veterans for Peace' banner with a megaphone in hand. I remember craning my neck to listen to what you had to say that day outside of UVM, and to this day recall that it was at that moment that I for the first time understood the extent and impact of the U.S. government's military intervention policy in the world at large.
Later that day our protest ended in being arrested for our sit in at Bernie's office where we demanded an explanation for his support of the Gulf War and got none. Considering it was my first political arrest--I said why not, its time I took a stand and what better jail company to keep than Will Miller's?
I will always be inspired by your vigilence, your strength and your unwavering commitment to the struggle for social justice, and most importantly your commitment to make the personal political. I say this because I had seen no better example until, I saw how you and Ann had made a beautiful home in harmony with the natural environment--you've made it possible for us to visualize our future and how to apply our politics to our daily lives.
Will, your legacy and inspiration will continue to thrive through us, your former students of the activist and philosophical tradition, and even through larger institutions such as UVM, where you have not only taught us the importance of never giving up until we've won our battle--UVM today offers its faculty and adjunct faculty the sanctity of a teacher's union--it does so because of you.
With thanks and admiration, I wish you and Ann, love, peace and endurance during this difficult time.
January 14, 2005
For days I've been mulling over our 20 plus-year-old friendship, trying to figure out how to condense such a friendship onto paper. It took rewatching a video that you took of a 2 y.o. Ari feeding your sheep to make me realize the message that I wanted to share here. (Ari was feeding the sheep with such determination and when he looked up at you, you reassured him that it was ok to smile!) You have shown me that fighting the good fight doesn't mean that you can't have fun along the way - a lesson I have taken to heart. It has made many a situation bearable, kept hope alive, and given energy when fatigue has threatened to take over.
Will, you are a man of great compassion. You hold people accountable for their actions, yet are generous with your hugs. You are, in my eyes, a human being who gives the best of himself to a world sorely lacking at times, and in the process have inspired many to follow your example.
I treasure our dreams of a kinder, more responsible world...dreams that I'm not willing to give up on yet! I treasure my memories of the many rallies, demonstrations and meetings that we attended, of the cords of wood stacked, of the conversations that lasted well into the night, and of the good food shared with even better company.
Thanks, my friend, for opening your heart and clenching your fist!
With much love and a big hug,
January 14, 2005
Will, you are nice and I think that you are my mom and dad's best friend.
Ari (4 y.o.)
January 14, 2005
Post Mills, Vermont
January 14, 2005
Your course 'Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric' was the most important I took at UVM. It oriented my head to think critically about what others are saying, whether they are politicians on the tube or negotiators across the table. It has served me well.
Thank you, and best wishes
Southern Vermont Veterans For Peace, Chapter 88
South of Route 4
January 14, 2005
Dear brothers and sisters:
At it's Sunday, January 9, 2005 meeting in Brattleboro VT, Southern Vermont Veterans For Peace Chapter 88 passed the following resolution:
Southern Vermont Veterans For Peace Chapter 88, sister chapter to Green Mountain Veterans For Peace Chapter 57, recognizes the contributions that VFP member Will Miller has made and continues to make to the cause of peace and justice in the world."
We salute and honor brother Will Miller and his lifelong committment to making the world more peaceful and just. We will continue in Will's footsteps as we Wage Peace! La lucha continua.
Southern Vermont Veterans For Peace, Chapter 88
January 14, 2005
This is not a testimonial, it is a short note because I am at work-- on my lunch break--during which I am working on the messages to Vermont Military Families Speak Out, organizing, agonizing...waiting for Ryan to come home from Iraq. You and Joseph were the first ones to encourage me to keep speaking out against the Iraq War. You are my mentors. Even in the short time I worked with you, I could see you are one of those very special people who change others' lives dramatically for the better. I look forward to seeing you soon--meanwhile, I am going to coninue PART of your work...
January 13, 2005
WILL -- Looking at these testimonials, it must be clear (if there was ever any doubt) that you have influenced so many people in so many ways over the years.
We owe you a great debt ... for teaching us to be philosophers (for some, as a professional discipline, but also, for us all, in the broadest sense of that word: lovers of wisdom; critical thinkers); for setting an example of what it means to live consistently with your beliefs, which so few of us in the world really do; for inspiring us with your exuberance and rage; for sponsoring our organizations (I just saw the SPARC webite. What a treat that an organization that a few us us created back then is still around! I remembering toiling for hours to get that acronym, and see now that it has stood the test of time); for opening your home and heart to us; for leading us, as the great teachers do, into new worlds of knowledge and questioning.
There are a few -- a very few --teachers that make a difference in one's life. In mine, there is no doubt that you were one, and that is a great thing. I hope little more than that someone will one day say that about me.
Much love to you (and Ann!) in this difficult time.
January 13, 2005
I have fond memories of our trips to New York for the Socialist Scholars conferences. The bed and breakfast on Crosby Street with all its funky memorabilia was a great place to stay with Judy and Jay. I recall staying with you in the old carriage house next door the next year. Remember the door that locked you in when I went out. Then there was the year we all stayed in that hotel above Battery Park with the view of the harbor.
Those trips were a chance to get to know you and your many political and personal stories - demos- family -sheep- Marxism- philosophy. Of course everyone who knows you knows that you never repeat the same story more than three times. Your political history inspired me. Talking with you and going to Socialist Scholars inspired me to learn more about 19th century socialist writers, especially Morris and Bellamy, a project that I turned into a Vermont Humanities Council grant and book discussion.
Your presence at so many demonstrations has been an inspiration. This has been a rough time; it's good to know that you and so many others are steadfast in opposing US hegemony and mania.
Then there were times at Judy and Jays, good food, snow falling, the hot tub, friends and dialogue.
With peace and love, George
January 13, 2005
Will Miller's activism is an inspiration to all of us. He sacrificed many of the things we all seek for social justice. I knew Will as a union activist in the 1970s, at precisely the time I was involved in an effort to unionize Indiana University faculty. He showed great courage in confronting union busting administrations from the 1970s right through to the 2000s. There was never a suspicion that Will was looking for the power of leadership in any of the many social struggles he undertook. He spoke truth to power out of a dedication to the social good. I wish him the best now in his courageous struggle for his life.
Vermont & El Salvador
January 12, 2005
Will, I know you vicariously through Charley MacMartin, and a few times that we met and communicated, again, at Charley´s suggestion, on activist things related to El Salvador. But inevitably when Charley and I have a conversation about politics, activism and the world, your name comes up. And since Charley has been a key support person for my own activism, I know too that you have been there, forming the ideas to be debated, and offering presence for generations of activists who learned in your classrooms, walked beside you at protests, and organized and thought along side you in so many venues. Thanks for your support especially of the work of Compa - which was where I invested my time during my brief stay at UVM in 1989 - for help fundraising, for help organizing after the offensive and subsecuent murder of so many organized people in El Salvador...
I make my home in Proctorsville, Vermont, although I am heading back to El Salvador for a couple of months to lead 130 compañeros and compañeras from the US to the 25 anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero. I see from other people´s comments that many of their connections to you were also in part through El Salvador. So, I will carry your image with me to El Salvador this year, and although I am not the praying kind, I will invoke Romero, who I think probably speaks as much to us believers in Justice as he does to those believers in Jesus for your recovery and future good health. And here´s an invitation - 2006 in San Salvador?
Grand Isle, Vermont
January 12, 2005
Your presence and actions keep reminding me that I working for change is an on-going process. I'm thinking of you and wishing you strength and energy.
