Biographical Excerpts from James Dickerson, North to Canada

Note: The following contains the excerpts from North to Canada that James Dickerson wrote based on his interviews with me about my experience as a draft dodger. In a few cases, I have taken the liberty of making slight modifications. But the text is basically that written by Dickerson and published by Praeger. The book also presents the stories of eight other draft dodgers against the backdrop of a well-written commentary on the major public events of the period.

Patrick Grady: "I Didn't Oppose War in General"

Patrick Grady grew up in Danville, Illinois, at a time when racial segregation was as American as hot apple pie. In that sense, the racial politics of Middle America during the 1950s and early 1960s in states such as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio often were different from those of the Deep South in degree only. African Americans were tolerated by polite white society but not fully integrated.

Patrick was born in New York City, but he lived in Danville with his family from the time he was two years old until he graduated from high school in 1965. His father was a pediatrician and his mother was a homemaker. Although his mother had earned a Ph.D. in marketing after getting married, she preferred being a homemaker and never looked for employment after getting married. Patrick had one brother, Will, nine years his junior.

When he was in high school, Patrick, despite being white, went to several meetings of the local chapter of the NAACP, along with several of his classmates. Racial equality was something he wanted to take a public stand on, and he did in his own way. In 1965, the year he graduated from high school, Martin Luther King led a mass demonstration in Chicago. Patrick hitchhiked to the south side of Chicago to hear him speak.

Years later, Patrick said, "I forget what it was about. But I remember Martin Luther King didn't get there on time. He was about two hours late because he was doing a number of things in the area. I remember being in the crowd and singing. He had an almost hypnotic effect on the crowd. Did you ever see the films of Hitler's Nuremberg rallies? Those large crowds, the way they can be whipped up by people is amazing. Martin Luther King had the power, but he used it for good. You could see the way they responded, the anticipation, the singing -- it was quite a powerful event. I left with a feeling of awe for the power Martin Luther King had over his supporters."


The Vietnam War became an issue with Patrick while he was in school, though at that time, he was not opposed to the war effort. Danville was a conservative community with a population of about 40,000 and most people tended to support the government cause, whatever it happened to be. Patrick carried that attitude off with him to college, but he did not hold onto to it for long. Actually, his position on the war began to take shape the summer before he enrolled in the University of Illinois at Urbana, when he visited the campus and sort of stumbled into an antiwar teach-in. It made a lasting impression.

"I was shocked at the differences in attitudes between Urbana and Danville," he says. "There was very much a strong antiwar sentiment in Urbana. It took me a while before I came around to it. When I did, I became very much interested in the war. I took many courses on Asian politics, including one seminar for honor students on the Vietnam War. I read all the books. The more I read, the more convinced I became that the U.S. foreign policy was way off base and unlikely to yield any tangible benefits to the United States. By my second year of university, I was an adamant opponent of the war."

Patrick went through college in three years instead of four and applied to graduate programs at several universities. He settled on the University of Illinois and began classes in the summer of 1968 on a scholarship, but before the summer was out, he received his draft induction notice. By then, he already had made up his mind about what he would do if drafted; he would go to Canada. His mother was Canadian, born in Hamilton, Ontario, and he had a grandfather who was born in Quebec. Each year, as he was growing up, he spent two weeks in Canada with his grandparents, so it was hardly a foreign country. From an early age, he had considered himself to be half Canadian.

That summer, he married a petite redhead named Jean, who was also a student at the University of Illinois. "She was very much willing to go along with anything I wanted to do," he said. "I never had any opposition from her." Interviewed in 1997, he laughed when he spoke of her willingness to go along with him without question. "Nowadays, she would be more likely to question me."

Patrick decided he had no choice but to go to Canada. "I wasn't really a pacifist the way some people were," he said. "I didn't oppose war in general. That particular war I was opposed to. The vast destruction of a small country - I found it appalling. The thing that always struck me was in World War II, the question was asked, 'Why did the Germans participate?' When governments declare war, if people would just say no, perhaps governments would be less likely to go to war."

Patrick's father was upset when he told him of his plans and tried to talk him out of it, but once he saw that Patrick was determined to go to Canada, he remained supportive of his son. He had served as a medical officer in World War II in the army and was mildly supportive of the Vietnam War at that point, largely because he was a Democrat and felt sympathetic to Lyndon Johnson's efforts to win the war. "My mother was upset for different reasons-and kind of indifferent," said Patrick.

