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Ode to Truth, Fairness

Bill Ehrhart ’73, a celebrated poet and veteran of the Vietnam War, first became friends with Tom Bradley in September 1969, when Bill arrived at Swarthmore after three years in the Marines; the two later worked together with Veterans for Peace Philadelphia, Chapter 31. In tribute to his friend, Bill wrote the following poem, which was read at Tom’s funeral Dec. 21.


Thompson Bradley


He looked like Lenin. Really.
I’ve never forgotten the first time
I saw him, fifty years ago; I had
to do a double-take, knowing Lenin
had been dead for nearly fifty years.

He’d pace back and forth, gesticulating
to a classroom full of college kids
while rolling a cigarette, explaining
Russian Thought and Literature
in the Quest for Truth.

What Lenin took for truth, I’ve
no idea, but through the years
I came to know that truth meant
justice, peace, honesty and fairness,
decency and generosity to Tom.

You name the issue, Tom was always
on the side you wanted to be on:
wars in Asia, the Americas, the Middle East;
civil rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights,
gay rights, the right to live with dignity.

He looked like Lenin, but he lived
a life that Lenin would have envied,
or certainly should have. If Tom had led
the Revolution, I’d have followed him
to hell and back and on into heaven.