JULY 2, 1962
HYDE PARK—The bail-jumping flight of Dr. Robert A. Soblen to Israel the other day was a rather sad betrayal of people who had previously come to his aid.
Here was an ill man told by his doctors that he had probably less than a year to live. Yet he was willing to forfeit bail put up by people who trusted him—including a very devoted wife, several of her friends, the editor of The Nation and Mrs. Helen Lehman Buttenwieser.
The latter two acted because they believed in the principle that everyone should be able to obtain bail. As it turned out, the bonding company had judged the character of Dr. Soblen more truly than even his wife and friends when they refused to accept the responsibility of providing the bail. Now those who believed in him and in the principle involved will suffer. Whether Soblen is in jail here or in Israel now makes very little difference, I think, since he has such a short time in this world in any case. Such action on his part casts doubt on all his assertions of innocence, and one's sympathy goes out to his very loyal wife and the people who have believed in him.
Our newspapers are so full these days of the shortcomings of human beings that I was not surprised recently to receive a critical letter from a young Frenchman who had been studying in this country. The letter cited things that had lately been said about college students cheating in examinations, the acceptance of bribes for one thing or another, and the loose talk which my correspondent took at face value about our undergraduates' stand on morality. He concluded by telling me he felt this country was rapidly going downhill because its young people showed such a lack of standards and ideals.
Of course one can counter the bad situations by hundreds of good ones. Unfortunately, the good ones rarely appear in the news. Hence we give the impression, and our own people get the impression, that there is an astonishing amount of corruption in this country—at least in high places—and a willingness to do almost anything to get hold of a few "bucks" either honestly or dishonestly. Somehow I think we must get across to people that for one wrong action there are usually ten good things that could be picked out, but unfortunately never are.
It does not matter too much what a young Frenchman or someone from another country may think, but it does matter to us Americans if we begin to lose confidence in the real integrity and goodness of our own people. I wish that the newspapers, television and radio would put on a short drive in which they recounted day after day some really fine action which had taken place.
For that reason I want to quote from a letter which I believe shows courage and independent thinking on the part of some of our fine educators. The letter was addressed to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller not long ago and was signed by a provisional committee on school shelters and forwarded by Milton Schwebel, the secretary to the committee, who is a Ph.D at New York School of Education, N.Y. University. It begins:
"We, the undersigned members of the faculty of the School of Education of New York University, are opposed to the construction of fallout shelters in schools and colleges." All of the professors who signed, including colleagues in other universities all over the U.S., agreed that "such activity contributes to a false sense of security," and continued: "Shelters offer little or no safety to those in target areas and, at best, a nightmarish future to those in other areas." Their final statement reads: "We reject the fallout shelter program as a solution to any problems of the children of New York State: in fact, we see it as a threat to their security, and a costly one at that. We, therefore, urge you to use the power of your office to rescind it."
I hope those reading my column will try to obtain the full letter and give this question serious thought. Where will the parents of these children be in case of nuclear attack? What really is the future if we human beings cannot see the danger of drifting towards a nuclear war and complete destruction? Among our adult population in the world as a whole we should find enough people who can talk with sense to each other instead of allowing a growing lack of confidence and emotional fear to bring us to the point where we use our great knowledge only to destroy ourselves.