Tom Hayden's passing at age 76 is a personal landmark for me. He was an intellectual and political mentor to me though we never met.
I first encountered his analysis of US politics in reading essays by him in Studies on the Left - my first copy borrowed from my political science professor Robert Fluno at Whitman in his senior seminar. I think Bob was bemused by my left wing politics. As the "campus Marxist" among frat dominated Whitman peers whose politics veered to the Right it was an eye opening journal that made me realize I wasn't alone. "This land was my land" too as Woody and later Dylan would celebrate in their lyrics.
I then migrated to grad school at the U of Minnesota to study with Mulford Q. Sibley, an iconic socialist/pacifist professor and renowned scholar of political philosophy. At the U of M my "academic" flirtation in ultra conservative Walla Walla with radical social thought became "actionable" with my involvement in the anti-war movement as it morphed into the Clean for Gene (McCarthy movement) and upon MLK's assassination with the civil rights movement in the Twin Cities.
But the intellectual foundation was the Port Huron Statement written largely by Hayden which called for "participatory democracy" - something that sounded very radical at the time but has become a centerpiece of progressive politics since that time be the issue urban renewal now morphed into gentrification, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Hayden's ideas along with Saul Alinsky inspired a president and would be president to be a "community organizers."
Hayden along with elder statesmen on the Left who I met over the years - AJ Muste, Eugene Genovese, Staughten Lynd, Michael Harrington, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Charles Hamilton, Sam Brown, William Sloan Coffin and William Appleman Williams (the editor of Studies on the Left) - gave this Democratic Socialist aid and comfort well before The Bern came onto the public stage in 2016.
But Hayden unlike many of his then youthful "radical" brethren plowed a pathway from protest politics to elective politics - while continuing "the struggle" to a more perfect union. I've followed a similar trajectory from "academic" radical to "community activist." It was a personal disappointment that despite trying I was never able to get Hayden to the stage of the McCall Forum he was simply too busy changing the world...
Rest in peace Tom - ya done good!