MAY 9, 1955
NEW YORK—My trip to Potsdam on Thursday was extremely interesting because I found that the State Teachers College there, which has students from many parts of the state, is developing a very fine program in the arts. Their choral group, for example, has become well known in musical circles.
I spoke in what is their spring festival of the arts. I fear I did not talk on a very relevant subject, but the students seemed interested nevertheless. Frederick W. Crumb, president of the college, took me to see their new library and the nucleus of a collection of modern paintings which they are beginning to establish. The start of this collection is a few paintings furnished in days past by the WPA arts project to various government institutions. I am always glad to see beneficial results from these arts projects, which kept alive some of our young artists during the depression years when we might well have lost a great deal of American talent.
Miss Helen M. Hosmer is the director of the Crane Department of Music, which inaugurated the spring festival of the arts 24 years ago. Everyone of the 325 members in the music department sings in the chorus. It was pleasant to meet Robert Shaw there and to know that he was back for his ninth appearance as guest conductor with the Crane Chorus and Orchestra.
I had a feeling that real appreciation of the arts was going forward at the college. I think this is one of the most important things that can be done for our young people, and I was grateful for the opportunity to see what they were accomplishing.
Friday night I went to see "Inherit the Wind," the new play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. I found it a delightful play, well staged with an excellent cast. Paul Muni is remarkable as Henry Drummond, the lawyer who defends the right of man "to think," and Matthew Harrison Brady, who is played by Ed Begley, took me back to the days when the Scopes evolution trial, on which the play is based, was going on.
How far we have come since those days! Yet there are areas of our country which can be swayed in exactly the same way today. There is a kind of mass hysteria which can be worked in a number of ways, more easily perhaps on religious subjects than in any other way. People can really be prevented from thinking; and little towns such as the one depicted in this play are perfect settings for the kind of demagoguery that was practiced in the name of religion—and that was sincerely believed to be true religion by some very important people. We are still susceptible at times in one way or another, I am afraid, to the same kind of mass reactions.
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