Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Purveyor of Peace

For a period of time, Jack Benny had time reserved near the end of his programme for a public service announcement. It would get chopped if the show was running late.

There were some about preventing fires, another about the Big Brothers organisation, but the most interesting ones were pleas for tolerance. If I recall, two similar ones were aired, one read by Jack and another by Don Wilson.

I doubt Jack wrote them—he had professional writers, after all—but I’m the sure the sentiments were his.

Jack was honoured for his promotion of brotherhood in 1955 at the 18th annual dinner of the Massachusetts Committee of Catholics, Protestants and Jews. His goodwill award described him, in part, as “An admirable and lovable humorist whose humor has always been friendly, kindly and humane, never marred by ridicule of race, creed or class...A generous giver of his resources and talents in the entertainment of our Armed Forces in distant lands and in the promotion of divers good causes in our own land.” The Boston Globe of May 6, 1955 reported “Benny’s witty opening remarks delighted the audience and then he turned serious.”

Among the media covering the event was The Daily Worker. You know, the organ of the subversive people that would bring down America. Anyway, the paper published a larger part of his acceptance speech than I’ve found elsewhere. It gives a nice insight into the beliefs of the off-air Benny. It was published on May 10, 1955.

Jack Benny Pleads for Peace, Brotherhood
BOSTON.—Jack Benny, radio and TV star, received a citation at a brotherhood dinner of the Massachusetts Committee of Catholics, Protestants and Jews the other night at the Hotel Statler in Boston. The dinner was attended by 1,400 religious, educational, business and political leaders of Massachusetts.
In his address to the organization, Benny made a plea for the furtherance of efforts to foster goodwill and brotherhood in this country and abroad.
“While your organization has been pounding away at discrimination since 1936, ironically, your cause was give[n] its greatest impetus during the last war. When men are fighting and dying together, color and creed become relegated to their proper place of importance. A soldier lying on a battlefield does not care whether the hands that lilt him onto the stretcher and carry him to safety are white or black. Nor in the hospital does he ask whether the life-saving blood he is getting came from a Catholic, a Protestant or a Jew. A bullet has no name on it—it merely says, ‘to whom it may concern.’
“These lessons that our millions of servicemen learned during the last war they brought borne with them. And they have become ambassadors in your cause. But I think we and they should redouble our efforts at this time, because there may not he anyone left to profit from the lessons of the next war.
“We are all proud of the great strides that have been made in this direction in this country of ours. Much remains to be done. But the seed is planted, and the tree is growing. And I feel that care and attention will bring it to its ultimate flower.
“Therefore, I would like to suggest that we look beyond the oceans that border our land. We’re living in a world in which tension and the threat of war seem to be the order of the day. And yet we all know that the vast majority of the people in the world do not want this, do not like this, and that they, like us, long for the peaceful pursuit of happiness.
What a day it will be when s brotherhood encompasses the world, when nations look upon each other with a friendship and understanding that we are now attending among our people in this country, when greed, distrust and suspicion are eradicated, when this organization of your is disbanded because it has no further work to do. What a day it will be when people of all nations, as well as colors and creeds, grasp hands and walk forward together in happiness, security and dignity. That day, we are hoping, will come.”

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