MARCH 4, 1960
NEW YORK—On Tuesday of this week I went to the Metropolitan Opera Guild's benefit at which Verdi's "Simone Boccanegra" was given. The conductor was Dimitri Mitropoulos. The staging, done by Margaret Webster, was beautiful. The whole cast was outstanding and the performance seemed to me exceptionally good and evoked tremendous applause for Mary Curtis-Verna, Leonard Warren, Richard Tucker and Giorgio Tozzi.
I always enjoy the galleries at the opera. The people up there are so enthusiastic, and when they like a singer they applaud with such fervor that it takes the more conventional people right out of themselves and they join in!
On Wednesday I went out to Chicago to speak at a luncheon of the Chicago ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training) group. This Jewish federation, which works nationally and internationally, is enthusiastically supported in Chicago by a great number of chapters.
The ballroom at the Conrad Hilton was filled to capacity, and I sat next to Mrs. Ruth Simon, the lady who started the first meeting. She looked around the room with pride and satisfaction, and told me that now she was organizing in neighboring states.
The workshops which the ORT sponsors in the many different areas have given a great many refugees the chance to learn a trade and become self-supporting. They also have taught innumerable young people a trade, fostering the respect for work and, more especially, for skilled workmanship. I admire the work of the ORT very much and am delighted to find its strength growing so that it can increase its activities.
I don't know how other people have felt, but I have read with a sense of shame and shock the stories on West Virginia's hungry children that have been running in the New York Post.
The pictures and the tales the people tell all take me back to the days of the depression when I visited in that area for the very first time and saw what hunger could do to the independent, self-respecting American citizen.
Generous people who have read about these conditions are responding with help, but the mining industry is sick and has been for a long time. No amount of generosity is going to eliminate the basic causes, which are what must be tackled. The government and industry in general must work together to change the West Virginia picture as well as the situation in some of the other mining areas.
It is probable that even the state government cannot meet this problem alone. It may take a combination of local, state and Federal governments, but it is time that we dug up all the reports on the mining industry that have been made over the years and took some definite steps to solve this serious problem.
In our country poverty and hunger cannot be tolerated.