Heinen: Madison Reunion is a party with a purpose

The three-day event will be June 14-16
Heinen: Madison Reunion is a party with a purpose

Several years ago Philadelphia Magazine featured on its cover an iPad displaying this message: “Dear Baby Boomers, JUST DIE ALREADY. (We’ll take Philly from here. Thanks.) XOXO, Generation X.”

Believe me, I know the risks involved in glamorizing the 1960s. So I won’t. And, actually, to do so would be to trivialize the Madison Reunion and Conference on Madison in the ’60s set for June 14-16 that has been lovingly assembled by Ben and Judy Sidran. But I want to call it to your attention because it’s quite a remarkable event that I think could be pretty meaningful and a whole lot of fun.

Ben and Judy attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the ’60s, left for a few years, but came back and have lived, worked, raised their son Leo and been an important part of civic life in Madison ever since.

They love this city. And since Ben’s work as a world-renowned jazz pianist continues to involve a fair amount of travel, they run into people all over the world who were also in Madison in the ’60s and who were influenced by that experience much like the Sidrans. And so they got to thinking: What if we “brought everybody together again for the first time?” And thus, the one and only Madison Reunion was born.

Rest assured, it’s going to be a party. The three-day event is taking place at the Memorial Union with all the atmosphere and amenities offered by the Union in the summer. There’ll be music, art, the breaking of bread and the sharing of what one might choose to share in the spirit of the event’s origins. There’ll be films from the day, a dance concert and a dance party, a “be-in” (a form of peaceful humanist gathering akin to a sit-in) and an ice cream social. That’s right, an ice cream social. Far out, man.

Given that the conference part of the weekend sold out much more quickly than expected, the reunion part of the “party with a purpose” will likely be the only opportunity for many to participate. And it’s a great way to do so. But the 30-plus panels offered as part of the conference are the meat of the event, and registrants are going to be faced with some tough choices about where to be when. What is so appealing and important is that the topics are a reflection of the issues that were being addressed on campus in the ’60s — issues that changed our world, and are still relevant today.

Women’s and civil rights, environmentalism, divisive politics, the impact of scientific discovery and, yes, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, may be defined a bit differently today, but the underlying ethics of each inform much of the current civic dialogue; here and around the world, because once again, “the whole world is watching.”

There’s another element to all this that feels relevant to me, and that’s the roles those of us who were shaped by the ’60s, the university and the Madison of the ’60s now play 50 years later. It’s the combination of sharing what we’ve learned, what we’ve earned, what we’ve received and how we’ve gracefully departed from retained power and influence.

Perhaps this has been true of previous generations as well. But it seems like those of us who were at UW-Madison in the ’60s, learning from thinkers and doers like Harvey Goldberg and George Mosse, could set an example for combining our passions for justice and art and discovery with our willingness to share, mentor and support the generation of young people attending UW-Madison who are shaping our world today.

I’d love it if some more conservative voices join the discussion. They were an important part of the time and place as well. The Sidrans have made room for everyone at this party.

Congratulations and thank you, Ben and Judy. I don’t know who else could pull this off.

Side notes

Details, details
The Madison Reunion and Conference on Madison in the ’60s runs from Thursday, June 14 through Saturday, June 16, with most events held at the Memorial Union. Most events are free, but the conference itself is sold out. Tickets are still available for the Thursday evening Motown Night with the Temptations and the Friday evening Reunion Blues concert with Boz Scaggs, Tracy Nelson, Ben Sidran and more. Both shows are at the Memorial Union Theater. Ticket information and schedules can be found at madisonreunion.com.

Gilda’s 10th anniversary
Gilda’s Club Madison has been providing support to people with cancer and their families for 10 years. It’s a place where the cancer journey is shared and it welcomes every person affected by cancer. Madison is lucky to have a club and we need to recognize Barry and Cindy Alvarez’s dedication and support from the beginning. There’s a 10th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, June 14 at The Edgewater. Former Notre Dame head football coach Lou Holtz is the keynote speaker and the Alvarezes will be honored. Visit GildasClubMadison.org for tickets and related 10th Anniversary details.