In 1967 the School-board in Danville California discovered that a reputed communist poet had spoken to a high school class. There was a furor caused by the local John Birch group. One member of the board, proposed that all people invited to speak to a class should first be cleared by the school board. I wrote a letter to the board and with a copy to the editor of the local paper.
If you should adopt Mr. Coyles idea that our teachers may not be allowed to invite "controversial" persons to speak to our children in their classrooms you will spend all of your future spare time trying to decide who is controversial and who is not. Even though this kind of publicity is painful for me, I would like to use myself as an example of what you may be faced with. You know that I have been invited many times to speak to the children in the Danville grammar Schools and to demonstrate various facets of my trade. I have also been invited to take part in Career Night at San Ramon High School. I hope to be asked again some day, and if I am, you members of the Board will have to decide if I am too controversial for our children. How would you vote?
This is my background: I am an immigrant. (Critics would say, "suspicious") Before my marriage I was a Physical Therapist. (Christian Scientists might complain.) I worked on President Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia, and found him charming. (Republicans would worry.) In 1939-1940 when Russia invaded Finland, I volunteered at the Finnish Consulate in New York to fight...or in any other way help out. They did not need me because I did not have enough money to pay my way to F)inland. After the war, it was found that many of the volunteers were Nazis. (All Leftists would find this unacceptable.) I worked as a Photographer's model in New york. (Old people with preconceived ideas would find me perhaps morally suspect.) I am now working with a retarded boy on a program which has not yet been accepted by the American Medical Association. ( think what would happen if the American Medical Association were to advocate that the people of San Ramon Valley not vote for you again) My paintings sometimes go way out in the most abstract and unbelievable directions. (Conservatives say this is Communist inspired tommyrot.) But I always go back to my main love, which is very representational portraits. ("real artists say this is not art, and I might squelch children's creativity.)
When my husband was in the Army, stationed in Mineral wells, Texas I became involved with the Army Medical Corps. At that time there was a severe polio epidemic in Forth Worth, and the hospitals were pleading for a sister Kenny trained Physical Therapist. I volunteered my services in Forth Worth, but the Army would not allow me to go to forth Worth. They thought I would bring back polio virus and cause an epidemic in Mineral Wells. After many big black headlines in the Forth Worth papers, the Army won the battle. They threatened to quarantine my husband on the post if I persisted in going. (some critics would say: a rabble rouser, for sure. Others would say, "why did she give up when so many people needed her?" )
I am very deeply involved with St. Timothy's Episcopal Church. My relationship with God is real and very satisfying to me, and I hope it is mutual. (Agnostics and Atheists would demand equal time and heaven only knows what other Protestants or Roman Catholics or Jews or Moslems would say.) I admire and respect Bishop PIke, and agree with some of his ideas while I disagree with others.( This alone could stir up a hornets nest of protest-- even conservative Episcopalians would black ball me.)
I was unhappy about DEMOCRACY until one day, last year, I found a book in the library about Abraham Lincoln, containing a quote attributed to one of his assistants: Democracy is something that is never finished or complete. It is something we have to work and strive for continuously. It is also something we cannot give to our children; they must work and strive as hard as we do, to enjoy the benefits of this elusive never perfect commodity.
But I have faith in this wonderful country that I feel if we leave the Constitution and all our freedoms alone, we could have Kosygin and Harry Bridges and Norman Thomas speaking to our children every day, and in the end we would come out with the same ratio of Republicans, Democrats, non-voters, beat-nicks, communists, and bigots.
I feel the Communists and the Birchers are equally guilty in dividing us and in confusing us, and if we begin chipping away at our fundamental freedoms, some day in the near future I would not have nerve enough to write a letter like this.
We have faith in you and we know our children are in good hands. You have handled this difficult period with dignity and with good old fashioned American forthrightness. We know you will allow our children to retain the freedoms our forefathers bequeathed them.