MAY 17, 1947
NEW YORK, Friday—I flew to Boston yesterday afternoon, and it was interesting to find that the planes from New York go right through to Maine. I could have been in Portland in no time at all, and even in Bangor. Once every airport is equipped with landing apparatus which makes it possible to come down in a fog, going up the coast of New England in summer will be just as easy as going down the coast to Florida in winter.
The dinner I attended last night was in honor of the 80th birthday of one of Boston's first citizens, Dr. George W. Coleman. It celebrated also the Ford Hall Forum's 40th year. This forum in many ways is a model for other forums throughout the country.
Dr. Coleman, who founded it, has run it on the principle that everyone has the right to express his ideas, no matter how they differ from those held by others, and that people have an obligation to listen and to make up their minds what they feel after hearing both sides. During the war, the forum allowed a German professor to state what he felt was best in Nazism. But whoever speaks at the Ford Hall Forum must answer questions afterwards, and then is when the real feeling of the forum comes out.
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Dr. Coleman has always insisted that everyone had a right to ask any question and get an answer. If it was an honest question, it didn't matter if it was not grammatically phrased or if the questioner came from some foreign land. He would be courteously heard and answered.
This forum, which meets every Sunday evening, has grown from a first group of 175 to a group that now always numbers from 1000 to 1300. That is a great many people to reach with objective thinking on subjects of the day.
It takes courage to run something of this kind, because people do not like to hear opinions with which they differ given as fair a hearing as their own opinions. But this is basic to democratic procedure and very good discipline for us all.
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The other evening in Poughkeepsie, I attended the annual dinner of Lincoln Center. This center was started some twenty years ago by Mrs. Henry Noble MacCracken and a group of Vassar students. They rented two rooms in a crowded part of the city and invited the neighborhood children in to play. The students thus got the practical side of their sociology courses.
After that little beginning, the enterprise grew until the city donated a building and grounds. Then a gymnasium was added. Today, in a neighborhood of shifting population, colored and white children, Christian and Jew, young and old, come in and play and work together. It is one of the encouraging things in a land where we still have to make democracy a reality. And in a small city like Poughkeepsie—which is, however, the center of a large rural area—it sets a pattern for which one is grateful.