Upon Being Honored by Southern California Americans for Democratic
Action at the Eleanor Roosevelt Annual Awards Dinner
Beverly Hilton Hotel
September 29, 1999
friendly version 2
3 4 5
6 7 p1
Thank you, Norman, not
only for your kind words about me, but for your contribution to
political discourse with People for the American Way and for your
unique work in film and television, all of which have won you the
President's National Medal of the Arts Award earlier today at the
White House. So thank you for jumping on a plane and whipping back
to Los Angeles to present this award to me.
Lila, I want to thank
you and the Americans for Democratic Action for honoring me.
Of your founders, I've
already been greatly honored with the friendship of Hubert Humphrey
and Arthur Schlessinger, Jr. I've revered the late Walter Reuther
as I do Mr. Galbraith. But the woman, other than my mother, I always
admired most in my childhood, Eleanor Roosevelt, I never got to
meet. Although had I been a little less wary one day in New York
in 1961, it's possible I would have.
My first movie had just
come out, I was walking up Fifth Avenue, a boy from Virginia unused
to being recognized, when out of nowhere there burst a rather frazzled,
hyperactive, overly intense man in his 20s who yanked me by the
arm, and with what seemed to me a crazy glint in his eye, whispered,
"Mrs. Roosevelt wants me to talk to you. I'm going over to
see her now. Come on, you want to see Mrs. Roosevelt......."
I said, "Oh sure,
thank you, thank you, I'd love to see Mrs. Roosevelt but I'm a little
late for a... I have a; uh; a thing."
Now he grabs both of
my sleeves, sweat streaming down his face, and said, "No, no,
Mrs. Roosevelt is a friend of mine. She says you should do my book.
She's a friend of mine."
I said, "Well, I
think that it's very nice that Mrs. Roosevelt is a friend of yours.
Say hello for me. But if you don't mind, would you let go of my
And as I pulled away
from him, he shoved a book in my hands and said, "Read it.
As soon as I got a safe
distance up Fifth Avenue from him, I slowed down and opened the
book. It was called "Brutal Mandate" and sure enough there
was a blurb on the inside cover by Mrs. Roosevelt.
The guy who had stopped
me was the late Al Lowenstein, later to become a Congressman and
the president of your organization and a good friend of mine. You
remember him well, I know, and with great affection. Al had the
ability to lead. He was the person most responsible for beginning
the movement protesting President Johnson's policy in Vietnam. There
was no more effective organizer of dissent than Al.
For those of us who shared
in that activism, there is a lot to be proud of. Insofar as it changed
our policy in Vietnam, it was a success.
What we didn't succeed
in doing, sadly, was to get a fair shake for the domestic policies
of Lyndon Johnson because the country couldn't afford to pay for
those good programs and that bad war at the same time.
The cost of the war in
Vietnam brought into question the cost of food stamps at home.