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Schiff, Philip: A Political Campaign Speech – 1937

Philip Schiff’s Campaign Speech, for Election to the 1st Assembly District of New York State, 1937

as the American Labor Party Candidate


Philip Schiff, Social Worker and Director of Madison House Settlement

“For the first time in the history of the Lower East Side there is real unanimity in agreeing upon a standard bearer who will carry the issue of good government into the next campaign.

“It is not enough that such a person should have been born on the East Side, that he should have graduated from a local public school or uptown High School that he is a graduate of N.Y.U.  There are many, many such people who have “come thru the mill”.  It is important that the principles he stands for are so definitely and intelligently “pro-masses” that no doubt is left in the minds of the electorate as to his record and ability to carry on the fight for good government in the legislative chambers of the State.

“For years the first Assembly District has been misrepresented.  The present Assemblyman, James J. Dooling has never accounted to his constituency for his actions in the Assembly.  Few of us even know what he looks like!  His loyalty has been of the type that only where Tammany Hall was concerned was he disturbed as to how much he could to pull it out of its several dilemmas.  A non-entity to his legislative brethren in the Assembly, he remained so insofar as his district is concerned.  The only reason for his successive elections to the Assembly lies in the fact that Tammany’s grip in the district has been so strong as to keep the public in a complete state of lethargy.

Schiff Campaign Poster 1937″Those problems, with which our neighborhood is so vitally concerned left him completely untouched. Housing was as much of a concern to him as the theory of relativity to a new born babe.  Health insurance awakened as much consideration in his breast as good government has to Tammany.  The plight of our youth has received as much consideration from him as the deer which falls into a lion’s clutches.  The problem of relief and the need for increased allowances have been of as much bother to him as classical music is to the tiger whose stripes he wears.  Curtailments of W.P.A. and the fact that Children W.P.A. workers and others have not enough milk to drink due to the monopolistic strangle hold on the large milk companies, mean as much to him as the use one has for a match which has burned itself out and parks and playgrounds.  The High Cost of Living is apparently something which exists in Mars as far as he and Tammany are concerned.  He has kept in touch with labor problems and labor’s need in our neighborhood in the same manner as the masses do with those who have been struck down in leprosy. Bills dealing with the Public Welfare are anathema to him since it means that some thinking would have to be done on behalf of the public and such thought processes take time and energy.  Child Labor to him is something that appears in Webster’s Dictionary and has no living, concrete relationship to the world of today, Health clinics, youth centers, crime prevention, public utilities, vocational guidance are subject to be run away from, in Mr. Dooling’s opinion as though they were relatives of the ten plagues.

“These and many other problems with which our district is concerned must be given a real airing, not only in the neighborhood but in the Assembly Hall as well.  We mean to conduct our campaign on as high a level as possible. There will be no mud slinging on the part of those interested in unseating Mr. Dooling. The thousands of folks who make up the district are, I believe, finally awakened to the fact that only they can help themselves in bringing about a “better East Side for and by East Siders”.  It will be great concern to us that they be made aware of the issues above enumerated.  This campaign will be an educational one and a practical lesson in civics for our constituency including Downtown Tammany.

“My connection and experiences on the Lower East Side over a period of thirty years have brought me into close, personal contact with the problems our people have to contend with.  It has been my pleasure to work with all races and creeds.  As Headworker of Madison House I have studied first hand the problems of what the rich call “slum dwellers”.  As chairman of the Lower East Federation, an organization composed of churches, settlements, trade unions, social clubs, etc., I know intimately the trials and tribulations of our neighbors.

“I have been assured by civic organizations such as the Federation, the Lower East Side Public Housing Conference, settlement heads and many other organizations of their support in this battle to bring decent good government and intelligent service to the community.  What I desire more than anything else, more than the support already given by the American Labor Party, City Fusion and City Progressive — is the support of the masses who now have for the first time a real opportunity to reveal that a self-respecting, thinking people they will send to Albany someone who modestly asks for an opportunity to be of service to them.

“As a united progressive group we do not intend to let go of the tiger’s tail until it has been twisted beyond recognition!  A defeat for Tammany in the 1st Assembly District. means a death blow from Tammany in the city.  What an opportunity for the American Labor Party and those in sympathy with its aims!  For the sake of the thousands who reside in the 1st District., the city and the state, we must not permit it to slip out of our grasp!

“The “Dooling way” is the path to loss of civic self-respect, an acknowledgment of defeat for obtaining the things we want most, an agreement to continue playing with a representative who is tied lock, stock and barrel to a system which has for years been “kidding” the public and is constantly under public scrutiny because of its many excursions into the public through for its own benefit.

“The Progressive way– our way of A.L.P., City Fusion, City Progressive, the way of the enlightened social forces– all lead to decent, honest and intelligent public service.  It is the path that should be followed by all of us.  And so, Avant!”

Source: Personal files of Philip Schiff shared by his daughter Mrs. Jeanne Talpers.

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