AUGUST 10, 1959
CAMPOBELLO, New Brunswick—I went to Brandeis University last Wednesday to give one of the evening lectures in a course which is for the university a new enterprise. One week had been set aside during the summer session for an intensive "Institute on Contemporary American Civilization." Older people, some of them of middle age, who have been out of the classroom for a long time, came back to take this special course.
Every morning during the week they followed courses given by Professors Leonard W. Levy, Irving Howe and Harold Weisberg. The subjects of the courses were "Freedom and Equality in America," "American Mass Culture and Elite Culture" and "Cult and Creed in America." Supplementing these courses were five lectures given either in the evening or late afternoon.
My feeling was that those attending had found it an exciting experience and would go back with a tremendous sense of stimulation. Unlike the routine of an ordinary vacation, they would have stretched their minds as well as their bodies. It was for me a most interesting meeting, and I was also glad of the opportunity to have a new look at the campus at Brandeis. I have never known any university grow with the rapidity of this one. New buildings and new roads appear as though by magic, and the enthusiasm of the Brandeis professors is contagious. They are so evidently proud of the way they are helping to build a new center of learning and they want the very best to emerge as a result of their efforts.
I had a letter some time ago which showed again how little most of us think about protecting the interests of our Indian groups in this country, and incidentally of preserving the charm, uniqueness and tradition of historical areas for ourselves. Taos is one of the places in New Mexico that many people know about and want to visit. Its history goes back to the Spanish Conquistadores of the 16th and 17th centuries, who settled close to the Indian pueblos that had been built probably 800 years before 1700. Taos was held for the Union during the Civil War because of a small group of men—including Captain Smith Simpson, Kit Carson and Col. St. Vrain—who nailed our flag to a pole and kept it there. So it still flies night and day in this city.
The New Mexico State Commission and the chief of the U. S. Bureau of Public Works approved the building of a "piercing route" in June of 1959. This 100-foot wide street would ruin the picturesque town, which is after all only two miles long and one mile wide. The new road is designed to swerve traffic out of the center of the town; but most of the people who come to town come to shop there, and so it will not relieve local congestion.
There are any number of reasons given why this route is badly planned, but perhaps the most important is that it would take 13 percent off the already too small Kit Carson Memorial State Park and then would go into Indian land. State engineers reported that they could build a road, for less than half of the money, which would be a three-mile route on the west side of the town.
I hope the people of New Mexico and of the country as a whole are interested in preserving Taos as it is and in not trespassing on Indian land any more than has been done. It may be too late to forestall the new route, but I write of it anyway because I think it has national interest. If we can do nothing in this case, let us register our disapproval so there will be less temptation to continue on this path of destruction.