January 12, 2005
Of all the teachers my students and advisees have talked to me about, one is--by a very wide margin!--most often cited as having stimulated them to rethink their fundamental assumptions, and as having shown them a way of looking at the world they'd never before encountered. Of course, that teacher is you.
Take good care of yourself, and know that we are thinking of you.
January 11, 2005
When I started at UVM in 1983, my brother Jimmy Zeigler (who was then a UVM senior) was diagnosed with leukemia. He died 9 months later in December 1984, just days after final exams. While I don't pretend to know what you're experiencing right now, I do have an idea of how painful (and transforming) a cancer battle can be. I'm rooting for you, praying for you, and am grateful for this chance to read the personal testimonies of so many others ... and to tell you how you've inspired me.
At the time I first heard the name Will Miller I was well entrenched in a local culture that had absolutely no contact with the radical left of UVM. Raised in Burlington, I still lived at home because my folks couldn't afford dorm expenses. Socially, this felt like the kiss of death...as a freshman, all I ever wanted was to be like everyone else; I pitied myself and watched on-campus students with a sad fascination and jealousy. To make me feel even more like a freak, my family had a tangible on-campus presence as well, through the Catholic Newman Center where, for almost two years, daily masses were held in honor of my brother during his illness (and after). In retrospect, I now see how lucky I was to have my family right there in Burlington during this time...how much more difficult it would have been if I was attending school out-of-state like everyone I envied, away from the opportunity to witness my brother's daily struggle to come to terms with his own death. But at the time... trust me, it sucked.
Shortly after Jimmy died I pried myself away from the Catholic community and found my new home in shantytown on main campus. It was an emotional move as well as a political one.... an escape from the stifling love of my family and our tragedy. What I didn't know was that meeting you and other members of the anti-apartheid community at UVM would change the course of my life; I wonder now what path I would have chosen if I hadn't had that opportunity. To my surprise, I found a personal liberation in my growing understanding of social struggles and this somehow made me less of a slave to my own.
Being an English/History major, I never took one of your classes but became close friends with many who had; among that group, it is an understatement to say your reputation preceded you. I wished I had room for more electives so that I could enjoy a trip out to the legendary homestead for woodstacking parties. But I finally did get a chance to work with you when I ran for the student Senate and landed a spot on the Committee on Legislative Action, where you were the faculty advisor. Until I met you, I'd never known a professor who treated students like they were equals. There weren't many during my tenure at UVM, but there were a few... and you were the first I had the good fortune to be acquainted with. Despite the painfully obvious fact that you could think circles around all of us, your students always felt respected and valued, treated as though we mattered, as though there was no where else on the planet you would rather be at that moment, as though our ideas even excited you. I have been lucky enough to know several teachers in my life who were invigorated by the experience of teaching itself, but never one with such a beautiful and brilliant mind as yours. It was downright flattering to have that light shine in my direction. It took me a while to get used to it, and I went through a period where I was completely in awe of you and would blush if you ever looked in my direction, for fear you might ask me a question that I'd actually have to respond to. I just could not understand how any human being could be so articulate and graceful and argue a point like a poet. It's your great strength, and how you've inspired us with it!
My roller-coaster experience of moving from the center of UVM's Catholic community to its activist core gave me, I think, a unique understanding of the meaning of the word 'conviction'. It contains an element of faith, does it not? Faith in what we believe can be, faith in what we believe people deserve, faith in the powerless, faith in the peacemakes, faith in the earth. Your faith, your conviction, your vision...continues to inspire me, and dare I say, us. The well-deserved outpouring of sentiment on this website comes from the heart of a community grateful to call a you a friend and a comrade.
January 11, 2005
Will and Ann (I know this is about Will, but their names, like their persons, are almost inseparable for me—-it's hard not to think or say WillandAnn) have been dear friends for many years. We have worked together on some political projects, like CISPES, the Vermont board of the Haymarket People's Fund, and, for over a decade, the board of our homegrown Green Mountain Fund for Popular Struggle. But it is the cherished friend that I would like to speak of here.
It must have been 1982 when I met Will. At the time, I was teaching at UVM and naively thought I could enlist the endorsement of my fellow faculty in the Department of Romance Languages in opposing U.S. support of the butchery by the Salvadoran military. Turns out one isn't supposed to do such things (at least not on Department letterhead!) for fear of disrupting the serene objectivity of the ivory tower. After getting my hand slapped, I got a note from Will offering condolence, encouragement, support—the kind of bear-hug gesture of friendship that has become a beacon in my life to help me find my bearings. Suzanne and I spent some of our first dates and many sweet, happy days after that at WillandAnn's house, which is now a favorite destination of our daughters as well.
Will is one of the kindest people I know. He assumes only the best about his friends, offering solace in hard times and celebration in good times. I know there are those who find Will "difficult," and that's another reason why I love him! In Spanish, the word is "intransigente"—-uncompromising. For all of the patience and gentleness he lavishes on friends, we all know that he has little tolerance for those who suppose that courting Republicrats is the road to social justice. It matters far less to me that I don't agree with all of his positions than that we need an intransigente like Will to keep us mindful of the slippery slope of compromise. Whenever we get complacent or smug about where we are in the struggle for a more humane and just world, there is Will to remind us that there's still more to do.
And he's done so much! Many of his other friends can account better for all Will has done on the front lines of the battles against abusive power, genocidal madness, greed, discrimination. I've never figured out how he's managed to do it all, along with a distinguished teaching career, but I'm grateful that his energy and determination have carried him—-and us—-as far as they have.
But back to that dear friend. Will has enriched my life enormously, and I have learned a lot from him—-not just from the polymath who seems to know something about everything but from the warm and generous human being who truly lives his vision for a better world. Thank you, Will (and Ann), for much laughter, wonderful meals at your house, many long and thoughtful discussions of all sorts of things that matter, gardening and carpentry tips, your leadership in our various conspiracies, your courageous example in speaking truth to power, your boundless optimism, your love. For me, for all of us, you will always be presente!
January 11, 2005
I entered UVM as a student over five years ago. From my experience, it would seem difficult for any student to not know of Will Miller's presence on campus. Whether as a loud voice for justice and equality or as the UVM administration and trustees's worst nightmare, he is at the very least known to all students as the professor with the gall to post (the legally-obligated public information of) professor salaries on his web site.
During this time, I had been drawn to Will by his outspoken criticisms of US-Nato-UN military inteventionism (at that time Yugoslovia and Iraq), his vocal support for gay marriage in Vermont and his participation in the growing economic and environmental global justice movements.
In doing organizing work with Will (largely through SPARC, a student political action group at UVM), I became truly amazed by his humility, conviction and thinking.
There is no egalitarian an occurence for a young student than interacting with a veteran faculty member like Will. I've spent countless hours with Will and other students discussing a variety of social and campus issues in what was often a late and already extended evening meeting. Talking to Will is a foreign experience for students whose professors are typically impersonal, impatient, pompous and inaccessible. Will is kind, patient, generous and open-minded to all our young naive minds. He gave us support and the room to grow and experiment in our political organizing. The dense and engaging conversations and debates between students and Will would continue for long hours even when he surely had other pressing tasks to get to (a Vets for Peace meeting, a dinner date with Ann, plowing the driveway, feeding the sheep, fighting for justice or just getting some sleep). Will's youthfulness and energy is supernatural. Whether it's the attendance of countless meetings, political raliies or stacking wood, it is easy to forget or be convinced otherwise that Will isn't just like me and in his twenties.
