By Carl M. Cannon For RealClearPublicAffairs

Fifty-one years ago today, cornered and panicked National Guards sent to quell unrest at Kent State University opened fire without warning on a crowd of anti-war protesters.

Four students – William Knox Schroeder, Allison B. Krause, Jeffrey Glenn Miller and Sandra Lee Scheuer – were killed. Eight others were injured, including Dean kahler, who was paralyzed from the waist down.

The previous day, Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes had visited Kent, where he denounced protesters as “the worst kind of people we harbor in America”. It was horrible to say. Absurd too.

The people he spoke of were dedicated and politically engaged students, most of whom had never committed a crime in their lives. Very few of them were committing a crime that day either: they were protesting an increasingly unpopular war.

They were also very young. Allison Krause had turned 19 less than two weeks earlier. Bill schroeder was also 19 years old. Jeff Miller and Sandy Scheuer were 20, as was Kahler, a freshman in the first semester. Scheuer and Schroeder did not even participate in the demonstration. They walked to class.

“I have to go – the soldiers shoot us,” sang Neil Young in his angry hymn commemorating their martyrdom. “What if you knew her and found her dead on the floor?” How could you run when you know? “

Joe Biden elucidated this crucial tragedy a few years ago when he said: inexplicably, that “over 40 children were shot” at Kent State on May 4, 1970.

I’m not sure what he was thinking: the death toll that day was bad enough, so much so that it helped shift the course of American public opinion on the Vietnam War.

Today, President Biden is due to speak in the White House on the progress of the coronavirus vaccination.

Language precision will be important, especially with a cohort of Americans doing their country no favor by refusing to be immune to this pandemic that is still killing people all over the world.

As “Star Wars” fans would tell him today, “May 4 be with you, Mr. President.”

Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Join him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

The opinions expressed by contributors and / or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Political Insider.