October 30th, 2012
11:01 AM ET
9 years ago

Battleground Blog: Shooting survivor passionate about 2012 election

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN has sent dozens of reporters, producers, contributors and correspondents to the key battleground states to cover the final days of the 2012 election. Here is a brief report from CNN contributor John Avlon, who talked to one Democrat in Ohio.

(CNN) - On the Battleground Bus Tour, we've met some extraordinary people. Usually, our focus is talking with the swing voters in swing states who will decide this election. But while Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, we started reporting a story on the ground game being implemented by both campaigns in Ohio.

At the Stark County Democratic Party Headquarters, we met a dedicated volunteer who lived through a dark chapter of American history and retained his sense of civic commitment.

His name is Dean Kahler and he was shot at Kent State in 1970.

For younger Americans, the memory of Kent State might come only from anguished black and white photographs or the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young anthem "Ohio".

But the memory of that day is still fresh in Dean's mind. He was a first-quarter freshman, who came to watch the protests before a class. He was frustrated by how Richard Nixon's "Secret Plan" to end the Vietnam War, promised in the 1968 campaign, had resulted only in an escalation of the war. But as the National Guard released tear gas canisters and protesters began throwing stones, he tried to remove himself from the crowd. He saw the guardsmen raise their guns and heard shots fired. He was hit and woke up six days later after an induced coma. Four students died. He remains in a wheelchair.

Dean's parents were in what he calls a "mixed marriage" – his father was a Democrat, his mother was a Republican. After being shot- and hearing President Nixon call the protestors "bums" and Vice President Agnew call him "an effete snob", Dean became a committed Democrat. He worked for the Ohio Secretary of State and held local elected office. He is now retired and takes care of his aging father.

But he is passionate about this election and protecting the social safety net. He is a patriot who patriotism was painfully tested and still endures. He is just one face from the Ohio campaign trail.
Watch the video to hear Dean tell his own story in his own words – and maybe take a second to reflect that however divided our country might feel in this final week of the 2012 election, we have survived far worse divisions within living memory.

Filed under: 2012 • Ohio
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. sonny chapman

    God Bless You Dean. You helped stop a War w/no end.

    October 30, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  2. sonny chapman

    We're still fighting the same battles w/in this Country. Right v. Left.

    October 30, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. J

    The relevance to this current election is non existent. Dean felt like sharing his story for what? Sympathy? Attention? Is CNN running out of liberal material to publish?

    October 30, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. Rita in illinois

    It appears that Nixon and Romney both have similar sentiments towards a segment of the American people. Nixon left office in shame, if elected, it would not surprise me if Romney does also. With new reports coming out about the boarder line illegal actions of his tax returns I think his dishonesty and cheating will catch up with him. In my opinion, the divisions in this country are as stark now as they were then. Although it has not yet turned to violence, and I pray it does not, there are very different ways of thinking about how this country should move forward and in reading the comments on the internet the divisivness is clear. Until people decide that working together, and yes compromising, is the best thing for this country, it will only continue to get worse.

    October 30, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  5. therealtruthhurts

    Mitt Romney lie, lie and lie. Even when it is obvious, there are still idiots who support this filthy out of touch rich man. Some of Mitt's main supporters need health care, has family who needs health care or may eventually fall down on their luck on need somebody. It is amazing how evil some Americans (Republicans) are. They hate the president more than they love themselves. I use to think they had on blinders. Now I know they are just pure evil. Liberal had better get out and vote or evil will prevail if Mitt wins.

    October 30, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. Larry in Houston

    great story – his family should be proud of him – The last time I voted fo a republican was when I voted for Nixon, when he "promised" he would bring the troops home, from another worthless war. I haven't Voted for a republican since.
    I'm glad that I Voted a Straight Ticket last week.
    May the Best Man Win -2012

    October 30, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  7. DB

    @J. I feel sorry for you that someone has to connect the dots. I was a freshman at Mizzou when Kent St happened. Nixon lied about his plans, he hid his real plans and did not reveal them until after he was elected. Romney also lies, flips, distorts, the plays hard hard right until they can't abandon him. Then he goes centrist only to get elected. Lies, and we all fear who he really is, and what wars he will take us into needlessly only because the far right loves war. The article is dead spot on. I was in grad school and drove 3 hours to get to a TV to watch Nixon resign. I will not have to watch Romney resign in disgrace as he will never be elected

    October 30, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. fayse

    We must not let Romney win. Anyone who can, please go out and vote early. Don't trust mail in votes. I pray hard every day that we keep going forward as a Nation. Romney would only take us back to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

    October 30, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. Thomas

    Romney dose remind me of Nixon , Mitt has the same Daddy issues and lust for power.

    October 30, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  10. California Gary

    @J........the man was shot and has spent his entire adulthood in a wheelchair due to political turmoil. He is passionate about this election, and a story about his travels through life that led him to this point, is certainly "relevant". We might all want to stop and reflect on what happened at Kent State so many years ago.......it's an example of what can happen when political disagreements evolve into the "hatred" of political opponents.......much like we see coming from the Tea Party folks of the hard right today.

    October 30, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  11. Ready

    A CNN reporter hanging around a Dem headquarters, who would have thunk it? Instead of living in the past how about some reporting on the Benghazi cover up CNN?

    October 30, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. NameTracy

    God Bless You!!!!!!!!!

    October 30, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  13. Gurgyl

    God bless!!!!! NY, NJ.

    October 30, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. Bob

    A True Patriot in spite of everything.

    October 30, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. sonny chapman

    The Right used real bullets & dogs back then. Now they use Fox News & Rush Limbaugh. The hate is still there.

    October 30, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  16. plain&simple

    This is a positive story and a shinning example off all that is great about our country and system of government. Only hate mongers have a problem with diversity of thought and feel threat because of admitting our mistakes and working with others of different views to find solutions.

    October 30, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  17. byebyegop

    You GOP folks are going to get a dose of reality on November 6 or when you wake up November 7. When the POTUS is re-elected and can get down to real business like run a country will Mitty still visit with FEMA again?

    October 30, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. sonny chapman

    Hmmm, some of these comments sound like the message of Jesus in the the Four Gospels. Some don't. Who are the "Real" Christians here ?

    October 30, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  19. Malory Archer


    The relevance to this current election is non existent.


    Much like queen ann's blathering on about her MS, breast cancer and miscarriage. None of those things are relevant to her husband's lame attempt at being elected, but she drones on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on in an attempt to garner the sympathy vote. Pathetic but the mouth breathers love it.

    October 30, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |