This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Richard J Whalen discusses civic duty and a sense of history in New York. He discusses all the rapid changes taking place in the city. Progress means that old things are torn down and replaced with new.
Next, Sammy Davis Jr. speaks. He speaks about his book "Yes I Can" and also spends much of his time discussing his conversion to Juadism and the racism he has faced. He speaks of his work in the civil rights movement.
Finally, Theodore Sorenson, author of "Kennedy" speaks. He speaks at length about the John F. Kennedy legacy and lists many things he dislikes, including the treatment of JFK's memory.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71308
Municipal archives id: T1280
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
One doesn't have to be a right New York City's subways to see the handwriting on the wall it's all around us wherever we are in this town undertakes various forms you can see it when you leave the walled off today just look down Park Avenue very big handwriting there you can see it at certain projects sites where the signs say that something is being improved meaning that it's being destroyed you can see it in faces in the crowd faces that are tense tired angry solemn fearful or resigned and the message of the handwriting doesn't really need to Khalidi on the suit say astrologer or prophet to interpret the city is being weighed in the balance and it's being found wanting and that message has a vital meaning for the rest of the country too for the old saying that New York is not America is an old say the problems that we face are our own problems but they represent to the problems faced by every great urban complex in the nation Richard Whalen associate editor of Fortune magazine and the author of the bestselling biography of Joseph P. Kennedy the founding father is a native New Yorker proud of his city and angry at what has been and is happening to it you remember the Leonard Bernstein song New York New York's a hell of a town the Bronx is up and the batteries down books like Mr Wayland's new one a city destroying itself books of directed indignation may help in the very necessary job of recharging the battery Mr Richard wait. There's a Van Doren listed all the way are gas ladies and gentlemen L.T. augers. I shan't be too angry today I don't want to injure your digestion your dispositions. I see around. The room many. Lovely Ladies of doubtless come from the suburbs for the once in today some of you no doubt came by way of Grand Central and past what was once and will soon not be the Park Lane Hotel. That is a visible sign of our self destruction but before I discuss the beauty and splendor and permanence of New York. Mr Dobbie a somewhat anticipated announcement that the management of the walled off had requested that I make at the conclusion of today's program for your convenience and safety please leave through the Lexington Avenue agents this morning it seems the walled off was sold to a syndicate of Serbo-Croatian investors an estimable an estimable but rather impatient group of gentlemen who have erected scaffolding at the Park Avenue side of the building and intend to take it down as soon as possible so that this building which has long been an eyesore in midtown Manhattan may be replaced by a new and modern complex an office tower a motel and bowling alleys. Moreover. In this city where progress is all around us. This new structure to be called Serbo-Croatian tower will mock a rather significant technological advance it is to be constructed of bolted plastic. Prefabricated by a leading manufacturer of children's toys specializing in instant obsolescence and the structure therefore may be taken down almost literally overnight on the tax of lawyers advice some future day so as I say please exit to the east avoid the scaffolding the dust the confusion and remember dig they marched for a more perishable and profitable New York now seriously the message I take is the text from my sermon this afternoon something you may have seen in this morning's Tribune. Misspeak. I read the market page first on the comics. Miss Peach this morning is involved as she always is with the little girls and author and Miss Peach says you're disappointed in Arthur's school activities Yes Miss Beach he just sits there he never participates in anything says author from the rear I do so participate I just don't want to get involved that's all. Fair L.O.L. The Guardian would have done that much better but it makes my point that. Even though they aren't going to take down the wall off around our ears this afternoon we might well ask ourselves where will this building be where will the city be where will we ourselves be next year two years from now five years hence for not only is physical New York the New York we know and love disappearing. Bit by bit a lot here an excavation there a new monstrosity rearing up but also year by year it seems that the possibility of leading a decent safe and satisfying life in our city is disappearing as well and it is our own full we all recognize that. I don't want to borrow the slogan of the Goldwater rights but it's the truth we know in our hearts to be true. We know very well that this is our city and yet we don't do anything about it we simply use. It may well be that we will be the first civilization whose great monuments will topple whose commerce will will who will destroy itself simply because it didn't give a damn it didn't want to be bought we made that we need not be we need we need not suffer this fate because the means to correct things are within our grasp now I may sound like merely an old buildings buff one of those people in sneakers with a book of great landmarks concerned about the physical destruction of New York and this is a valid and worthwhile crusade but in my book I took the physical environment of New York from my subject because this is the public city which all of a share the air the water the buildings the traffic everything around us we cannot help but be involved in this and so no matter how each of us may alter our private lives in this great public city we are involved now my book as I say was based on a magazine article I wrote for Fortune about a year ago was much condemned much praised much applauded but it dropped into that great well of the public memory and has been forgotten I'd like to remind you to buy it on the way out but in addition not long after my article appeared for several months there appeared in the walls in the excuse me for audience slip in the. Herald Tribune. You do find the most interesting things about New York in The Wall Street Journal incidentally because this is a city where money predominates where the economic power is by far the greatest power that event the Herald Tribune New York's most readable newspaper ran a series of articles for several months under the standing head city in crisis and tomorrow Barry gotta lead the trip's crusading team of reporters and who has compiled their efforts into a provocative book entitled New York City in crisis will be justly honored with the first metropolitan newspaper walk but we journalists who love New York enough to become angry about its decline its self-destruction in the Dielman ization of its inhabitants we can do no more than attempt to warn an awakening because after all the printed word can be as perishable as. Yesterday's fish which it usually winds up being wrapped around you you can't reach the conscience of the city unless the city's conscience wants to be reached and so I would say that this is your city each of you has made a commitment to it here you are pursuing your careers and rearing your family's New Yawk is a central fact of your lives the great public reality around which your private and personal lives are ordered if the