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Student Fills Frustration Vacuum With Trips, Speeches, Debates

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Flags Exchanged At Vietnamese Embassy

A strong interest in politics and foreign affairs led University student Arthur Collingsworth (third from left) into study of Viet Nam and a subsequent visit to the country. Earlier this fall the founder of the campus-based Conference on Viet Nam Steering Committee attended the National Symposium on Viet Nam in Washington, where he was among a contingent visiting the South Vietnamese Embassy to exchange flags between the two countries. With him are (from left) Jay Parsons of Johns Hopkins University; Jolynn Capo, a Michigan State University graduate student; Deputy Ambassador Anh; and Chon Wong, a counselor at the embassy.

Student Fills Frustration Vacuum With Trips, Speeches, Debates

By Virginia Westover

“Students today have a great need to funnel their efforts into something constructive. They're experiencing a vacuum of frustration, and activism, often misguided, offers to fill this void.”

The speaker is Arthur J. Collingsworth, a 21-year-old University political science major who probably is an exception among students — and among many Americans — when it comes to “filling the vacuum.”

This peripatetic young man from Tecumseh is a firm believer in rounding out education with practical experience.

Where has this led him?

To Viet Nam and to Brazil. To the debating floor and the speaker’s forum. To the campaign office and the conference room.

Collingsworth is the founder of the Conference on Viet Nam Steering Committee which was formed last spring following the campus “teach-in,” and which recently gathered together 2,057 signatures supporting the U.S. policy in Viet Nam and sent them to the State Department. Prof. James K. Pollock of the political science department is the group's adviser.

As a result of the local efforts, he attended the Viet Nam Conference at Principia College last spring and discussed the subject with State Department officials in Washington. Last weekend he was at Emory University in Atlanta debating in a teach-in with such notables as Sen. Richard Russell and Norman Thomas.

This summer Collingsworth took a trip around the world and spent a month in Viet Nam through a travel grant from the American Friends of Viet Nam, a private organization.

His experiences there, combined with intense study on the country, its problems and the war, have provided him with articulate opinions on the subject

Seated in his apartment at 326 E. Madison, he cordially shared some of these, in the midst of his busy on-and-off campus schedule.

Phone calls from fellow committee workers, the comings and goings of roommates and the passing-by of a neighbor asking to borrow an egg beater failed to break his train of thought and his enthusiasm on the subject at hand.

“I think our involvement in Viet Nam is necessary as a continuation of our policy of containment,” he said, “and is a response to curb and counter the Chinese expansion we have seen since World War II.

“If we can keep China contained,” he continued, “then the Chinese leadership may mitigate its military. And maybe if expansion is frustrated by the West, the Chinese may decide to go north to Russia. In fact,” he added, “I understand that there’s some border trouble brewing now.”

“One thing that many people in our country fail to realize is that there are 36 countries now sending troops to Viet Nam,” Collingsworth said. “Australia, New Zealand and South Korea have more men over there proportion to their population than we do.”

He also said that “student leaders in Hue and Saigon look upon the U.S. interest and effort with hope and optimism, “they relize that only if South Viet Nam can determine her destiny will there be a good future for her.”

Collingsworth attended an all-night teach-in at Saigon where resolution was adopted to send the first South Viet Nam student delegation abroad.

The delegation visited Ann Arbor last Friday.

“I was more free to travel than I thought I would be in Viet Nam,” Arthur said, made the most of this.”

One of the most impressive things he said he came across near Da Nang. A nearby village of some 20,000 Vietnamese has been re-developed by Marines assigned to the area.

“The men volunteered to rebuild, to teach and assist in community projects. All this was done on their spare time. It’s made an amazing difference in the area,” he added. “It’s become truly pacified, and there’s a real rapport between the villagers and the Marines.”

“This helped our military efforts in the area too, Arthur added, “because the people are now willing to cooperate.”

During his travels in Viet Nam, Collingsworth ran into several U-M alumni helping out in hospitals and schools.

“Good medicine in the Viet Nam hospitals is a problem,” Arthur said, “because the whole family moves in with the patient when he is admitted.”

The average man on the street, particularly those Vietnamese in the primitive villages, are not very aware of the war and why it is being fought. This is largely because they lack the communications system which the Western world has, he pointed out. “They don’t travel, and so have a limited vision.”

“Some areas are virtually untouched by the war,” Colling-worth said. “Hue, the ancient capital, is one example. Perhaps this is because of the sacred attachment the people still hold towards the city.

Collingsworth believes that one of the country’s biggest problems is bridging the gap between the educated, young elite and the country peasants.

Because of this he calls South Viet Nam floods earlier this year a blessing in disguise.

“The students developed a real sense of the country’s problems when the floods came. They began working as volunteers in the villages, and the country’s National Volunteer Services developed.

“The response was overwhelming,” Arthur said. “This summer alone there were 5,000 participating as volunteers. The students helped rebuild flood ravaged areas, as well as assisting with teaching and social problems.”

This isn’t the first time that Collingsworth’s interest in foreign affairs has taken him to another land.

In 1958, he was appointed to a specially created post of Brazilian government representative to Michigan and Ohio.

At that time, he was mentioned in the press to be the ‘world’s youngest diplomat.” He undertook a program of general promotional efforts on the country’s behalf and when he turned 15, he was feted at huge birthday celebration in New York given by the Brazilian government.

“My age permitted me to do more unorthodox things that an older person could not do,” Collingsworth said, “and I could be outspoken.” His work resulted in two companies establishing branches in Brazil.

At age 16 he was invited to Brazil as a personal guest of the government, and spent three weeks touring the country, meeting with student leaders and government officials.

Other activities, too, have served to round out his education and add new perspectives. In 1964 he dropped out of school semester to gain practical experience by joining the staff of former Congressman George Meader.

He is foreign affairs analyst for the Michigan Daily and education chairman for the U-M Republican Club. He was recently named to the National Young Republican Club’s foreign affairs committee.

Collingsworth, son of Mr. and Mrs. Neri Collingsworth of Tecumseh, is working on a plan with the Conference on Viet Nam Steering Committee similar to a Village Adoption Plan launched at Michigan State University, whereby the students “adopted” a village in South Viet Nam.

“We hope to contact the U-M fraternities, sororities, service groups and the like and get them interested in adopting a Viet Nam orphan.

Collingsworth also expressed hope that a national conference on Viet Nam will be held here next semester. The Chicago Daily News and the Marshall Field Foundation have pressed interest in backing such a conference.