John Steinbeck was a controversial figure, in part because he advocated for collective action at a time when that was seen as “communist” or “anti-American”. However the idea that people need to work together for the common good is receiving more popular attention now. In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath Reverend Casy shares his developing philosophy, “Maybe all men got one big soul every’body’s a part of.” (Grapes of Wrath) It is the growing consciousness of the collective soul that moves Steinbeck’s heroic characters to take action to serve the greater good.
The National Steinbeck Center is dedicated to preserving John Steinbeck’s legacy by being a living example of his ideals in action. We have forged relationships with other non profit organizations that share similar values and aspirations to build our collective capacity to deeply impact our community in ways we could never have done alone. Some examples include:
• Ocean, one of a series of performing arts programs at the Steinbeck Institute of Arts and Culture at Sherwood Hall. Developed through a partnership between SpectorDance and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Ocean is a new dance media project about cultural issues facing our world ocean and the interdependence between mankind and the environment. 1200 students attended a morning performance followed by an evening show for the general public, which also featured 10 different local environmental groups.
• In May, through a collaboration with the Grammy Museum and the Woody Guthrie Foundation, we celebrated the centennial of Woody Guthrie as a part of the annual Steinbeck Festival. Connected through their shared spiritual conviction to tell the story of working people, Steinbeck and Guthrie represent the power of a single voice to make social change.
• This July, the National Steinbeck Center took on the administration for the Youth Orchestra Salinas (YoSal). YoSal is an El Sistema-inspired program that transforms the lives of our youth through the inspiration, discipline and performance of classical ensemble music. Over three decades ago in Venezuela one man dreamed of a better world for children living in poverty: Dr. Joe Antonio Abreu said, “give children musical instruments and they will never carry a gun: teach them to play classical Orchestra music and they will learn how to live a musical life….The orchestra and the choir are much more than artistic studies. They are examples of social life. To sing and play together means to intimately coexist.” El Sistema has improved the lives of marginalized young people throughout Venezuela, Columbia and elsewhere, and is doing the same in Salinas and the Salinas Valley.
• Also this fall, we launched a partnership with the Strengthening Families Program, an inspired, nationally recognized program developed to improve parenting skills, promote healthy development of youth aged 10-14 years of age, and generally strengthen the family unit of at-risk families.
• Just last week, the Filipino Voices Exhibition closed, which was a year-long project with the California Central Coast Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FAHNS) who co-curated the exhibition. The exhibition told the stories of the Filipinos who immigrated to the Central Coast and the challenges they faced, the contributions they made to the fabric of the local culture and economy and the sacrifices they made to courageously and heroically serve our nation. This exhibition linked the Filipino-American legacy to that of the broader region and even the world.
The National Steinbeck Center’s success in transforming the community is evidence that by working together we can create a better world.
John Steinbeck believed passionately in our individual capacity to consider the higher purposes of the community over our own self-interest. The central characters in The Grapes of Wrath: Ma and Tom Joad, Rose of Sharon, Jim Casy all serve as examples of characters that have such compassion for mankind that their commitment to others transcends the bleakest of circumstances and they willingly offer themselves for and to others.
We have BIG plans as we look to next year but we depend on your compassionate generosity. Please consider making the most generous donation of which you are capable. You can depend that the National Steinbeck Center will leverage your support through our collaborations with other non-profits to maximize the benefit of your contribution.
With deep gratitude,