For students like myself, Will is an invaluable member of UVM. That Will is salaried so low only strengthened the argument he was the best teacher. UVM pay figures on his web site taught students the handy principle that annual salary is always negatively correlated with teaching competence. Will is an anti-war veteran, a radical philosopher and an engaging teacher. I didn't categorically study philosophy nor had Will as a classroom teacher while enrolled as a student (but heard many a raving review from my peers who had), but am forever thankful to have sat-in on his Philosophy of Marxism course a year ago.
Will's teaching can't fit in a classroom. It overflows into teach-ins, organizations, unions, rallies, to his Westford homestead. Regardless of what happened to academic American philosophy, Will finds a way for his students to find him.
I've experienced many students who would meet Will for the first time in a course, at a meeting, teach-in or demonstration and be clearly overwhelmed of having met such a beautiful person. They would stare in awe in hearing the things they always wanted to hear a teacher say, but somehow only Will was saying. As students (myself included), we can probably never understand what an accomplished person we were so priveleged to speak so frankly with.
In political organizing, Will's thinking is grounded in his own life experience and also in history (whether historical materialism, or the common sense approach of refusing to repeat the same mistakes). His vision for political organizing extends back--rightly so--to the historical heritage of previous political struggles, which in some more recent cases link up with his own life.
A symbolic example of Will's intellect and awareness occurred not too long after September 11th. SPARC and other local organizations were involved in bringing to Burlington a speaker critical of U.S. foreign (and domestic) policy and an American Indian with stringent knowledge of U.S. acts of genocide here and abraod (a vital and appropriate historical perspective) who had been invited well before September 11th for an irrelated talk.
In what was the "formula" for the time, selected quotes concerning September 11th were attributed to the visiting speaker. These quotes were used by UVM administration, UVM's chapter of young Republicans, and Burlington's daily newspaper against the speaker and SPARC. In what is a characteristic (and fitting) response by Will, he didn't back down from the challenge from authority. While some allies were distancing themselves and when Will could have been simply angered by the attack---and he was, he did his damndest to transform it into a positive moment for organizing and teaching about U.S.-sponsored terrorism and political repression in higher education. It was because of who Will is that can only explain his response. His historical mind and his own personal experiences at UVM, I discovered how invaluable someone with Will's experience and skills are to the movement.
Unlike those philosophers that just "interpreted the world", Will is works to change it, and shows us all how. At UVM, he has been a part of shaping and documenting the tradition of struggle for justice of students, of workers' rights, and for intellectual freedom. He helped organize a faculty union, and he has a line of students stretching over 30 years that he's inspired. He's worked to keep all the issues of justice where they belong; on the table for debate and in the classroom for learning. If someone has a problem with their supervisor, or their major, people know to contact Will. There's hardly any contemporary issue worldly or local that you haven't had your hands on. I can tell or ask you anything and you always have some experience to graciously give.
Besides all I've learned, Will, your direction and revolutionary piety will always be a reminder to me of my faith in social change and restistance. I'm also thankful I found such love and friendship in both you and Ann in the last few years. The fun we have is endless and I've learned so much more about life from you both. I hope I've been able to give just a fraction of the thanks and love in return for what you both have given to myself and all your students over the years.
Never stop fighting.
January 11, 2005
Will, I have been enriched by knowing you. In recent years I have become more of an activist than I ever was (still a bit shy at times), and in the background, there you are...courageous, articulate, insightful, and always with a small smile at the corner of your mouth.
love from Jean
January 11, 2005
Once upon a time at a workshop, Will told a story about his students going to jail. So that's how I think about Will. What a teacher!
January 11, 2005
What an appropriate picture to headline this web page...At the head of a rally or speak out (against the war in this case, but just as surely it could be supporting workers, or against the Klan, or against apartheid, or supporting environmental justice or women's rights); bundled against the cold; with a microphone- not simply holding the mike - but passing it on. Passing on the mike as well as the vision and the love that we need so desparately to confront our world. Will, it's what you do and what you have done for me and for generations of justice seekers.
It's what you did gently when I sat at your dinner table some 25 years ago and asked about the trout in the stream at the end of your driveway..."have you ever caught them?"...a knowing look to Ann, "Well, we feed them on occasion"...or when you refused to step in while I bumbled nervously during a public radio show about the death squads in El Salvador in the early 80s, ensuring that I struggled with it, got it, and gained from it (this inspite of the fact that you clearly had the information in the front of your mind and on the tip of your tounge) organizing not only the audience but the organizer.
It's what you did, in numerous discussions about tactics and strategies - for building houses and coalitions, fencing in vegetables, raising sheep, making fondue or chili or combating capitalism.
Will, I suppose its a bit of a cop out to say that there is so much to write about when I think of your impact and influence, but I find myself able to say little more. I look around my office today at the pictures of picket lines and posters and feel your impact...at the pictures of Eli and Ari that you see here and realize your influence.
Thank you, Will, for your lectures and seminars, guidence and wisdom, your hands your back and your heart, your uncompromising and continuing struggle, and for your dear friendship.
Much love, Jerry
January 11, 2005
I wanted to tell you that I think of you as I sit in my home and warm myself next to the woodstove. I think of you maybe not as others do, with your political activism, but as a teacher of patience and how to open up the mind to others thoughts and motivations.
I put in another log and I think of the times we spent handsignaling to eachother as the chainsaws roared around us and during the quiet times they were shut off the discussions of history and how we can change it only if we try. I think of the time I "dragged" you out to the Jazz festival and we couldn't walk but two feet and someone would stop you and start a conversation.. so we hid in a doorway (I think it was the Peace and Justice doorway)and listened to the music.
I hope that you continue to listen to the music of life and look around you at the vista before you and smile at the simple things. For not the simple sunlight or shadow that plays across Rosa's face as she lies in the sun, we would not understand the complexity of life.
Thinking of you Will
January 10, 2005
Haven't known you long but am kept up to date on your battle and am praying for you.
I've not been to any of your rallies but want you to know I have a little rebel in me, too. I'll have to tell you sometime about my episode in Washington, D.C. during the Watergate scandal when my then U.S. Rep. from Michigan kicked me out of the Capitol. And that's just the tip of the ice burg (or is it berg?). If that tease doesn't give you the incentive to get well, I don't know what will.
I also had the distinct honor of having Daniel Ellsburg ride to the airport in Lansing, Michigan in my old yellow VW. He had been there speaking at Michigan State University.
All my best.
January 10, 2005
I graduated from UVM in 1998. Whenever people ask me about my experience there my first thoughts are of Will Miller. Will gave me an essential understanding of the root causes of social inequities, and provided a much need grounded to my Environmental Studies education. Just like Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Will helped me divert my gaze from the shadows of power and showed me a glimpse of the truth.
Will and I rode in the cop car together after getting arrested at Bernie Sanders' office. It was an amazing experience to share with one of my greatest heros, and a real lesson as a young scholar-activist!
Will, I can't thank you enough for giving me a real eduction!