That summer as Patrick and Jean prepared to leave the country, Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in California. His death did not have the same impact on Patrick as did the assassination of Martin Luther King earlier that year, but it did seem to provide a sense of urgency to his situation with the draft.

"That year was a roller coaster for all of us," he said. "I was sympathetic to Robert Kennedy to a certain extent because of what he did for the civil rights movement and because of John Kennedy, but I wasn’t really involved in his presidential campaign. But I remember the shock of him being killed, the idea that the country was becoming so violent. Then came the Democratic Convention [in August 1968], when the police beat the hell out of the demonstrators. I was appalled but not too surprised. Mayor Daley was a funny guy. He was very dictatorial. He liked to run Chicago his way, and he didn't like anything that would disrupt his show."

Patrick and Jean crossed the border in August 1968 at Windsor, Ontario, and went from there to Hamilton, where they spent a couple of days with his grandparents before driving on to Toronto. Patrick had applied to the graduate school at the University of Toronto before leaving Illinois and had been accepted. "I was fortunate," he said. "I never even applied for a scholarship, but they gave me one right out of the blue. They just gave it to me on the spot."

Typical of that group "making it" were Patrick and Jean Grady. From 1968 until 1972, Patrick was enrolled at the University of Toronto, from which he received a Ph.D. in economics. Jean took courses at the university until the birth of their daughter Heather in 1970. Two years later a second daughter, Megan, was born; then in 1983 a son, Mark, was born. It was during those four years that the most traumatic events of the Vietnam War took place; but Patrick and Jean had gone to Canada to forge new lives and that meant, for the most part, concentrating on the work at hand and leaving America to the Americans.

"By that point I was getting more removed from the whole thing," Patrick said. "I didn't really feel that [Hubert] Humphrey was any great improvement over Richard Nixon. Both seemed pretty bad. In retrospect, Hubert Humphrey would have been a better president, but at the time he was tainted by his association with LBJ. There was some hope that Nixon would be someone like Eisenhower and end [the war]. He did end it, but not for years. In the spring of 1968, it would have been unbelievable to think it would it would have lasted as long as it did."

The event that attracted his attention the most was the 1969 moon landing. He was surprised that officials at the Toronto City Hall, which, after all, looked like something out of a space-age movie set, installed a giant television screen on the outside of the building so that passers-by could watch the astronauts walk on the moon.

When Patrick left the university in 1972, the job market had been glutted by the influx of Americans, many of whom - like Patrick - had spent the first years of their exile completing the educations that had been interrupted by the war. "Coming out of university was a little difficult," he said. "There were too many Americans in the universities."

Patrick's first job was in the research department of the Bank of Canada. For the next four years, he and Jean settled into a routine not unlike that of their Canadian-born friends and neighbors. "You hardly ran into anyone who was supportive of U.S. involvement in Vietnam-certainly not at the university," he said. "It wasn't like I was in a strange environment. I pretty much had grown up relating to Canada, so I felt quite comfortable. How would people even know you were an American? They really can't tell the difference."

Only occasionally, did it dawn on Patrick and Jean that, yes, they were Americans. Once they heard from someone who had attended the University of Illinois with them. "He was considering becoming a draft dodger and he looked me up," said Patrick. "He wanted to go see the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme. I said, OK, so we went over there, to an old house just off the University of Toronto campus. I remember going in there and it was a textbook example of what people think draft dodgers are - these guys sitting around with long beards, dressed like hippies. One of them was reading Chairman Mao's little red book. I thought, 'Oh, my God!' "

Patrick worked at the Bank of Canada throughout the Watergate hearings. Some exiles may have been keeping up with American politics, clipping and saving every news story on the subject, but Patrick showed little interest in the proceedings. "There were several people at the bank who watched the thing on television, and they would talk about nothing else, but I really didn't have much interest in it. " The whole thing dragged out so long, just like the O. J. Simpson trial. Some people get into following those things step by step. I would read the newspaper, but I wasn't a Watergate groupie like some people were. I wasn't surprised to see the way Nixon behaved. It was clear he didn’t have strong morals. He was unprincipled, really. To hear the whole story, in its appalling detail, was a bit much for me."

