JUNE 9, 1956
HYDE PARK, N.Y—The United States has of late accepted its responsibility as a great nation and given economic aid to a great many countries.
Congress is always more willing to vote for military aid because a good part of this money is spent in the United States. However, Congress does not seem to be particularly concerned as to whether this military aid will create good or bad feeling in the areas of the world where it is being used.
Neither has it seemed to be of much interest to Congress whether this military aid was given to a nation which actually needed it. The theory has been that such aid to any country would prevent that country from falling a prey to a Soviet offensive.
In many cases, however, where military aid has been given, the country would, under any circumstances, be unable to stand up against a determined Soviet attack. So this consideration is not a valid one.
On the other hand, economic aid, which I think important, and expansion of worldwide cultural projects as we have carried on so far, probably would be a great advantage to our prestige in the world. At present, we give rather grudgingly in this respect, while other countries invest much more money in cultural programs abroad.
This particular phase in which we seem to have so little interest has just been drawn to my attention by a report from a young man who recently returned from Rome, Italy. There, he participated in the international competition of orchestral conducting, organized by the National Academy of St. Cecilia under the auspices of the Italian Foreign Office, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Education, and the Municipality of Rome.
Forty-one candidates from 18 nations were accepted as contestants and the competition was judged by an international jury of experts. The jury included Arthur Rodzinski.
This young American was eliminated when there were still eight contestants in the field. But he could not remain for an extra week to witness the finals of the competition because he ran out of money. Nevertheless, he believes he gained enormously by his experience, for he is only 29 years old and hopes someday to be a great conductor.
Nearly all of the other contestants were sent by their countries' ministries of culture after having undergone national elimination contests at home. But our government had no interest in sending anyone to this contest. Why should we be interested in the development of a new conductor of orchestras?
And since this young man represented this country in a non-official capacity, our embassy did not even know of his existence. Competitors from other nations, however, were looked after by their embassies and considered as important representatives of their government in the cultural field.
This young man has returned with the feeling that a "Porgy and Bess" tour perhaps will do more in spreading U.S. goodwill among nations than can be achieved on trips by many diplomats.
I think our government is beginning to sense the truth of what my young correspondent has said. But I wish more of the people of the country would be conscious of the real need of spreading knowledge of our culture in other countries of the world.