January 10, 2005
hey, will, i just want you to know my favorite image of you, goes back a few years, to the first of several writing workshops you participatd in. in this one, when we randomly paired people up to discuss their formative writing experiences--s sorta sharing-bonding experience--and you ended up with then president tom salmon. i couldn't help watching you two especially closely, but i could not hear what you said, though severl times i saw laughter. to this day i wonder what you two talked about?
i'm retired now three years from our former institution and not regretting one moment of it, both for my own freedom and for being removed from questionable day-to-day politics. hope you know you made a difference in a lot of lives, students and faculty alike. take good care.
best. toby fulwiler
January 9, 2005
Will, since I arrived on at the UVM campus in 1976, your voice has been ever present, powerful, and essential. More important, your ability and passion to encourage the voices of others—students, staff, faculty, community members, and people from around the world—has literally changed each of our own worlds in one way or another. Will, I have such appreciation and admiration for the stories that you have assured we heard in the past, hear in the present, and, most importantly, will continue to hear in the future. The struggle is ongoing and your energy is ever present.
Agape to you and Ann
January 8, 2005
It is a great gift to be given the chance to say to you things that you will have heard a million times before, but here goes:
I was surprised at the intensity of my reaction when I heard in mid-December that you had taken a turn for the worse. You have done such good work and you have much left to do. I am so very happy that you are back on the road to recovery. You have been and always will be an important person in my life.
When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I think I must have met you through mutual friends. I took your class "The Philosophical Foundations of Education." You probably had me pegged right off as the stubborn, a-political holdout who suddenly has had the ground pulled out from under her. You were central to my transformation.
During that class, I really began the ramping up process of trying to get a grip on a vastly different reality than the sort of provincial la la land of my youth. I felt not one speck of being judged by you for my embarrassing lack of attention to the world, just patience; infinite patience. We begin where we are, right?
I was struck by your classroom egalitarianism; you insisted on first names all around, we sat in a circle-- no elevated podium for you!-- and together worked out how our course material might play out.
So many times in the recent past, when I was getting on the bus to go to DC or NY for demonstrations, there you were; "to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted."
I always admire your encyclopedic ability to deploy the rapid-fire statistics; hey, even if some of them were made up on the spot, they worked, right? After all, 38.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot to fill a gap…
But you are a good listener too. Running into you around town or on campus is often uncannily timely, leading to information exchanges that are just the boost that I need. I'm looking forward to the next time!
Peace and Love,
Troy, New York
January 8, 2005
I had the opportunity to work with Will during my sojourn in Vermont in the late seventies, early 80's.
It was the time that the current world crisis in the Middle East first appeared on the horizon, with the war in Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution.
Whether is was organizing anti-war protests, meetings, teach-ins or socialist election campaigns, Will would be there. You could count on it.
One of the greatest things you can say about someone involved in the struggle is that you can rely on them to be at their place on the barricades.
That is Will Miller.
Ellen David Friedman
January 8, 2005
Comrade... I think you set the standard for us all on the left. Through your commitment to principle, your tenacity, and your sheer unconditional faith in the power of working people... you have helped raise up generations of effective organizers. I count myself lucky to be one of them.
I think primarily of how hard we struggled together in the second UVM faculty organizing campaign during the late 1980's. Of course, sometimes we struggled with eachother too (which, I think, may just be inevitable with a person of such unshakable conviction; no one else keeps the faith the way you do).
The ultimate victory at UVM is due so much to your long commitment... though I'm sure you will, properly, insist that a union victory by definition is collective.
Your inspiration is present every day. We keep fighting in your name.
January 8, 2005
I feel like I've known Will longer than the five years I've been teaching at the University of Vermont. This is partly because in the period before I moved to Burlington I kept coming across references to him--in stories about anti-war and global justice activism--that made me very eager to introduce myself. I remember saying to my partner, Ashley, "Who IS this Will Miller? He's everywhere!"
And sure enough, I met him soon after I arrived on campus, at an early meeting of the last (and victorious!) faculty Union drive at the University. He spoke with such passion and experience--I knew at once this must be the same person I'd been reading about and admiring from afar. At subsequent union meetings I'd find myself waiting for Will's contribution and agreeing with him when it came. As time went on I learned a lot about his important role in earlier drives that paved the way for this one--and I was grateful that Will had remained such a fighter. I also heard about the famous marxism class from many enthusiastic students. And one semester I knew we were teaching in the same classroom when I found a handout listing all the invasions and occupations of US imperialism in the twentieth century. Now this is should be part of every American student's education!
After the bombing of Afghanistan started Will and I spoke together on a panel against the war. It was so comforting to sit beside him, and draw strength from his unswerving commitment to peace and justice, in that terrible climate of warmongering.
So, Will, over the years I've become so used to your presence at all the protests, and important events and meetings, that I've really felt your absence in these last months. I'm so glad to get this chance to tell you publicly how much I admire and respect you--and miss you!
with love and solidarity to you and Ann.
January 8, 2005
You and Ann have been in my thoughts and heart. Both of you have been so courageous and have had to endure so much, yet you both continue to be optimistic and an absolute joy to be with.
I could never keep count the number of demonstrations, which I have seen you and Ann at, over the last decade since I moved to Vermont. One of the first things I remember from Vermont protests was the Veteran's for Peace banner, which you would always be standing under. Your commitment to justice in all forms, has been an inspiration to me. I have seen you at events and demonstrations concerning political prisoners, anti-war (several different wars unfortunately), independent media, women's rights, queer rights, worker's rights, racial equality, the list could go on forever.
You have served as a teacher and role model to so many, as an educator and an organizer. Through SPARC you helped to politicize so many young minds, who are now helping to shape the type of world that they want to live in. Many of these people, including myself and many of my friends, mention your name often with the highest level of respect as a person who has influenced their political awakening.
Your less public life at your home also amazes me. The sheep, the garden, the carpentry work on your house, the woodstove… You are not only committed to struggling but you and Ann have also created a beautiful life at your home.
Thank you for fighting and creating alternatives all these years. And I hope there will be many more.
Lots of love
Shoreline, WA & Point Pleasant, NJ
January 8, 2005
If it wasn't for Will Miller...
In the fall of 1969 I was a sophomore at the University of Vermont and virtually lost. My instincts told me that I could find my way, but that it would require proper guidance. On the recommendation of some friends, I had signed up for "Introduction to Philosophy." The teacher was Willard Miller.
I had no familiarity and probably even less understanding of the material that we read and I'm sure that I missed the point of the assigned writings more than I "got it." However, Prof. Miller's patience, understanding, and gift for explaining and communicating what was important (to even the most hopeless case) caused me to begin to think critically in a focused and disciplined manner, and perhaps more importantly, begin to understand what critical thinking was all about. I'll never forget that class, with Will at the front of the room, wearing his leather vest and with his ever present thermos of coffee, and challenging his students to think.
I went on to major in Philosophy at UVM, and I was anything but a good student in the standard sense. After Will's class and after being touched by his explanation that at its core, philosophy was the love of truth and knowledge, I was now at UVM to learn—and papers, exams, and grades were secondary at best.
In my senior year, I became interested in and studied Chinese philosophy and intellectual history with Prof. Gerald W. Swanson. I didn't know it at the time, but Will and Jerry had known each other in the army and had both attended the University of Illinois. With Jerry's help and guidance, I went on to study the Chinese language and to eventually earn my Ph.D. from the University of Washington.
Of course, many of the postings emphasize Will's social and political focus and activism, and rightly so. But I would like to suggest that this focus is a manifestation and expression of what is fundamental and basic to Willard Miller's being: His Humanity. It all comes back to the root of his soul.
Will's understanding of his role as a teacher allows him to connect with his students in a way that transcends the specifics of the material and impart to them—either consciously or otherwise—lessons that cannot be learned solely from the texts themselves. As a whole person, Will teaches to the whole person.
