Wars in Vietnam, Ukraine bracket war protester’s life

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Terry Link is a longtime activist in Michigan. Born in Detroit, Link went to Wayne State University where he became interested in social justice and activism. The Vietnam war was happening and, like many other college students, he joined protests against the war.

“At that particular time, there was a professor who had a philosophy class on nonviolence as a way to fight against war and other injustices. For one of our classes we were invited to go to D.C. for an anti-war protest. That would’ve been about 1969.”

Link was losing interest in classes and did not see the point in spending his money on what he was not interested in. Instead, he visited different communities and helped any way he could.

“In the mid-1970’s, I went back to school and I was deciding between a degree in climatology or a degree in library science. I’d met librarians who were so knowledgeable about things I wanted to pursue, and it would be nice to help people the same way. I became a librarian who worked for the Detroit Free Press, the University of Michigan, and finally Michigan State University.”

Link struggled with the conflict between his activism and professionalism in the workplace. “That struggle never quite goes away. My advice at this point is that I leaned more toward what my heart told me rather than what my head told me. When I did this, it tended toward better outcomes than when I did not. But I was pretty privileged as a white male, and that provides advantages. Even if you have a minority viewpoint or want to push the envelope, people listen to you more when you have certain privileges.”

Currently, Link is working with peace groups about the crisis in Ukraine.

Link stresses the importance of relationships with others throughout your life. “Having good faith and good humor is important when meeting people. Building social capital is necessary, especially when it comes to community building. You meet so many people when you actually get out in the community and find similarities that you didn’t know you had. It’s really an undervalued resource.”

His advice to others is, “Get involved in your community and make relationships with others. If you’re passionate about activism, start at home. At the same time, it’s important to explore your interests, especially as a young person. Still, plant your feet somewhere, or commit to a cause.”