Well, I grew up in a little town in the Midwest
, Council Bluffs, Iowa
, a town of 45,000 people I guess. The son of a religious family. Successful in business. But, a small town family basically.
And, I grew up with I guess all the prejudices that come with that of—of the affirmative sort. That is, ah a belief that people are basically pretty decent. Ah. That America works. That it’s probably the best place in the world that’s ever been imagined and ah that life is probably going to be pretty sweet, and as a consequence, ah in the early sixties it was easy really to maintain that belief.
Ah. Up until the civil rights movement when suddenly it became clear to me...I mean I’ve grown up in ah, you know, a situation where everything was pretty, pretty sweet. Ah. That suddenly to discover that for a great many people in America that I never really thought about very much, never really seen very much, that life was not only not sweet, but that it was very, very bitter.
Ahm. And, as a consequence, you put together that kind of optimism about what America can be with that discovery that it’s not what, what it says it is and the first thing you have to do is just go out and change it. I mean that’s it. There’s no obstacle too great. You just go change it. There’s just the sense that, ah that what is right will happen if you just take a step and go do it. You know. I think that marked a lot of the early civil rights movement.
Also, for me where my first involvement really was with farm worker struggles and in California
ah and seeing what happened to farm workers and saying, wait a minute. This isn’t right. If people knew about this, this couldn’t go on. So, you go out to change it, and it was very easy then to believe that. It was at a time when things seemed flexible. After all, we had a President, John Kennedy, who sort of embodied a lot of the best of that hope.
Ah. It was hard for me to say that ah when he was first elected. I grew up in a Republican family, and I was Republican and ah...Then, suddenly, I saw in Kennedy the kind of reflection of of those good values and that sense of hope ah that made me think well, if we just set about it, we really can ah can make this quite a spectacular...an an even more spectacular ah place to be, and that’s really how I came...I got to the late sixties down a pretty smooth path and one that was marked really with a sense of, of great hope for the future.