Opinion: I found the Garthwait photo. Here’s how I think we should respond.

(Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

Sauers found the photo while conducting research in the College Archives (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

By Cameron Sauers, Guest Columnist

I did not think that my casual browsing through old college yearbooks would result in this. I thought it best to explain the situation through my eyes so others may understand my intentions. I would first like to acknowledge Mr. Garthwait’s apology and his genuine remorse. I have nothing but the utmost respect for his contributions to improving this college. I am among the many students who benefited from the Garthwait Leadership Center. I participated in the Certificate program my freshman year and felt I made remarkable personal strides with the program, culminating in presenting at the Leadership showcase. In the fall semester, I spoke twice more at GLC events, including a 30-minute presentation on leadership at the Battle of Gettysburg. I firmly believe in the GLC’s mission and have nothing but admiration and respect for its employees and participants.  I share Mr. Garthwait’s hopes that current students will “be more thoughtful than I was about the impact of their actions on others.” That shared sentiment is why I have done what I have done.

When I found the photo in question, I could have just kept turning the page and ignored it. Many feel I should have done exactly that. I’ve watched “Hogan’s Heroes” and do share the same affection for the show that many have expressed online. I acknowledge that my decision has not been universally popular and have read many of the things people have had to say about my actions. William Lloyd Garrison once wrote, “[A]re right and wrong convertible terms, dependent on public opinion?” To me, right and wrong are not convertible terms. I acted in accordance with what I thought was the right thing.

I fully share Chris Roemer’s ’82  opinion: “This is a teachable moment.  It’s a time for courageous discussion, not retribution.”

The rest of this article focuses on the need for courageous discussion and here at Gettysburg. It is on us as students to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry on this campus.

In a line from his most famous speech, delivered after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy said, “In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.”

In a difficult time for us as a school, the time is now to look at ourselves and ask who we are and what direction do we want to move in?

The challenge is now on myself and my fellow students to create a campus culture and community that welcomes students of all backgrounds and does not display symbols linked to hatred, oppression and genocide. We can do better as a student body – we must do better. While incredible strides have been made on campus to increase diversity, we must remember that complacency is the enemy of progress. As we move forward, let us renew our commitment to the unfinished work of making Gettysburg College a place for everyone.

Some may argue that it was not my place to make this decision to share the photo and I recognize the legitimacy of their concerns. Those who only know me from this decision may consider me overzealous, oversensitive and some sort of Robespierre-esque voice on campus. I hope you may now see that it is not the case. I did this because I thought about the world that my generation is on the cusp of inheriting. I have watched my peers be shot down at school, those who could be my younger siblings locked in cages, while the older generations in political power remained silent and inactive. I was born in the days following the massacre at Columbine High School and the news events of my life have been dominated by hatred and violence committed in the name of Nazism and other hateful ideologies.

I recognize that times and values have changed, but was Nazism not considered evil in 1980? I shudder at the thought and wish to never return to a time when white supremacist symbols are acceptable. I could not bear to be silent any longer. I had been silent for too long. I love Gettysburg College deeply and it was my love for this school and the people here that made me pursue this decision because I firmly believe we must be relentless in our pursuit of bettering this campus.

Soon the dust will fade, national media attention will dissipate, and normal life will resume. I challenge my peers on Campus to join me in the fight against hatred on this campus. John F. Kennedy remarked in his inaugural address: “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . . nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

Gettysburgians, this will not be completed this semester, nor next semester, nor in our time as students. Let us not be dissuaded by the great task before us. Let us begin.

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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  1. I disagree that smearing this fine individual over a frat party based on funny TV show was the right decision…not for him and not for Gettysburg College, your future alma mater. Read and know about the Diversity program already in place there…examine the background of the incoming President…this seems to be about your moment in the sun, not a teachable moment from 1982 for the rest of us poor idiots who are Gettysburg College graduates and know full well the horrors of the Nazi regime and anti Semitism. Our country fought Workd War ll, liberated the concentration camps, helped rebuild Europe and supports Israel to this day. Please spend your time with teachable moments in today’s world, not one of nearly 40 years ago that you did not live through and chose to condemn.

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    • Thank you Cathy. I agree, we shouldn’t ruin this man’s career for something that we have now taken out of context by 30 years. The writer of this article should have kept flipping the pages, because dressing up in a costume 30 years ago does not carry the same implications that it does today.

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  2. I couldn’t agree more with Cathy and Dave. I’ll stop at that because not much else I want to say would be considered constructive. Very sad state of affairs!

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    • Autocorrect !
      Cathy and Drew

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  3. Thank you, Cameron. First of all let me say you are a courageous individual. You are correct that the Nazi symbol definitely was NOT acceptable in 1980. I know because as a member of the Class of 1980 the yearbook in question was MY yearbook. I beg to differ with those who feel dressing up like a Nazi in 1979 didn’t have the same implications that it does today. I can assure you it does For whatever reason CROW decided Hogan’s Heroes was an acceptable theme for their 4 in 1 party, and Mr. Garthwait, as a relatively new brother felt that dressing his costume was funny. But I was not at that party, I did not know Mr. Garthwait then, and I was not on the yearbook staff that decided the photo was OK for publication. But I do remember as a 21 year old feeling dismayed, embarrassed and frankly disgusted that the photo made it to the yearbook. I am now 60 years old and the photo is still not acceptable. Mr. Garthwait was 19 or 20 years old then and most likely felt the photo would never come back to haunt him. Almost 40 years later, as a 58 year old, has now taken ownership of his actions and taken the steps he felt appropriate in this situation. I ask the rest of you not to shoot the messenger. We should accept Mr. Garthwait’s decision to resign and think about what we would have done if we were in the same position.