I recently visited Jerry Swanson and Martha Powers Swanson in Montana. Marty and I talked about our days at UVM, as Will's students, and how knowing Willard and having him as our teacher effected a profound change in both of our lives. We were kids from the suburbs, going to UVM, and in the process of growing up. Will saw and understood this, and instead of being an overbearing academician, taught us things that in the long run made us better people.
I hope that those of us who have had the honor and privilege of knowing Will would take all that we have learned from him and make it a part of ourselves and our lives. Let the circle be unbroken.
If it wasn't for Will Miller...
January 8, 2005
I am a fairly young relative of Will from London, England. At the age of eleven my family took a trip to America and Canada where we saw some members of the family and were lucky enough to stay in Will and Ann's wonderful house in the mountains of Vermont.
At the time i had just started reading a biography of Che Guevara. I felt so lucky to have met Will. Throughout our stay we had countless conversations about politics and the world. I remember him being so engaging to talk to and so knowledgeble, yet he never talked down to me or patronised me. In spite of my age, in spite of the fact that he knew so much more than me, he always seemed to take everything i said seriously. I remember leaving feeling that i had learnt a hell of a lot.
Afterwards our correspondence continued via email. I used his site and proudly showed it to others (my conservative history teacher was less than impressed!).
I would like to send Ann and Will my love and solidarity at what must be an extremely difficult time. Keep on fighting companeros!
January 8, 2005
I first met Will through his amazing partner Ann. We were both serving on the Outright Board and Ann held a board retreat at their delightful homestead. I remember feeling a great sense of Home, Peace and Love.
This was the beginning of an amazing friendship that I cherish deeply. I will never forget your amazing kindness and support while I was going through a difficult time in my life. I was fortunite to have the opportunity to spend a siginificant amount of time with both Ann and Will. I remember deep conversations, movies, unconditional love, good smoke and just hanging out.
What I love the most about you Will is that your REAL. Spending time with you gave me the encouragement to be more REAL in my own life. It's easy to dance on the surface of life, it takes real integrity and conviction to march on the earth to our personal drum.
While our lives have drifted over the last couple of years, my spirit and thoughts of both of you are close to my heart and soul.
I look forward to seeing you soon. I'm so glad to hear your recovery is back on track and that your home.
Will thanks for touching my life!
Jack V. Lesnik
January 8, 2005
Will, friend, comrade:
Come back to us soon. We need your courage, your passion for truth and reason in the struggle for a just and humane world. I look forward to a comradely embrace.
January 8, 2005
So much to remember -- projects, teach ins, mobilizations -- more than any of us can recall after all these years.
Personally, I remember meeting and working with you first through PACT (People Acting For Change Together) and other local formations in the 1970s. Acting locally, but always looking far beyond.
And your tireless efforts to counsel, teach, and put life inside the empire into a broader context. CISPES, the Haymarket and Green Mountain funds, Vermont Solidarity -- not to mention some tough but helpful criticism when I would sometimes stray.
You brought a whole generation into political consciousness, an heroic undertaking that has had profound effects on Vermont and the world.
Publications have come and gone, and struggles within the peace and anti-intervention movements. But I cherish most those too rare moments when we could step back from the struggle and just talk.
Thanks for being Vermont's activist philosopher!
January 7, 2005
Will, you and Ann have been in my thoughts since I learned of your illness. Forgive me for the delay in visiting or writing, but I didn't want to invade your privacy. But, that is no excuse for not sharing with you-- what you have meant to me, even when it was from a distance.
Can't quite remember when I first met you, but suffices to say that your reputation preceded you. You were, at first, the UVM professor living in the backwoods of Vermont who was not afraid to speak his mind, put words into action, or place himself "on the line"--be it before the university trustees, on the picket line or barricade, or being arrested when circumstances required.
Upon meeting you, you quickly became the companero who traveled the distances whenever invited to speak to a classroom of students, an assembly of activists, or a roomful of inquisitive minds wanting to learn, understand, and know more about the events and forces that were impacting their lives.
Listening to you speak I often marveled at how like a computer you stored and retrieved facts, dates, and events on varied subjects within the time that it took you to take your next breath. But, more important was the task to which you put the information to work. The latter produced a reasoned analysis that offered an insight into the origins and workings of power, a call to struggle, and a vision of a more just society. A society where all work is valued; where truth is not silenced, but nurtured; a society that fosters service and solidarity; where all are treated as equals; that is at peace with itself; and where neither people or resources are exploited.
Will, you have always modeled the tireless and unselfish companero who gives of himself, and who blazes the path that others will later follow. Few men can lay claim to having achieved what you have, and contributed so much to friends, community, and country.
Things--as some say-- sometimes get worse before they can get better. Heaven knows that these are some of the strangest and trying times that we've lived through, and that you and your leadership are needed more than ever. And, while you should rest in order to maintain your strength-- rest assured, Will, that the peace and justice movement that you helped build and nurture in Vermont will carry on until the final victory. A victory that already has your name imprinted upon it.
Thank you for making a difference in my life, for reminding me of my obligation to keep on fighting, and for being someont that we can all look up to. Stay strong.
With much love and admiration,
January 7, 2005
I think I met Will in my first semester at UVM, which would have been fall of 1985 (if anyone's counting!). My early memories include watching "Kennedy", the Oliver Stone film, at his and Ann's house, which was followed by what I came to see as the usual spirited political commentary. My other recollections include: raising the barn walls, witnessing the collection of lots of cordwood over the years, pleasant smoky afternoons in the crow's nest, and endless organizing -- for unions, against wars (unfortunately there have been more wars to protest than unions to support), on and on. As several other writers on this website have noted, Will's work on the faculty union -- over many years -- literally made our organizing possible.
Will is one of the most tenacious persons I know. It's part of how he has survived his own tribulations (like the famous tenure battle) and helped us survive and fight through our collective tragedies (like Bush). I'm glad he's on our side instead of with the bad guys. Will also has about the most rigorous progressive political sensibility of anyone I know -- but it's a standard that he gladly holds himself to as well as everyone else.
Hang in there, Will -- we're all rooting for you!
January 7, 2005
Will understands people. He connects with us on a personal and political level at the same time, seamlessly, without fuss. Always supportive, a strong advocate of people's education and a loving brother in the struggle for justice and peace.
Will inspires me to hold the memory of VietNam War victims and their families in my heart whenever I protest war. I carry the honor flag from my husbands casket during military celebrations and anti-war protests. I would not have the courage to do so if I hadn't had a conversation with Will about how to honor the sacrifice of soldiers.
Whenever I have called Will with questions or concerns I always got the same, caring, considerate and helpful response. I have always been able to count on him to follow through and whatever he has offered he has always delivered.
New Harbor, Maine
January 6, 2005
It has been and continues to be my great pleasure to have known Will for nearly 45 years--with love, admiration, and respect.
January 7, 2005
Greetings from UVM- where we are working hard to keep student activism growing. In the picture where you are adressing a crowd at Bailey Howe- there I am too! (Holding the No War on Iraq placard.) That would place it in either winter 2001 or 2002.
Although I only met you recently (2001), your spirit has always encouraged me. So many things have changed since 2001. Those were dark times, during the war in Afghanistan. Liberals where gung-ho for the war, and the Republicans were on a rampage to kick the International Socialist Organization and Students for Peace and Global Justice off of campus. I remember I got to school only to think "whoa- what have I got myself into!"
