Peoples Temple Memorial

Grady Smith and Yvette Smith

Pictures from the peoples temple butterfly release memorial in orlando, Florida. 

Sponsored by Thinking Agenda, LLC. 
Main Speakers and coordinators: 
Debra Van Neste, Yvette, and Grady Smith. 

Special thanks to Steven Van Neste for writing the eulogy and poem.    


Debra Van Neste

On November 18th Thinking Agenda held a memorial for the 40th Anniversary of Jonestown. Held at Lake Eola, with an opera singer singing ‘Don’t stand at my grave and weep.” Speech by Debra Van Neste, Poem read by Yvette Smith.  

Memorial Eulogy 

 It has been 40 years since the Jonestown massacre, an event that for many has become forgotten if it were not for the expression of “drinking the Kool-Aid”. This lack of memory and awareness is tragic, especially since the society we live is not at all that different from the one that fostered The Peoples Temple. The great sadness is the misuse of the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid”, an expression now synonymous with indoctrination, yet this is not how people affiliated with The Peoples Temple, it is how they were forcibly prevented from leaving the cult through death. What one must remember is that many of the people who affiliated did so because they believed in social change. This idealistic change seemed imminent because society was defined by gross inequality, exacerbated by the far-reaching edicts of Jones. The more one imagines that they could not stand in the the Kool-Aid line, the greater the chance one might miss a similar situation. Not necessarily literal, yet still symbolic enough to devastate one’s life forever. Just as we should not ever forget the horror of other mass death scenarios, thus we should never forget the lesson of Jonestown.

Other events in history share the same indoctrination process and results. They just vary in scope and impact. Just as a cult leader can find entrance through noxious experiences in general life, one could also enter through what is loved. This is essentially what happened with those who fell under the dominion of Jim Jones.It is important to remember that even our sense of love and goodwill can make us fall prey to horror. Yet in the face of such a possibility, we also should not be afraid to commit to love and altruism since tolerance and equality are the best safeguards against societal chaos. As such, we honor those who died and survived the Jonestown massacre and realize they were not folks caught up in something crazy. They were people like most of us are, people committed to a better life, to causes and building a better world.