Nov. 5, 2000

The Investment

by Robert Frost

Broadcast date: SUNDAY , 5 November 2000

The Investment
by Robert Frost from The Poetry of Robert Frost (Henry Holt)

It is the birthday of American playwright and actor Sam(uel) Shepard (Rogers), born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois (1943), the son of a career Army father who spent his youth moving from one military base to another. He performed in plays and with a rock and roll band, then moved to New York City to work in theater. His work was well-received off-off Broadway, and he won Obie awards for three early one-act plays he wrote in the 1965-66 season. His first full-length play was Operation Side-Winder (1970), set in Hopi Indian country, with a giant mechanical rattlesnake that runs amok in some secret Air Force computer project, all accompanied by music from Shepard's band, The Holy Modal Rounders. When he was 28, he moved to London, where productions of The Tooth of Crime, Geography of a Horse Dreamer, The Curse of the Starving Class, and several psychedelic one-acts enjoyed considerable success at the Royal Court, Open Space and Hampstead theaters. Buried Child (1978), which won him a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, was written on his return to the United States, where he worked for 5 years as a participating playwright at San Francisco's Magic Theater Company. All told, he has written more than 50 stage and screen plays, 4 books and made over a dozen appearances in feature films.

It is the birthday of historian and philosopher Will(iam) (James) Durant, born in North Adams, Massachusetts (1885). After working briefly as a reporter for the New York Evening Journal—a job that was too exciting for his nature—he entered the seminary, since his parents wanted him to become a priest. He left after suffering a loss of faith, saying, "I suddenly discovered Spinoza; he made me feel I should be intellectually honest." When he was only 17 years old, he started teaching at an experimental school, fell in love with and married one of his students, the 14 year old Ariel Kaufman, who became his lifelong writing partner and collaborator. His second book The Story of Philosophy (1926) was widely praised because it was full of quotations and anecdotes and made Western philosophy come alive. It became a bestseller, was translated into twelve languages, and provided him with enough money to devote all of his time to writing. With Ariel, he spent a period of 40 years creating the eleven volume Story of Civilization collection (1935-1975). It established them as the best-known writers of popular philosophy and history. Volume Ten: Rousseau and Revolution (1967), won the Pulitzer Prize in 1968.

It's the birthday of investigative journalist Ida M(inerva) Tarbell, born in Erie County, Pennsylvania (1857), best known for her classic The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904), an examination of ruthless competitive practices and misuse of natural resources. It's the birthday of labor organizer and five-time presidential candidate, Eugene V(ictor) Debs, born in Terre Haute, Indiana (1855). He went to work on the railroad, and by the time he was 20, he had helped to form a local chapter of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, and became editor of their national magazine. The union was involved in the Pullman Strike of 1894, and was broken by a blanket court injunction and federal troops. When Debs refused to comply with the court injunction, he was jailed for six months. He formed the Social Democratic Party in 1898, which later became the Socialist Party. A true pacifist, he made speech condemning World War I, and was arrested, convicted and sentenced to ten years in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta. While serving his time, he made his fifth and final bid for the presidency, receiving nearly a million votes running as Convict #2273. He was released from prison on Christmas Day 1921, with a pardon from President Harding. He said, "It is the government that should ask me for a pardon."

"While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

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