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Newspaper Page Text
banquet of the Associated Charities of San Francisco. I presume this in
vitation is sent to me either because of my interest in the problem of the
noor, or because of my official position as mayor of a sister city, whose pub
lic charities are more or less linked with those of San Francisco.
"Your invitation" adyjses me that this banquet of charity workers and
sympathizers is to be held in the ballroom of the Palace Hotel, and the price
is ?3 per cover. The program of the evening speeches from reverend
gentlemen, rabbis and charity workers is one that would elicit my intel
lectual interest and stimulate my moral sympathies.
"But I am led by a sense of propriety and Christian consistency to de
cline the invitation, and to state to you my reasons. -
"In the first place, the mayor of the city of Berkeley does not receive
sufficient salary to dine with the social class that can squander $3 on one
meal. The high cost of living and my monthly contribution to exacting
trusts and public monopolies leave me no money for such sybaritic living.
"I prefer to give this $3 to some needy family. Three dollars will buy
three suits of children's underwear or keep a child for a week.
"Your invitation to the banquet of the Associated Charities becomes
practically a subtle request to men of moderate means to stay away.
"In other words, like the vulgar 'charity balls,' this banquet is distinctly
a 'class' or society function. Common people, such as the mayor of Berke
ley, cannot come through with the price, which of course is a mere bagatelle
to the rich.
"But the supreme reason which I offer for not accepting your invita
tion is there is something positively vulgar and ostentatiously pagan in the
spectacle of a group of citizens of a twentieth century city sitting down to
a $3 banquet while pictures are being shown displaying the hunger of the
poor. As the press describes it, 'charity workers to see at dinner how needy
families live'; pictures illustrating battles with poverty and sickness in the
homes of San Francisco's poor will be shown,to the banqueters.
"I am not a very good Christian. I wish I were. But in the name of
Christ and his hungry people I enter my protest against the word 'charity'
being used in connection with any such function.
"It is time people with an awakened Christian conscience should cease
to dine so ostentatiously with Dives while Lazarus lies hungry at the gate.
"This picturing of the hunger and misery of the poor to overfed ban
queters becomes the more reprehensible since it is now acknowledged by
every social thinker and worker of any importance that these poor are made
possible by unjust social and economic conditions. They are victims of an
unchristian and Irrational industrial system that robs the people and en
riches the exploiters of the people.
"If you offer a rebuke to me for publicly declining this invitation on the
ground that if I did not wish to attend I could stay away and keep silent J
reply that If anything under heaven should be open to the moral sense of
the community it is the activities and functions of organized associated
charities. The business of such a body in their dealings to the poor and
for the poor is the business of every human being.
"I am no mere esthetic and I don't want to be a mere crank, but I feel
led by what seems to me the spirit of Christ to enter this protest and I shall
gladly repent this letter if I can be intellectually and morally convinced, that
my ethical and spiritual attitude is discourteous or wrong.
"This in behalf of Lazarus lying at the gate. J. Stitt Wijson,
"Mayor of Berkeley."