It’s summer now. my mood, and everyone’s mood, is far better when we wake up to sunlight than to clouds and rain.
For some reason, this welcome change has prompted me to think about my life thus far and what we have gained and what we have lost.
The most immense gain we have made as far as I can see is in respect for people who are not white. When I was a child, in the mid-1950s, the lives of "people of color," as we might call them now, were extremely difficult.
By law, they were compelled to go to inferior schools. They were not allowed in many hotels. They were flat-out barred from work at top law firms, no matter how good their law school grades might have been.
They might as well need not have even applied for white-collar work at major corporations. All of that has changed dramatically, for the better.
Blacks are not only allowed, but enthusiastically welcomed at those places now.
I might, and will, say the same about we Jews.
When I was in ninth grade at Montgomery Hills Junior High in Silver Spring, Maryland, a true hellhole, we had an assignment in civics to choose the three jobs we would most like to have.
My father, a prominent economist who worked with men (there were no women in those spots at high levels in industry and finance), sat down with me.
I told him my three choices: first, advertising.
I have always been fascinated by ads in magazines and on TV. My father looked doleful and shook his head.
"I think maybe not," he said. "Jews are not really welcome on Madison Avenue."
"OK," I said, "then banking."
I chose that because by far the most well-air-cooled building in Silver Spring was a Building and Loan, a sort of small-town bank.
My father looked even sadder and shook his head again. "Maybe not banking either," he said. "Jews are in some investment banks, but even in the ones headed by Jews, like Goldman Sachs, they greatly prefer wholesome, Nordic-looking gentiles.
"Many people think Jews control finance in America, but it is not so."
At this point I was starting to feel a bit sick. "All right then," I said.
"How about automobile design?"
I was then, and still am, obsessed by car design, especially Cadillacs, T-Birds, and Corvettes.
"How about that?" Now my father looked really sad. "Your grandfather worked on the assembly line at Ford Motor," my pop said, "as a skilled tool-and-die maker. But higher than that he could never have gone."
"Wow," I said.
"Lawyers can be Jewish," said pop.
"So can doctors. So can accountants. So can economists. Also, civil servants, except at the State Department, where Jews are not welcome.
"It will probably change, but that won’t be for decades."
Times have changed. And now the gates are open to Jews everywhere but at some country clubs. And I could also talk about the astounding progress of women and Asians, who can do anything now.
So, while we still have problems, this nation has been through a miracle of opportunity and diversity. Let’s celebrate.
Ben Stein is a writer, an actor, and a lawyer who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes hired him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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