Who would have thought that only a year or so later, one of the biggest antiwar movements ever burst upon the scene. The dynamism of struggle is always suprising.
It is easy to fight when struggle picks up, but it is all the more important to keep the torch burning when it declines. Thank you, Will for being part of fighting for a better world through it all.
Thanks to you and Ann,
PS- I also appreciate the fact that you videotaped many, many events for posterity. And that you and Ann set up a video greeting for Harry Magdoff at his birthday party. And that Will's Marxism class is ALWAYS full. (Even if I haven't taken it yet). Here's to building an anti-imperialist left so sorely needed in the world!
January 7, 2005
Hi Will and Ann:
I have worked at the University for over 27 years and have known and loved Will for the bulk of that time. For many years, I have been employed in the Facilities Office first doing classroom scheduling and now in the new Conference and Events Office doing Special Events. It was during the days I was involved with classroom scheduling that I had the honor of meeting you Will. You are a very special, personable and loving person. I really enjoyed our chats especially on politics. You really gave my superb insight into the world in general. I always came away feeling so good and so much more knowledgable. You always made me feel special. I had the pleasure of seeing you at the Peter Singer lecture at the Chapel and meeting you Ann. It gave me such comfort seeing both of you again. Will, you are in my daily prayers and I only wish you well.
January 7, 2005
Sure, there are the politics...While most students at UVM remember Will's tireless enthusiasm and passion for social justice from the times he spoke at Royall Tyler, Waterman, Billings, about Apartheid, Big Mountain, Central America, ERA, etc. My memories are of a different sort. I want to honor the philosophy Professor. The teacher that Will was and is. Will brought his energy and passion to his philosophy classrooms too. I studied Marxism and American Philosophy under Will's kind tutelage and he introduced me to the works of C.S. Peirce and John Dewey among others. Most memorable was his energetic presence, but to a young philosophy student, I was taken by his articulateness and razor sharp acumen. He has the ability to get to the crux of an issue easily and efficiently. A sort of one-man-Ockham's razor!
In large measure, my choice to become a philosophy Professor--I teach at Saint Michael's College-wais due to Will. Practically, he gave me the confidence to do what I wanted to do, the knowledge base to build upon and functioned as an inspiring role-model to emulate. Thoretically, he demonstrated that ideas need to be put into practice.
Plato has Diotima--the wise women from Manitea--say in his Symposium that some people give birth to children and others give birth to ideas. Will, your legacy is the thousands of students, political activists, and citizens whose lives you changed with your teaching and love for the world.
Be at peace, heal fast and thank you for all that you have done for me and the world.
January 6, 2005
Hi how are you feeling? Its good to hear that your back at the farm. I bet the sheep are glad to see you. I just wanted to say get well soon and that im glad that your home.
From Eli Fishbein
New York City
January 6, 2005
My thoughts are with you.
Many years ago, I decided not to continue with my graduate philosophy studies and to concentrate on building the socialist and antiwar movement instead.
If I had ever changed my mind and continued with philosophy, the only way that I could have ever felt even slightly fulfilled is if I had emulated you.
You are a shining inspiration to both your profession and to the movement to change the world.
January 6, 2005
I probably have known the least of most folks here as I met him when I lived in Washington DC working for the AAUP and was commuting for the UVM faculty union organizing drive of which he was such an integral part. Most Vermonters don't know that if it had not been for Will, UVM faculty and staff would not have the right to collectively organize and bargain. Will spearheaded the legislation which makes it possible, and I hope this important accomplishment does not past unnoticed into ancient history.
It has been a genuine pleasure and inspiration to meet and work with an unreconstructed radical whose passion for those in need has not diminished with age, but in fact, has grown stronger.
January 6, 2005
Thanks to Ann and others for thinking of this website! What a great idea! Some images to start:
* Will asking students in his introductory philosphy course to help set the curriculum for the class.
* Will introducing Noam Chomsky when he spoke in 1985 about Reagan and Central America.
* Stacking wood at Will and Ann's home.
* Will getting charged with a felony during the 1988 Waterman takeover when he committed the 'crime' of confronting police about their treatment of students during the arrests.
* Will helping an activist heading to El Salvador learn how to fire a gun (in self defense).
* Will passionately arguing at a Haymarket meeting about how justice and equality should not only be in a movement's goals but in how that movement operates.
* Will chatting with a hospital worker about politics.
These are just a few of the images of Will in my life over the past twenty years.
There is so much to say about Will's influence and impact, and the others on this site have painted such an eloquent picture of the person we love and care about. I will add two words to the collage: passion and doubt.
Passion keeps coming to mind this morning when I think about the commitments, the actions, the meetings, and the life choices that have come to shape my friendship with Will. Will is a passionate person, and his passion has always provoked the best of questions: Where does passion fit into our work? How do we keep our passion for a better world alive? How do we care for ourselves--and each other--when it takes all the passion we have to get out of bed in the morning, let alone stop imperalism in its tracks?
And Will's passion responds to another word, another idea: doubt. It's right there on his license plate. Will's courses, his lectures, our conversations have always cast doubt on all the assumptions I can muster. And not just any doubt, not the doubt that opens the door for irony and cynicism--those comfortable clothes of apathy. But doubt in the sense that Brecht used it: doubt that moves us to action. Doubt that allows us to find the passion necessary to weather what life throws at us: whether that be the machinery of injustice on the large scale or loss and personal pain closer to home.
Will, your passion and your doubt are alive and well. In your work, your home, and your conversations with those around you. Your passion and doubt thrive as well in those of us close by and far away who love you.
With peace and love,
January 6, 2005
Where could I possibly begin to describe my respect and interest in will miller? I took Will's marxism class in 1993 as a sophomore at UVM. It seemed like an interesting thing to do and I was told it was a powerful albeit off beat class. I immediately took a liking to will because he came off differently than any other teacher I had encountered anywhere. Aside from teaching the course material, will taught about life. He spoke about his own life and he spoke about the inherrent inequities that existed all around us. He was fair. He was honest. He was sincere. The marxism class forever changed my own conception of the way the world worked and it provoked me to engage in further study both within UVM and in my own life so I too could become a teacher to others who were confused or intrigued by the obvious inequities of the world. I took 2 more classes with Will and during that time we worked to re-launch The Gadfly newspaper, which at the time was defunct, but seemed to offer the only opportunity to get a message out to the campus other than the corporate jockocracy BS that was contained in the Cynic.
Along with with my chosen partner in crime (Eric Reiss- another student of Will's), we put together an issue of The Gadfly in one weekend and had it printed and distributed. I was so anxious to get Will's feedback and approval of our work. When I finally saw him I rememeber he came up to me before class and looked me dead in the eye and "that's a damm good issue!" I was so excited that he understood our direction with that issue because a number of other students did not seem to think it was done with enough professionalism or planning. I spent many hours talking with Will one on one during his office hours about my own personal issues regarding the best way to go about life and he always took me seriously and he always had sharp thought provoking responses to my ideas and questions. I explained to him about my artistic nature and impulses and that I thought my best route was to pursue an artistic track to push my way through the system in hopes I could teach and provide insight beyond books and lectures and arguments. We talked about John Lennon and the Grateful Dead, and the sixties, and counterculture, and drugs, and the underground. Will told me countless stories of his firsthand experiences in Berkeley and Madison and at concerts and protests. I sat wide-eyed appreciating every second of time he spent with me because I had no one else who would do that. I looked up to Will more than any other professor I ever had and probably as much as any person I had ever met up to that point. Will spoke the truth and he wasn't afraid to be controversial and animated. He cared about what he was doing and he enjoyed spending time with his students. I remember at the conclusion of one spring semester will invited a handful of students out to his house in Underhill for a meal and final party of sorts.
