AUGUST 30, 1961
NEW YORK—It is certainly good news that New York City will not be without an opera season and we can thank Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg, who succeeded in getting the Metropolitan Opera Association and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 to agree to submit the issues to his arbitration. Wires have gone to the artists asking them to sign the contracts previously sent to them for the coming year, and it is hoped that all may be able to appear and to give New York a good opera season.
One good thing may come from the uncertainty of the past few weeks. A great many people who took the opera for granted and never made any effort to support it on a regular basis may have become aware of the cultural value and the loss to the city if anything should happen to prevent a full season of opera. If this leads to more regular subscribers, I think it will be a benefit to the management and in the end to the musical education of the public and to the real appreciation of the opera—all of which is much to be desired.
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I have been attending meetings this week—some indoors and some on street corners—on behalf of Mayor Robert F. Wagner in his campaign for reelection.
When one is making these short speeches, climbing up a ladder onto a sound truck and trying to speak above other noises of passing traffic, I often wonder how much sense one really makes.
I try, however, to bring home to the people what is essential to really good government in any part of our country. It seems to me important that we elect good local leaders, that they be well known in their communities, whether these be big cities or country areas, and that these local leaders shall be kept informed by their constituents of the needs of the people and to what extent those needs are being met.
New York City has the biggest housing projects of any city in the world and yet many, many people are unable to find decent places in which to live at a price they are able to pay. This, of course, means that we need more rehabilitation of community areas, more slum clearance, more medium-income housing.
Next, the conditions in our schools from the physical standpoint have been proved in many cases to be very poor. The top people have seemed to be surprised. If the citizens had been alert and if they had kept close to the local leaders and if these leaders had been active in the citizens' behalf, it would have been impossible for the Board of Education and the Mayor himself not to have known of conditions and to have neglected improvements.
It is not possible to have good government unless we, the citizens, do our full share. And, of course, our community leaders are not the whole answer. We must also elect good people in the top positions.
In this great city of New York we have two nominees for Mayor chosen by their respective party machines—Democratic and Republican—and their running mates (for Comptroller and City Council President) who were chosen by the leaders of these machines. Mayor Wagner had the courage to break with the Democratic machine and name his own running mates—Paul Screvane for Council President and Abraham D. Beame for Comptroller. All are men of long service in the city government, and if nominated in the September primary and elected in November the city will have men of experience and integrity in office.
These qualities in themselves, however, are not enough. We need the constant prodding of the citizens through their district representatives to keep any city administration constantly aware of any unmet needs of the people of the city.
One area in which we are particularly shorthanded in New York at the present time is in the field of social work, and I was interested to hear this week of the all-day workshop being conducted for some 150 college students. Sponsored by the Social Work Recruiting Committee of Greater New York, this summer program is being given under professional supervision in 82 public and private social and welfare agencies in the New York area.
This is a profession that offers a wide range of interesting activities, and it is one that has great influence on the conditions of the people living in urban and in country areas. Really wise social workers can do much to influence the policies of the government, and where you have a group working in a big city they have great influence through the information they can furnish. If they lose their human touch and become too doctrinaire they will be useless, but the profession is one which should keep them close to the needs and aspirations of human beings everywhere.