January 8, 1964
The Kallithea project;
except for a few details, is completed. It went very, very well.
Once again we were proud of Northport High School, the students,
the staff and everyone involved in the venture. What a wonderful
thing it would be if there were a thousand "Northports"
assuming similar responsibilities and working to make this a better
world in which to live.
A professor from Georgetown
University, Greece on a Fulbright grant, summed it up for all
of us: "What a wonderful spirit! What a wonderful high school
it must be!"
First and briefly,
a few comments about the trip to Kallithea and the presentation
of the books and supplies:
The U.S. Educational
Foundation is Greece provided us with an automobile and we left
Athens for Kallithea on December 19. We stopped overnight in Sparta
and arrived in Kallithea (over that incredible mountain road)
on the morning or December 20.
What a day! It's difficult
now to separate the events, to recall all the expressions of appreciation,
the happy smiles, and the invitations to visit homes. Most memorable,
though, and this we will never forget, were the expressions on
the children's faces as they were looking at books they never
knew existed: encyclopedias, biographies, (Thomas Jefferson, Abraham
Lincoln, Ben Franklin, John F. Kennedy, the Wright brothers, Samuel
F. B. Morse, many others), Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick,
Gulliver's Travels, adventure stories, history, science, books
on practical subjects such as home economics and agriculture,
books about Greece, Europe, Africa, Asian, America - what a marvelous
world opened up to the children of this tiny and isolated mountain
village! They thumbed and grinned, pointed to passages and colorful
pictures, chattered. Their eyes were wide with wonder and the
expressions which glowed on their faces reflected what a remarkable
moment this was for them
and for us. And there were maps
of the world and of the continents, notebooks, pencils, and supplies
- it's unfortunate only that many others didn't share that experience
There were "official"
programs, too: a presentation ceremony in the morning, a kind
of assembly and village "town meeting" in the afternoon.
They were anti-climatic. Nothing could match the personal, honest
and warm reactions of the children.
What did we accomplish?
It is hard to say.
The immediate results, of course, are clear and in this respect
the project is a remarkable success. The long-range impact, on
the other hand, is something that we will have to wait for time
to disclose. It could be very, very important.
Kallithea has in recent
years been ravaged by war. First the Nazi forces fought Greek
guerrillas. When this was finally over, Greek fought Greek in
the bitter years of the Communist war. People in Kallithea, as
in many other Greek villages, fought, starved and died - even
with victory there is still a residue of pain, bitterness and
resentment which hinders effective action toward real progress.
The typical Kallithean feels more isolated from the world than
the 40 or so miles to Sparta; he is suspicious of government and
what government offers to do for him; he tends to withdraw into
his family unit and into himself because this seems to be the
safest place to be. All of this has made effective long-range
action, that beyond simply sustaining life, extremely difficult.
More that one aid program, public and private, has foundered when
up against the reality of the Greek villagers' psychological isolation.
Our book project might
have little long-range effect or it could be a fairly significant
thing. First of all, the books com from young people - not adults,
not government, not a big organization and thy are going to children
- and Greeks have an infinite love of children. It is just possible,
perhaps only barely possible, that the adults of Kallithea, responding
to the overwhelmingly positive reaction of their children, will
put new determination and energy into improving their school,
buying books. (Such a process may already have beginning in the
comment made by one man when saw the books: :How we have the best
school in the Peloponnesus!" A great deal would seem to depend
on what happens between the children and their books over the
next year or so - it would be difficult for the doting Kallithean
to ignore the appeal of children for more books - they would soon
find a way to get them.
And then there's Kallithea's
location. It is situated on a mountain trail which eventually
winds itself, after about 80 or so miles, to a point close to
the Aegean Sea. All along the trail are other tiny villages. Communication
between villages is surprisingly good - the "Pullman"
(Land Rover - it goes through twice a week), an old woman on a
donkey, men walking to another village in search of work, all
of these are in reality part of a pretty effective communication
system. You don't simply pass through a village. You are immediately
greeted with "Ti nea;" (What news?) - and then you are
pumped for information. It really works. When we drove into Sparta
on the way to Kallithea with the books, a an walked over to the
stationwagon, looked into the back and asked: "Are they books
for Kallithea?" And the villages are competitive - enthusiasm
about books in Kallithea could lead to a similar disposition in
All of this might happen.
Or nothing might happen. I'm not sure it should concern us very
much under any condition. The important thing is that we do things
that we think will help - and expect that a certain proportion
of them will catch on, become something even more important. In
the meantime we have made some 62 kids in a little mountain village,
plus their parents, very, very happy. The books will help them
- and I'm sure we've generated some attitudes about humanity,
even if in a local and limited sense, that are good and fine.
To the typical Kallithean, America is marvelous and friendly place.
Finally, people armed
with books can accomplish almost anything. And for the first time
in their history, Kallitheans are armed with the weapons of peace
instead of weapons of war. That in itself is a pretty good result.
Alan Vitters' letter
is going to cause a big and happy stir here, I think. A secretary
at the Foundation office read about it, got pretty excited and
ran down to the offices of The World, a Greek news and feature
magazine. They want pictures (I sent them to them), the whole
Stone Greek Language Courses