JANUARY 9, 1954
NEW YORK, Friday—This week I attended a dinner given as a goodbye, bon voyage gesture to Algernon Black, the head of the Ethical Culture Society. He and his wife and youngest boy are off on January 22nd for a sabbatical year, the first one in 30 years! Having known John Eliot whom many people in this city will never forget because of his remarkable personality and the work which lives after him in the Hudson Guild Neighborhood House, helped me understand Mr. Black. Mr. Eliot touched the lives of many people but perhaps he had the greatest influence over two young men—one Mark McCloskey, and the other Algernon Black. Something of John Eliot's spirit lives in them.
One could not, of course, just give a goodbye dinner to a person like Mr. Black. There had to be a purpose connected with it, and what could be better than to get some contributions for the Encampment for Citizenship which he has fathered? They need money for scholarships to run it for the coming summer, so what would lighten the burdens carried by Al Black better than to be presented with some money for his pet project? The gift was presented by Mrs. Politzer who has always been the hardest working member as well as chairman of the board running the Encampment.
Mrs. Politzer made her presentation in a most delightful speech addressed to the three members of the party. Many people present said a few words which I hope gave pleasure and comfort to the guest of honor—enough at least to compensate for the discomfort which all praise gives him! None of us who were there will forget the atmosphere which was one of good fellowship and admiration for a fine person.
My readers might like to know a little about this Encampment for Citizenship which was established eight years ago, a pilot project in democratic education. Young people of every racial strain in the United States spend six weeks together studying the role of the citizen in a free society, how to function, how to learn about their community, how to know each other as human beings and work and live on a democratic basis. The young people come from all over the U.S. and most of them will testify that it is a valuable experience.
Mr. Benjamin Cohen of the United Nations testified on the impact which the Encampment and its students had on him as a speaker and I can testify that meeting with this group of young people each year, as I do, is one of the most interesting experiences that any older citizen can have.