city fails as it is family if it becomes steadily less inhabitable as it is then you and your careers and your families are all affected by this you know this this is the home truth the truth that lies in our hearts that we won't admit and yet. We feel because some of us come to the city from a far from Scarsdale Sands Point America settle Riven we really don't need new yawk yawk is a place where we go to the theater we come to programs such as this but we know very well that this isn't true the city does need us the city needs our intelligence our energy in this room we've all come together to honor the written word in the creative intelligence that produces it we who have the resources of leisure and physical well being can do this we can take time from our daily occupation we are the fortunate we other possessing we are the haves and if we do not in our social conscience in our compassion in our enlightened self-interest take action on the cities be have we are denying the possibility of a better life not only to ourselves but to those who don't have the leisure the physical comfort the well being the margin we have the margin let's do something with it we are that great we here in this room we have that great maligned self doubting but indispensable social entity the American middle class centuries ago cities liberated our ancestors from wives of serfdom and throw from the lowly state of being things to the exalted state of being free men who could control their destinies are we to turn our backs on the city that has done so much for us not just New York but the city as a construct of our civilization as a realization of our creative intelligence we do this if we do it we are turning our backs on our destiny because the United States. Western Europe the world watch it becoming increasingly one world civilization a civilization organized around cities New York is the symbol New York is the center and if New York fails its fair you will have ramifications everywhere so therefore not only civic duty and hard headed self interest in a sense of engine of history but our future our future both personally and as representatives of a great American civilization all this is bound up in what New York is and what it will become Now all that's very fine high flown philosophic what concretely specifically can we do. Well we begin by admitting that we are involved we begin by considering where the Powell lies as I said earlier political power in New York is diffused. Economic power is the crucial power in the city and in this city which is the great headquarters for American business and industry from which go out the impulses that set factories turning an operating all over the world this is a world center of commerce and trade and finance and yet remarkably enough the businessmen in this city whom I know well as an editor of Fortune the top businessmen by and large feel that they can insulate themselves that they can stand apart from the public city that they can live in their private corporate worlds make their private corporate decisions and see only the consequences of the balance sheet without giving any concern to the intangibles of the well being of that society and its future I want to some Once ago. A fortune team interviewed more than a score of top businessmen in New York and many of their wives one spoke for all of them when he said this is a violent noisy dirty city the dirtiest I've ever seen if you want to live comfortably here you've got to end insulate yourself as much as possible but on the crowded island of Manhattan no man can be an island there is no possibility of insulating oneself these people almost admitted when they said in answer to our question that a couple a couple months you needed three thousand dollars a month after taxes in order to live comfortably in New York five years from now it may be six thousand dollars how many of us can command that kind of insulation and so the people who have a central role in New York a business economic commercial role are the ones to whom I addressed by message the message is simply this wake up involve yourself participate send a letter to City Hall demand to know why certain things are not done send a delegation what I.B.M. with its vast resources assign a staff to do it program on the city's transit services wouldn't be remarkable if we could computerize our own comfort as well as a trip to the Moon other endless things that can be done and they will be done if we recognize our obligation our self interest and our historic responsibility. A lot of men here in this room there are many more women and so my final message ladies nagger husbands. Thank you. When Frank Sinatra was asked by a group of English reporters who is the greatest entertainer in America he said Sammy Davis Jr and then added he can do everything except cook spaghetti I assume that since this word got back to Mr Davis. He has been working on the spaghetti bit. And will soon invite Sinatra to a good old fashioned home cooked Italian dinner nothing so inspired as Sammy Davis Jr has being told something he can't do the title of his book is The Answer The title is being changed today to yes he could some of the challenges that he's had to face up to Curator to people in show business willed of which he's been a part since he was three years old some of those faced only by Negroes born in America some of those that confront every man and his life's journey the search for a faith the probing for self-knowledge the attempt to make the fullest possible use of one's human potential Sammy Davis his autobiography recounts some remarkable triumphs against almost incredible odds but also Stokley and honestly records the failures this book written with his friends again and but boy is his candid and courageous as dynamic and exciting as the man whose life story it tells and like him it has that thing that's not so easy to define but is always immediately recognizable star quality. That's the cute Sammy Davis. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you sir. Letters and gentlemen of the day astonished guest and a word I thought I'd never be able to say hello waters. May I thank you for the kind words. Loving the tricks and the dramatic moments as they come and it's become very much a part of my life however this thing and I'm wearing around my neck was not the vice for that reason first of all let me explain what happened on Saturday night in golden boy. Which somehow I had the impression in the beginning it was a drawing room comedy I don't know why but. It became quite a physical show and be on the road and I got hit with a chain behind the ear on Saturday night during the first act I could not finish the second act. It was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital where I spent Saturday night Sunday and due to. My my belief in certain areas of what should and shouldn't be done. I asked my doctor and persuaded him if I could be released today so that I may be here to say a few words and asked if I could also do the show which he told me I couldn't. Know and he said you can do it if you take out the fight scene at the end we take out all your singing and dancing you can talk a lot. So I think those of you who may have seen the show knows what kind of position it puts me in but I did want to come today for several reasons first of all I cannot possibly can they are. To you what it means to me to finally go past a bookstore and I must talk I'm pedestrian terms because I am not an author in terms of this is my third book or anything else and there were times when both Burton Jane Boyer and myself felt that the book would never be finished. Indeed during about the first year of that bird boy and his wife Jane came to me and I house in California and my wife had just had tracing our first child and said I give up he