Therese Park

Marian Anderson: The Goodwill Ambassador

At a post office one day, I saw stamps with Marian Anderson’s portrait printed on and told the clerk I wanted ten of them. As she handed them to me, I told her that I had heard Anderson sing in Korea when I was in high school.
“I didn’t know she went there,” said the clerk.
I told her it was a part of Anderson’s ten-week concert tour of the South Pacific and Asia in 1957, and that two years earlier, the State Department in Washington had awarded her with the position “Good Will Ambassador,” a prestigious honor any American could dream of. “I am one of the lucky ones who heard her live performance.”
“Wait a minute,” the clerk said. “I thought Marian Anderson was an actress, not a singer.”
I couldn’t believe how ignorant she was. I almost said, “Do you consider yourself an American, not knowing who Marian Anderson was?” But fortunately my gentler side (if applicable) took over the situation. “Maybe we are not talking about the same Marian Anderson,” I said, and quickly left the post office.
If the clerk had listened, I would have told her more about Anderson, especially the way her fellow Americans treated her due to her non-white skin, and what powerful messages she delivered to her fellow African-Americans of today, with her magnificent voice and elegant stage manners.

That summer evening in 1957, our family sat on the balcony of Ehwa University’s auditorium/​gymnasium in Seoul, anxiously waiting for Anderson’s recital to begin. After the Korean War had ended with the Truce in July 1953, our country’s door was wide open, and world-level engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and experts in all areas of life poured into our war-wrecked country--some to help rebuild it and some to seek fortune.
Musicians, artists and entertainers came too. As horrifying as it was, the Korean War introduced us to the rest of the world, and now we were indulging in a healthy diet of cultural nourishment from all over the world.
As a sophomore in high school, I had just started playing cello, and my anticipation of hearing Anderson’s recital was beyond words. This was the singer the grand conductor Arturo Toscanini complimented by saying, “The world can hear such a voice only once in a hundred years.” How could one not be excited?
Ehwa University auditorium wasn’t built for music performances. The hardwood floor squeaked whenever someone walked on it, and the stage was poorly lit. The black velvet curtains on both sides of the stage weren’t the best things in music halls, but we didn’t know it back then. This auditorium was the only building in Seoul spacious enough to accommodate a thousand music lovers, and we proudly called it “The Korean Carnegie Hall.”
The hall lights suddenly dimmed, and tall black lady in a long, snow-white dress appeared on the stage. The applause shook the hall. She reminded me of a black swan with gleaming white feathers.
The program began in a hushed silence. As Anderson’s rich velvety voice echoed through the auditorium, I was led into her music world. While she sang Schubert’s Ave Maria, I wanted to rush to our church and kneel and pray; while she sang the Negro Spirituals, I was one of the cotton-pickers in southern America. At some point of the evening, I felt as though it was I who was singing my heart’s content, telling of my sorrow, my faith in God, and my longing for peace and freedom. It was something I had never felt before.
When the recital ended with three curtain calls, I wanted to be a musician. What would be more rewarding than being able to express my deeper feelings, like Anderson could with her voice?
Ten years later, I joined the Kansas City Philharmonic (now the Symphony), after two degrees from two music schools--one from Seoul, Korea, and another from Paris, France.
One day, during an out of town concert, I overheard the conversation that Marian Anderson had been the featured soloist with the Philharmonic a year before. It wasn’t a happy story at all. While the local newspapers raved about Anderson’s luscious voice and outstanding accomplishments, all hotel owners in downtown Kansas City refused to give the black singer a room. Anderson had no choice but get a room in all black area, miles from the Music Hall!
It was the first lesson that taught me about racial discrimination the white Americans inflicted on their black neighbors. I revisited the summer night in 1957 many times, while practicing cello or walking or riding a metro. How wonderful it would have been, had I joined the Philharmonic a year earlier and met her in person? I would have mustered some courage to go up to her on the back stage and introduced myself, saying I had heard her in Seoul. I am sure Anderson would have been glad to learn that her music so inspired a teenage girl on the other side of the globe that she eventually found her way to the United States.

The Kansas City Star
"Heartland Honor Flight is all about showing our gratitude to those who fought for our country's freedom," the president John Doole says.
During the Korean War, long segregation in the U.S. military ended.
"To win, you must know your enemy," wrote Chinese Ancient General Sun-Tzu (544-496 B.C.)
...their beloved country in whose honor they defended my helpless homeland in the Far East six decades ago has become my own beloved motherland.
To the parishioners at Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Leawood, their pastor is a healer, confessor, teacher and compassionate friend who rejoices with them at happy times and grieves with them at times of loss and injury.
“The truth about Jesus Christ reached Korean soil in 1784," Pope John Paul II said during the canonization of 103 Korean Martyrs in 1984. In a most marvelous way, divine grace moved your ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the risen Christ..."
During the trip to Korea together, our mother-daughter roles were reversed. My daughter seemed to think that I needed her care, not the other way around.
The Kansas City Philharmonic enriched the lives of many during its 49 years.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Messages on Violence
A Korean Grandma and her American Grandkids
Average people made the world we live in today.
Albert Schweitzer said, “You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing…for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”
Pilgrims are everywhere here on the square of the Basilica of Our Lady, some are walking on their knees and some are kneeling at the glass-walled Chapel of Apparition where the Blessed Virgin appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
Woodcarvers find fun, therapy and friendship
Behind a tough cookie, there's a culture that nourished her soul
Not biting is a sign of appreciation
After Tucsan shooting rampage
Without a healthy brain, one cannot live a healthy life
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots.”
Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "In War, there is no substitute for victory."
Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues but the parent of all others.
Our home became a church when homeless priests and nuns moved in with us.
Victor Hugo's view of his old age
Forgetfulness comes with aging
Learning is for all ages.
Mixture of feelings about seeing Amercans' departure from my country Korea
Foreigner's view of today's China
The "Wake up call" isn't only for Chinese parents but for all American parents.
The Korean War isn't "Forgotten"
I once had compassion for all caged birds. But since I became a bird-owner, my opinion about them has changed.
South Korea today gives thanks to all American troops who fought to preserve its peace at the cost of their lives.
The Kansas City Star Commentary 9/20/14
My first visit to Fort Leavenworth as a guest of LTC Kim Kwang-soo, South Korean Liaison Officer to the U.S. Military
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit South Korea in 1984--to canonize 103 Korean martyrs
The seeds of the Church is the blood of the martyrs.
Column/ Kansas City Star
Father Emil Kapaun: recipient of Medal or Honor 2013
The U.S. government purchased Alaska in 1867 for only $7.2 million dollars from Russia, that includes 500 million acres of land with 3 million streams full of fish and otters, and tall snow-capped mountains providing shelter for bears, moose, mountain sheep and more.
The Best Times
He liberated music from a cloistered form set by earlier composers...
The racial discrimination the white American inflicted upon their black neighbors.
Magazine Article
Traditional Chinese medical doctors have been using bird-nests for centuries to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, to rejuvenate skin, and to boost energy for both young and old.
It takes courage to deal with the human condition called "aging."
Feature article
Inchon Landing was one of the most successful operations in modern military history.
Magazine Articles
Korean War Prisoner-of War Story