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Fortunately my background has always been that of a progressive and liberal family, for otherwise I might never have been brought eventually to join a progressive organization such as the ASU. As I am the youngest of a family in the strata of the upper middle class, it seemed my fate to be a spoiled, wilful brat who had to have my own way. I never minded or objected to my fate until it occurred to me that in order to have my own way without incurring the dislike of other people I had to be nicer to those people than I had been.
To make myself clearer I am going to elaborate on the type of background from which I come. My father was one of the student leaders in pre-revolutionary Russia. As most of the students were progressivem they formed a large part of the Social-Revolutionaries, at least in their section of the country. As members of this group, they carried on a great deal of educational work among the peasants. He left Russia because he did not believe in compulsory military training. My father did join the army because if he did not, what little property his mother and sisters did have would have been confiscated by the Russian government. It is interesting to see that the youth of a previous generation fought the same issues that we are fighting now. He left Russia in 1912, and in his own words, "came to the land that was rumoured to have plenty of food and gold, and opportunity for everyone." When he came to this country there were no student organizations like the ABU, but that did not keep him from retaining a vital interest in things progressive until now when as a successful middle-aged physician he thinks that the ASU is the best thing the students have in this country today.
On the other hand, mother was brought up in this country from the time that she was about four years old. Although her parents were very religious, and certainly not liberal, my mother was more practical and saw the great advantages a more progressive educational system could offer students like herself who could not [illegible]
One of the first things that made me consciously aware that not everyone did have equal opportunity as we were taught in school was that my uncle certainly did work awfully hard to make a living, and he never could.
My childhood was not only a very quiet one, but also a very sheltered one. Political and economic strife were the farthest things from my mind until last year when I came under the influence of people like Boone Schirmer, Joseph Ransahoff of Harvard and one of the kids that really brought me into the ASU.
At the time of the New England District Convention last year, the Model League of Nations was held at the Massachusetts State College. I mention this fact because when my sister, who was a delegate to the League of Nations from Radcliffe, came back to Boston, she took me to the District Convention. I was very much impressed by the proceedings because they were carried in a very orderly and intelligent way. These two things impressed me because I had never seen such a large assembly where the meeting was managed in such a systematic and democratic way.
Larry Levy told me that he did not see why there could not be a high school ASU when I asked him about it. He offered to help me in building a chapter in my school, and my sister offered to build another chapter at another nearby school. The work began, and not only was it very interesting but all-absorbing. We stopped rumours spreading lies about the ASU and those of us in the ASU by sending a whispering campaign about the school to the effect that we would like an opportunity to meet our opposition in the alley and talk things over. We knew who they were and made no bones about it. The lies stopped and we heard no more about them. Unfortunately we were all seniors and most of us were studying for the College Boards, consequently we had to stop all activity after we had had only about five meetings. All through the fight the morale was very high because we had a concrete issue on which to take our stand which we felt was the correct one.
The ASU in the high schools came to mean more to me after a great deal of thought during the summer. As the result of this, I decided to spend as much of my time and effort I could in building the high school ASU in Boston. The district office did not seem to welcome the high school kids who had graduated with me, but they did want me to continue along with my plans. I have always been very much enthused about the ASU, and my interest keeps on increasing with each thing I learn and with each day I spend in the ASU.
It seemed fated that we work only in pairs. First Leigh Steinhardt and myself, then Leigh and Toni Grose who practically left her college and district work from the time of our big attack, and finally Toni and I. We had a terrifically huge job, not only because no other attempts had been made to start an ASU, but also because we had so much to do and only a couple of us to do it. I have felt all along that I could not do very much to help because of my great inexperience in doing any organizing work before. I therefore place all credit for anything that we did accomplish on Larry Levy last year and Leigh and Toni this year.
I am having difficulty in writing this report because before I joined the ASU I was certainly not a progressive, and I have been a member only a year. I cannot decide whether or not it was a good thing for someone as inexperienced as I was and still am to plunge into what amounted to full time work in the ASU. I assumed leadership from the beginning and my responsibility was great from the very beginning. This remains to be seen. I sincerely hope that it was a good thing because the ASU had come to mean more than just a liberal club.
About the middle of this past March I was given the responsibility of membership in the high schools, a job which seemed intangible to me and which I had difficulty in pushing along. I received no cooperation from those high school kids with whom I had to work and [illegible] seem to gaining any headway. It seemed that all the irresponsible ASUers we had were membership-secretaries. That is not true, but I still had that feeling. After a long struggle, I had to give up. Not only because I was completely discouraged, but also because final exams were coming up and I had to study. As a matter of fact, this period of discouragement had its beginning a little after Joe Lash left Boston.
I lost complete to much with the ASU during the period mentioned above, and probably it a disrupter had approached me I might not have stayed away from the ASU as long as I all. That at least is what I hope. I do not want to dwell too much on this period except to say that it was probably due more to exhaustion and disappointment than because I did not see the use in what the ASU was doing. I had forgotten that if an individual cannot accomplish much by himself, an organized group, an united force, can accomplish a great deal.
All this is leading up to why I am now at the ASU Leadership Institute. I went in to ask Toni, explained and criticized my actions for the two or three months I had been inactive in the ASU. She was swell. She did not sympathize with me, but she did analyze the situation, and she told me that she was very glad that I had come back. In my opinion there was no question of my coming back to the ASU, but rather the length of time I stayed away.
If anyone would ask me what I have learned so far, I would answer that I would have to wait until I returned to Boston. But if I were asked what I expect to learn here, my answer would probably be confused. I want to be criticized because I never have been, and constructive criticism is a very, good thing. It I can hold my own in this school, I hope it means that I can be high school secretary next year for our fight is just beginning in Boston and I want to be in on it.
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