Ron Steinman was the guest host at the Pawling Library on June 15 for a screening of the PBS documentary American Creed, which featured the stories of American citizens from vastly different backgrounds. A discussion followed the viewing of the film, and those who attended this presentation contributed their own personal histories.
One person told Mr. Steinman that both her parents emigrated from Austria-Hungary. They met in America at a German dance hall where Austrians liked to gather. She recalled her early school years: “I was five and my brother six, and we walked to school,” she explained. “We were in class with a child from China and another one from Italy. None of us could speak English. We all got along and stuck together even though we didn’t understand one another.”
Audience members enthusiastically engaged with Mr. Steinman’s questions and also filled out a questionnaire at the end of the program. One question was, “What does it mean to be an American?” These are some of the answers people gave:
“To me it means freedom to say how I feel and not be admonished for it.”
“I participate in the one country where anything is possible.”
And another person wrote: “To accept people based on their actions over time. Martin Luther King, Jr., said it best: a dream of a day when people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”
Interestingly, almost to the day, 52 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the Holiday Hills YMCA in Pawling on June 14, 1967. We could not find a record of what this great man said on that day. Two months later, in Atlanta, he would deliver his famous speech, “Where Do We Go from Here?”
This was Ron Steinman’s third appearance at the Pawling Library. He most recently appeared with fellow producer and writer, Eileen Douglas, in May for a showing of their own documentary The Dance Goodbye, a film he directed, also shown on PBS. In addition to The Dance Goodbye, Ron Steinman, of Douglas/Steinman Productions, has directed the documentaries Luboml: My Heart Remembers and My Grandfather’s House. The Pawling Library is very grateful for the creative contributions to our library by Eileen Douglas and Ron Steinman, who have made this and other programs so excellent.
The screening of American Creed and the discussion that followed was made possible by a grant from the American Library Association, working with PBS and the makers of the film.
Donald Partelow is the adult programming coordinator at the Pawling Library.