Patrick felt the same way about the 1974 amnesty hearing. He barely even noticed that the hearings were taking place. "A lot of the people I knew were draft dodgers, but they kept a low profile and were never identified as such," he said. "I was never one to keep my mouth shut. I wrote the draft board a letter telling them what I was doing and what they could do with it. Periodically, the FBI would talk to my parents. I don't think it fazed my father one way or another. It wasn't a threat to him, to his livelihood. My wife's father was contacted, and found it a little upsetting. They called him at work, and he told them never to do that again. He was working for the U.S. government, an engineer in charge of building Veterans Administration hospitals."


Patrick and Jean Grady did not bat an eye at President Ford’s offer of amnesty. They were raising a family and Patrick had a good job at the Bank of Canada. Why would they give that up – and uproot their children to return to the United States so that Patrick could do public service work for two years? It did not make sense.


Patrick and Jean Grady stayed put because they felt rooted in Canada. In 1976, Patrick left the Bank of Canada to work for the Canadian government as an economist. He has held several senior positions in the government since that time and has served as an economic advisor in the 1993 election to Jean Chretien who subsequently became Prime Minister. In 1992, he published a book entitled The Economic Consequences of Quebec Sovereignty, and in 1995 he published a second book about Quebec entitled Dividing the House. He has written a novel Through the Picture Tube that draws on his experience as a draft dodger.

"I've done quite well because I was half-Canadian and half American and could operate in both environments," he said. "In the old days, there was a misconception that the people who came to Canada were all student radicals, left-wing types -- very few were, though some were. I knew some students who had been in the SDS at the University of Toronto most were just ordinary people. Most were opposed to the war, but some, I guess, just didn't want to go into the Army. I don't necessarily think high moral principle guided everyone's decision."

The Aftermath

The irony of it still impresses Patrick Grady.

In August 1995, he was sent to Hanoi by the Asian Development Bank in Manila, Philippines, to conduct an economic study of Vietnam's transition from a central economy to a market socialist economy. He was there about a month.

"What struck me the most was that if you had told the American government [in 1975] what Vietnam would look like in twenty years, with the movement of the market, they would not have believed you," he said. "The Communist Party is still in power, but there is a great fondness for anything American in Hanoi, which is strange. The extent to which the Vietnamese people love America is amazing. They sell T-shirts that say "Good Morning America" and they sell New York Yankees hats. What was the American government trying to stop? They went in there and killed a million and a half people, lost fifty thousand Americans, to prevent something that would have been an acceptable outcome from the beginning."

Patrick had traveled in Africa in years past, but his trip to Vietnam was his first to an Asian country. He found the cultural differences quite striking. The first thing that caught his attention was the frenetic level of activity that exists in the streets on an everyday basis. "They don't have as many cars and trucks, so they travel by bicycle. People transport things on bicycles instead of trucks. You see five-hundred-pound pigs being moved around on bicycles, and chickens and snakes in baskets that are being taken to restaurants. There's chaos and no traffic regulations."

Despite its poverty-and it is probably among the ten poorest countries in the world-Vietnam remains one of the most advanced countries in Southeast Asia. He said, "Because of being cut off from the world economy for fifteen years, they had to start from scratch trying to make a life for themselves. It is a country with rich resources, but it is a bit of an ecological disaster because of the defoliants and herbicides that were used [by American troops] during the war. They still have lots of birth defects."

While he was in Hanoi, he noticed a steady stream of tourists. Many of the visitors are former American soldiers who want to see what it was like. "That missing in action thing, the way they tied it to policy for years - that was ridiculous. What would anyone have to gain by holding American prisoners for so long?" No one asked Patrick if he was American or Canadian, he said, but he got the feeling they assumed he was American. Patrick was so impressed by the trip that he wrote a novel about the experience when he returned to Canada.

Postscript by Patrick Grady

James Dickerson interviewed me for North to Canada before September 11. Like many Americans, I saw the world through different eyes after that terrible day. The threat to our security, which I had tended to largely ignore, had suddenly become a clear and present danger. I began to appreciate much more the role of the military in protecting our country and the sacrifices made by those serving in our armed forces. The importance of not forgetting those missing in action also belatedly registered in my thick skull and made my earlier comment on MIAs to James seem flip. While I still regards our intervention in Vietnam as being disastrous, my pride at being a draft dodger has gradually turned into humility. If faced with the same choice today, I would choose differently. But that doesn’t make my former feelings and views any less authentic. That's why I'm presenting this extract here even though I certainly would not say the same things now if James were to interview me again. None of us are exactly the same person today as we were yesterday. I'm probably just a more extreme case. Perhaps that's why I like to consider myself a born-again American, albeit one who is also Canadian.

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