Seeing the home that will built also changed my view of him forever. His home was simply magnificant and he had animals and rolling hills and views of the mountains and a crows nest atop the house. We all squeezed into the crows nest and I asked him if he would like to smoke pot with all of us and he agreed. The scene that took place seemed like it was right out of the sixties - passing the pipe and talking politics and what could be done to stop people from ruining the planet. I remember at one point Will was holding the pipe while he was talking and he paused and then looked up and said he lost his train of thought and we all laughed. He looked at me and said with a twinkle in his eye, "now that's some good stuff." And it was! We had such a great time that day and I will never ever forget Will Miller and the massive amounts of kindness he shared with everyone he came in contact with. I plan to come to Vermont in May and I just hope I can see Will again to tell him all this in person. Best wishes Will Miller - YOU ARE A TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT AND TREASURE!
Shirley M Barnes
Santa Fe, New Mexico
January 6, 2005
Will, we all need wisdom and dedication that you personify in our struggle to keep this society from further deteriorating. Professor Benjamin Keen would have been very proud of your struggle and your inner strength.
January 5, 2005
I only had the good fortune to meet Will relatively recently (1998, I think). Distance and hectic schedules have kept the privilege of being with him and Ann a rare one.
Nevertheless, Will has impacted my life to an extent that he probably doesn't realize. His example of personal political integrity and generosity stays with me as an inspiring, sometimes uncomfortable reminder of the standards to which I too often fail to hold myself. He continues to prove that it is possible not only to hold such standards in principle but also to live by them. I am sure that for many hundreds, if not thousands of people, simply living the way he does continues to be one of Will's most important public services.
Will's professional career at UVM has also meant a lot to me by demonstrating that working in an institution fundamentally compromised by capitalist social relations does not require the people who work there to compromise themselves to the same degree. Indeed, he has shown by example that it is always worth working to rid mainstream institutions of class oppression, racism, sexism and injustice of all sorts, regardless of how modest or distant the prospects of success.
One vignette about Will is worth relating. Not long after getting to know Will and Ann, my partner and I found ourselves in need of a car. The moment Will got wind of this, he offered us his old (but still functional) Toyota wagon, on the sole condition that we give it to Good News Garage when we were ready to retire it. This act of spontaneous generosity, with the proviso that we ourselves act generously later, was quintessentially Will.
So was the unique collection of bumper stickers affixed to the back of the car. As a result of Will's generosity, we were mobile, but we were now also enlisted in his ongoing project of persuading the world to be a better place. I don't recall all of the bumper stickers, but I think we were reminding our fellow drivers that it was actually the working class who had "brought you the weekend"... we may also have been demanding "US out of North America!" or at least "Stop US imperialism!" I admit that there were many places we took that car where we would have felt a good deal safer without the revolutionary rear view.
Here, too, there was nothing to disagree with in Will's message. It was the courage to spread it and live it as resolutely as he does that proved to be the hard part.
January 5, 2005
I want to thank you for sitting down with me last year to go through the history of left activism at UVM, from the fight to dismantle the racist Kake Walk to the last Waterman takeover. And especially, thank you for letting me copy your folders of newspaper articles, flyers, Dis-orientation Manuals, photographs, political cartoons, videos etc. -- an incredible archive that I've been sharing with my students who are *stunned* to learn what students have been capable of achieving, what they too could organize and push for.
UVM's history, your archive makes clear, is no different from any other: Every progressive change we've achieved has been fought for and won from below, including getting rid of Kake Walk, kicking CIA recruiters off campus, divesting from South Africa, getting an ethnic studies program, getting a union.
And of course in the thick of this history and of the stories and photographs, there you are -- urging the faculty senate to join the students in calling for divestment from South Africa, getting dragged out of Waterman's Vice Alley by the police (first time UVM had students and faculty arrested, yes?). Good for you! And lucky for us to have you and everything, right up through our faculty union today, you've done for UVM.
My love and admiration to you and Ann,
January 3, 2005
I first met Will just after I moved to Burlington in the early nineties after I got out of the Navy in 1988. Will's reputation preceded him, as it should have. Surprisingly, it was Garry Davis who introduced us and I think it was the best introduction into my life.
Will is a very thoughtful pragmatic who has not only the knowledge but the wisdom to be able to discuss most any subject of politics and political thought. I don't know if Will realizes it, but he is such a mentor for me and I, personally, am at such a loss that he is not able to be out and about in his normal self. I take heart that especially in this struggle Will is showing such strength and fortitude.
I can't say that without honoring his partner, Ann, in her strength and courage through all of this.
If Will has taught us anything it has to be that pacifism doesn't mean you don't fight for right, in fact it IS the fight for righteousness.
January 2, 2005
1972 our commune Green Mountain Red brought Jamal Joseph (Eddie Joseph) the youngest of the Black Panther 21 on trial in NYC. (They were all found Not Guilty after 2 years of trials.) There was a rally on the green at UVM when he spoke.
We had a connection in security at UVM who gave us a file of documents. In that file there was a photo of the crowd and demonstrators. When we looked at the photo there was a circle drawn around the head of Will miller (like he was a target). I remember Will being at almost every demonstration and event since those days.
January 2, 2005
WILL MILLER: Unifying Theory and Practice
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” A poster version of this famous remark, made by Che Guevara in his 1965 Notes for the Study of Man and Socialism in Cuba, has hung on a wall in Will Miller's home for as long as I've known him. Che's remark epitomizes what I remember most of all about my old University of Vermont colleague and friend of nearly 35 years.
Will's detractors—and, not surprisingly, he has had a few—sometimes caricature him as an ideologue. Such detractors, whose criticism Will often wears as a badge of honor, invariably fail to note that what drives Will's radical criticism (that is, his criticism which goes to the roots) of capitalist society is a profound concern for the well-being of ordinary human beings.
Will has been exercised throughout his adult life by the need of all people to experience true justice, meaningful employment, and real peace. These have not been, for him, abstract or idealistic goals. Instead, he has seen them as concrete conditions for genuine social security and personal fulfillment. A faith in the possibility of actualizing such conditions in the lives of real flesh-and-blood individuals has illuminated Will's intellectual, political, and personal life. In short, he has been guided by a great feeling of love, of concern for others, for their sakes.
Although I could extol him for his single-minded, wholehearted, and unwavering efforts in behalf of real peace based on true justice, I simply want to tell you a bit about my old friend and neighbor Will Miller. While I could praise his eloquence in all forms of discourse (in conversing with students, in addressing large groups, in writing political analyses), I merely want to share a few anecdotes that illustrate the extent to which Will has put Che's exhortation into practice.
I want to speak to you about the friend and colleague I know: about his compassion, his generosity, his unfailing optimism, and his good humor.
Will's compassion extends to others beyond our own species. I vividly remember animated discussions with Will in the temporary cabin on his Westford farmstead when we first caught wind of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation: A New Ethic for Our Treatment of Animals in 1975. Singer's eloquent and cogent arguments for treating all creatures who experience pain and pleasure as beings with interests of their own that ought not to be automatically discounted were exactly what Will and I had been looking for. We had both felt impelled toward vegetarianism for several years; and Singer's position, which explicitly draws analogies to arguments for the liberation of women and peoples of color, compelled our belief as soon as we fathomed it.
