"War! What is it Good For?"

"Troops Ordered Into Cambodia," May 1, 1970

The Technician reports on Nixon's invasion of Cambodia, escalating the Vietnam War.

Cathy Sterling at peace rally after Kent State Tragedy

Cathy Sterling leads students in peaceful protest.

Although she was not supposed to officially begin until the next school year, Sterling took office as soon as she was elected. Campus was roaring with dissent against Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four Kent State students. Sterling recalls in her interview that the standing Student Body President, Jack Barger, prematurely concluded his term to allow Sterling to begin early.[1] Because of her stance as an activist on campus and her image as a “hippie chick,” Barger thought she was better suited to lead the campus as protestors rallied in the Brickyard and published their dissent in the Technician. It was unusual for a student body president to begin their term before the school year started, but as Kent State, Jackson State, and the bombing of Cambodia all washed down on campus, Sterling took the reins.[2]

In her recent interview with me, Sterling revealed that she never actively participated in on-campus protest against the Vietnam War before her election. She told me that it was the perception of her image as an activist that pushed her to leadership. She qualified her statement by saying that she made her personal views against the war known, but never had actively participated in a group protest against the war. She had, however, protested during the civil rights movement, and actively wrote letters to the editor in the Technician, voicing her opinion about the rights of students and the faults in the administration on campus.[3] Sterling also believed in working in a group rather than standing alone. For her, it was the cooperative effort that mattered the most when making change. The perception of Sterling as this great change-maker on campus, combined with her views on working together to make change, made Sterling the activist leader that NC State needed in the conclusion of the 1970 school year.

[1] Cathy Sterling, interview with author, Samantha Smith, November 13, 2014.

[2] Cathy Sterling, interview with author, Samantha Smith, November 13, 2014.

[3] Cathy Sterling, Technician, from March to May 1970.