In Vol.4, No. 10 of The Slovak Spectator, an unsigned photo caption entitled "Up With People, down with brainless twits" commented on the recent visit of the organization Up With People to Slovakia. In the name of the Organizing Committee, we would like to address this letter to a concrete journalist, but due to the fact that the aforementioned contribution was anonymous, we have to address our reaction to the editor and all readers of the newspaper.
The article contains two technical inaccuracies (incorrect date of the show and distorted information about the number of spectators) which prove the shallow interest of the author in the event and his very limited view of the activities and objectives of the organization Up With People. It is surprising that The Slovak Spectator, which has always tried to be independent and unbiased, publishing only objective information, provided space to this unknown author who did not make any effort to obtain any further information about Up With People.
In a vulgar manner, the author dishonoured the work of many people who are trying to orient young people all around the world towards positive values, to spread the idea of friendly co-existence with people of various races, cultures and religions and to unite people with different opinions. Aren't these the same objectives that the founders of The Slovak Spectator set themselves when they established their newspaper? Why didn't the unknown "art critic " put his name under the photo caption? Is he perhaps ashamed of his opinion?
Up With People was founded in 1965 in the United States, and gradually grew into a world-wide organization. It is an international educational program for young people from the entire world who, during one year spent travelling around the world, recognize dilferent cultures, receive education in many areas and perform in a musical.
During more than 32 years of its existence, this organization has visited more than 60 countries in the world, and approximately l8,000 young people from 85 different countries have participated in it.
An important aspect of the program is the public welfare work in which members of this organization engage in every city they visit. Up With People spent one week in Slovakia (May 4-11, 1998). Students from the organization spent their first two days in Slovakia in Bratislava elementary schools under the auspices of the project "Drug-free Slovakia".
The entire project - in which nine Bratislava elementary schools participated - was oriented towards drug use prevention. We received positive reactions from every school involved - not only from the directors and teachers but also from the students, who unanimously appreciated the inventive and interesting nature of the project.
Before performing in Hlavné námestie, Up With People had presented its musical "The Festival" in Nova Scena. Former President of the Slovak Republic Michal Kováč, with his wife and Margita Mečiarova, wife of the current prime minister, also saw the premiere of this musical and unanimously appreciated its message - to unite people of various opinions and races.
By their spontaneous long applause on both evenings, the spectators successfully requested two encores. The same happened on Hlavné námestie in the evening. The evening musical performance was opened by the Mayor of Bratislava, Peter Kresanek. On that night approximately 2,500 people gathered in the square and they also demanded two encores.
It was probably only the unknown author who missed the main idea and message of the festival. But he does not have to despair, because thanks to the show's great success and the positive reactions of the general public and all those who helped us organize the event, we are planning another visit of Up With People to Slovakia.
At the personal invitation of the Italian President, after a one-week stay in Bratislava Up With People moved to Italy. A few days ago they performed not only before the Italian president, but also in St. Peter's Square before Pope John Paul II, who probably does not regard this musical as a "inane, banal exhibition of American cultural onanism" - unlike the author of the short photo caption that appeared in a periodical which until recently we had regarded as a highly serious and cultivated one.
It is startling that the show was called "an American musical" if we take into account that people from 24 countries from around the world stood on the stage and sang songs in eight different languages. Did the writer miss the many national and ethnical songs and dances from various countries? Can we regard a Moldavian or Mexican national dance, Asian war arts or South African and Japanese songs as manifestations of the American culture?
It is astonishing that The Slovak Spectator, a periodical which has been publishing only objective, unbiased and trustworthy information, gave up the principles which it had been previously following, and offered space to an author who evaluated this event on the basis of a minimum of information and a great dose of ignorance .
It is even more surprising that this opinion appeared in your bi-weekly in spite of the fact that the author did not even find it appropriate to put his name on his contribution.