Will was not, any more than I was, moved simply by the force of Singer's rational arguments. Rather, compassionate feelings he already possessed were crystallized and reinforced. One of my enduring images of Will was captured in a photograph taken during this early farmsteading period. In the photo, Will is looking tenderly at a small bird he is holding in one palm. The bird had, as I recall, temporarily stunned itself flying into one of the cabin's picture windows.
Anyone who knows Will cannot suppose that he values animals more than humans. Such a supposition is an ad hominem, and in any case it applies in no way to Will. His commitment to human liberation is well known. To his great credit, though, he knows that we will never be totally free so long as we unnecessarily brutalize any other creatures.
Will's generosity I have experienced personally for many years, beginning in 1970 when I came to UVM as an assistant professor of philosophy. Will had been hired the year before that, and he took under his wing a number of us newcomers, setting an example of collaborative, rather than competitive, scholarly dialogue and teaching efforts. Those early days of teaching with Will at UVM helped me establish pedagogical habits that have, I think, served me well ever since.
After I, as one of the Philosophy Four, was fired in 1974, Will's generosity became even more evident to me. For a period while we were building our own homestead across the valley in Westford, my partner and I lived in Will's cabin. He had finished his house up the hill—or, rather, finished it enough to move into. Our lives were intertwined closely then, thanks in large measure to initiatives taken by Will. In fact, I feel a debt of gratitude to Will for his help in those years that I cannot adequately repay.
Part of Will's generosity has been that he does not so much expect exact recompense for services as a willingness to pass along similar considerations to others. During the early days in Westford, I often witnessed Will's winching folks out of country-road ditches during the winter with his Landcruiser. He always declined payment, asking only that the beneficiaries extend like help when they could.
Will's unfailing optimism is nowhere more evident than in his continuing commitment to reason and collaboration, despite what happened to him and to many of his colleagues and friends at UVM. We in the philosophy department had, of course, been reading our Marx, but when push came to shove, we all acted more like Platonists. We seemed to believe that all we had to do was put the right arguments into the right ears, forgetting that what makes the present world go 'round is power, not reason. We made a mistake the Vietnamese guerilla fighters seldom made. We got caught out in the open by tanks—or, rather, by pachyderms in the Arts College—and many of us (our careers, at least) got cut to pieces. Will has never forgotten that experience at UVM; he has survived as an assistant professor there all these years, but the institution clearly tried to marginalize him. Such a fate is not uncommon for radical social critics, but Will never allowed it to diminish his faith in reason or in the power of collaboration.
Will's good humor and ceaseless energy have not waned since the old days either. I remember when I was helping Will build his house—I could say, when Will was teaching me how to build—always being amused at his assessments of how long various tasks were going to take, especially when I was getting tired. “Oh no, it'll just take us another hour or two to do that,” he'd say. Will's “hours” usually meant “days.” I remember, too, a hilarious exchange with Will one day when he had been contemplating painting one of the slogans from the Cultural Revolution on his metal roof. He finally conceded that “Eat Squash and Smash the Landlord Class!” probably wouldn't change too many minds along Machia Hill Road in Westford. At the time, I couldn't understand why Will wasn't just satisfied to have the metal roofing on, but his mind was constantly on the go, if only conjuring fanciful possibilities.
Will is certainly intense, passionate, single-minded. He is above all authentic, in the sense that he strives always to practice what he advocates. His life is not without divergences of theory and practice. No one's is. But very few people strive as wholeheartedly as Will does to become the changes they wish to see in the world. Will knows as well as anyone that we're trying to move toward a wiser, more compassionate world without a lot of concrete models and in the teeth of powerful forces that do not want us to succeed. Will has been an exemplar, full of integrity, for many of us, for a long time; and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
Venceremos, dear friend!
December 30, 2004
Will's name first entered my consciousness in the spring of 1992. I was living in Olympia, WA. then—working at the local public library and sharing a townhouse with my good friend and Evergreen College faculty member Peter Bohmer. I was feeling a need to move on and was seriously considering Burlington, VT as my next destination. Peter mentioned that if I made the move, I should look up a fellow he had met in Cuba the year before at some kind of conference. That fellow's name was Will Miller. I filed the name away in my mind.
I did make the move and got my first job in the area at St. Michael's college. After two years there, I accepted a full time position at the Bailey Howe Library at the University of Vermont in November 1994. That following spring I sent Will an email introducing myself. We had lunch and hit it off quite well. That lunchtime conversation was one of the most informative lunches I have ever had, as Will filled me in on the immediate history of UVM, it's politics, the state of student activism, and his perspective on the Progressive movement in the greater politics of Vermont. It was nice to discover a Left beyond the electoralism of the Bernie Sanders phenomenon.
As time went by, Will and I (along with various other UVM staff and faculty) initiated a union drive among the staff at UVM. Will's elephant-like memory and his ability to take the details stored there and turn them into an enjoyable and educational tale proved invaluable during this drive. Not only could he provide workers and union organizers alike with the details of a specific labor law, he also knew the story of its genesis, development, and eventual enactment. Much of this was due to the essential role Will had played in getting these laws on the books by testifying in Montpelier years before during an earlier faculty drive.
Meanwhile, the world outside of UVM continued. War, racism, homophobia, and impoverishment. We all know the scenario. To respond to these phenomenon, we created an adhoc grouping we called the Instant Antiwar Action Group (IAAG). Thanks to the Green Mountain Fund administered by Will and a few others, we were able to receive a grant to help us defray printing and other associated costs. God knows we were going to need it. The primary imperial conflict at the time was the ongoing counter-insurgency effort in Colombia—a war that continues to this moment. By 1999, there was an even bigger war (at least in terms of US involvement) in Yugoslavia. Much of the so-called Left in Vermont and elsewhere in the western world supported this endeavor. Those of us who saw the world through an anti-imperialist lens, however, were never fooled by the humanitarian veil that the US and European governments attempted to cover their mass murder with. Once again, it was time to do something. That something ended up being a sit-in at war supporter Bernie Sanders' office. In one of the most embarrassing moments of Vermont's Progessive movement, Bernie's aide called in the cops to arrest a dozen antiwar protestors. A week later, Bernie furthered his embarrassment at a town meeting about the attack on Yugoslavia where he told Will and a few others that they should leave if they didn't like Bernie's support of the killing.
One of the more laidback moments I spent with Will was on a bus going to DC in April 2002. I sat next to him during the overnight journey and we spent a good deal of time in conversation—political conversation of course. The remainder of the time I was awake I spent listening to Will converse with most every other passenger on the bus about some aspect of the so-called war on terror and the destruction of Palestine then going on. He did sleep during the trip, but it was his energy that inspired me to find my inner reserve as that day went on and the effects of the bus ride began to take their toll on my body. It is through Will that I met many of those people he spoke with on that ride. Thanks, Will.
Indeed, it is his energy and devotion to a better world that continues to inspire me and a myriad of others as we continue our struggle against imperialism and its ills. In fact, the last time I rode a bus from Vermont to a protest, Will's inspiration provided the fuel for many of the riders.
Postscript: When I moved into my current abode, it was Will who helped me make sense of the electrical jumble that unwound from the circuit box in the cellar. Thanks to him we have a dryer that works and I can do a lot of basic electrical work myself.