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    • Janelle,
      That picture stuck with me, too and when this whole thing came to light, I knew exactly what picture they were talking about. I have commented about this on other related articles so I won’t go into details. I was at the party and didn’t see any ill intent on the part of any of the people in the picture. However, I still think it was a poor choice and agree with Bob Garthwait’s decision to resign from the Board. I truly hope that all of the facets of this unfortunate situation can be explored both within the context of 1979 and forty years later. I would also hope that the College would examine the process through which this was conducted. That would be fair to both the concerns of today and explanations from the past.

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  4. Does the author of this article actually believe that the wearing of a swastika in this context actually encourages Naziism? If I were one of his fellow students, I would deeply resent this imputation of such simple-mindedness. By extension, this facile analysis would claim that The Producers by Jewish comedian Mel Brooks was a paean to anti-semitism. This entire sorry episode is a refutation of the very definition of what a liberal arts college once was. You have reduced an actual witch hunt to a “teachable moment” in which the real victim was praised for his “graciousness” in an essentially coerced resignation.

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    • Excellent comment. The modern day college students have the depth of understanding of sponges. No thought. No rational thinking. But lots of moral preening. Personally, I think all Gettysburg alumni should boycott. No donations until the President resigns and these students are punished. This man has been slandered–this is how you treat a generous benefactor?

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  5. It’s a teachable moment for sure. My reaction to the people trying to destroy others for their 15 minutes of fame is – shame on you! We will all answer to a higher power. Be glad He is forgiving and go live a good life, give generously to good causes and be kind to other people. Sounds like Bob G to me.

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  6. Your overreaction has damaged the college. Congratulations. To now get on a soapbox to justify for your behavior is ridiculous. I hope the teachable moment here is that we need to be level headed and reasonable when choosing to disparage others and seek to understand a person’s motivation when we find out of context material.

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  7. Cameron, the class of 1980 arrived on campus in the fall of 1976. During our four years in high school, we witnessed the end of the U.S. involvement in a horrific war in Vietnam, and a president resigning in disgrace. Before that, we saw cities burning during race riots. Through it all we saw discrimination against people, based on their color, their religion, their gender. And we spoke up.

    In the meantime, yes, we laughed at Archie Bunker. At Hogan’s Heroes. To think that a party in 1980 supported Nazism is ridiculous. White supremacy? Never.

    I don’t know what is going on at the college today that you feel you’ve been silent too long and you can’t bear to be silent any longer. Whatever happened to you couldn’t have anything to do with Mr. Garthwait dressing up for a party in 1980.

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  8. OMG–Go to Cameron Sauers twitter page. He has a picture, front and center, of George Armstrong Custer, the Indian butcher. Uh, oh, it may be time for Mr. Sauers to take his turn in the public light. Cameron: Why are you glorifying Custer, a man who was well-known as a ruthless Indian fighter, who Native Americans revile because he killed women and children? I also note on your twitter page a link to Civil War “heartthrobs” where you again lavish praise on Custer. Don’t you think you should apologize? Leave campus?

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  9. Mr. Cameron Sauers:
    As I responded to Mr. Jay Houser’s article last week, this response should not be misconstrued in a languid fashion. Your words reflect affection, admiration/respect, and as you shared, Mr. Garthwait’s perspective of hope that current students will, “be more thoughtful than I was about the impact of their actions on others.” Mr. Sauers, integrity is oftentimes making the unpopular decisions and that requires courage, I applaud you.

    We all need to be champions of change, support change, and constructively challenge the perceived status quo. I am open to the possibility that you are tackling issues that you have not personally experienced or have not been addressed in your lifetime. The education at Gettysburg College is not about being trapped in compulsory attitudes, strategic partnerships, or seeking definitive resolutions. As a society, we govern through leadership or through crisis, if there is a crisis we demand more. You mentioned the need for courageous discussions, please share your personal experience of anti-semitism and bigotry on campus. It sounds like you were at Kent State when your peers were shot down.

    You speak about challenges creating a campus culture that welcomes all students and does not display symbols of hate, oppression, or genocide. What is your opinion regarding the Swastika insignia on the 2nd floor entrance to Breidenbaugh Hall? How about the one in Plank Gym? These buildings were constructed under multiple conditions and during a past period, 1927. Moreover, It seems that you are suggesting that there is hatred, complacency, and a devastating world awaiting Gettysburg graduates. Your generation is inheriting the highest stock market valuations, lowest interest rates and unemployment rates ever. You and I are far from THE GREASTEST GENERATION!

    Cameron, your isolated Kennedy quotations should be examined through the tumultuous and controversial 60’s era.
    I am not here to dissuade you from the “great task before” you or to ask you about; What were the gains? What were the losses? Who were the winners, who were the losers? It sounds like you already know given your “sophmorish” article.

    Lines from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address…….
    With Malice towards none;
    With charity for all;
    With firmness in the right

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