The Dude, The Port Huron Statement, and The Seattle Seven
I was, uh, one of the authors of the Port Huron Statement. The original Port Huron Statement.
Not the compromised second draft. And then I, uh... Ever hear of the Seattle Seven?
- The Dude, The Big Lebowski
Fans of The Big Lebowski will no doubt recognize The Dude's lofty claim to fame above. And while the Port Huron Statement was indeed a real document, I hope The Dude will abide one small correction—only one draft of the statement is known to exist. But since The Dude felt it important enough to mention, we should probably at least know the basics.
The Port Huron Statement was written in 1962 as the founding manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society – a left-leaning political activism organization that rose to prominence and eventually fizzled out during the 1960s. A key issue throughout the work of the SDS was their advocacy of participatory democracy – a political system wherein constituents wield power, as opposed to ceding that power to elected representative
The Port Huron Statement, which draws its name from that fact that it was written in Port Huron, Michigan, was designed as the SDS’s guiding treatise on social issues. It begins with the following simple statement: "We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit."
From there, the document discusses and proposes a variety of actions to address the economy, the Military-Industrial complex, the warfare state, McCarthyism, discrimination, nuclear disarmament, and a host of other weighty issues. It is nothing if not ambitious. (Though one topic not covered in the Port Huron Statement is how to appropriately address the plight of someone breaking into your home and urinating on a really great living room rug that ties the room together.)
The document - which can be read in its entirety here – wraps up with this poetic culmination: “If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.”
The Dude also associates himself with the Seattle Seven — "That was me and, uh, six other guys" — another very real piece of the Vietnam era. The Seattle Seven were the most famous members of the Seattle Liberation Front, an anti-war organization formed in Seattle just as the SDS was breaking apart. The reason The Dude mentions the Seattle Seven is because one of the members was a man named Jeff Dowd. Dowd later moved to LA, where he became a film producer and close friend of Joel and Ethan Coen – the genius writer/director team behind The Big Lebowski. And Dowd is credited with being the inspiration for the character of The Dude – a fact that he confirms on his website and through appearances at various colleges, conventions and the annual LebowskiFest. [Image courtesy of jeffdowd.com.]