Burien Resident’s Great-Great Grandfather Subject Of Documentary Film

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Samuel Ullman, great-great grandfather of Burien's Carolyn Rosenfieldby Janet Grella

Burien resident Carolyn Rosenfield stopped by our B-Town Blog booth at the Farmers’ Market last week to tell us about a documentary film about her great-great grandfather, Samuel Ullman.

Documentary filmmaker Judith Schaefer details his life, as well as the impact of a poem he wrote, on the re-building of Japan after World War II in a one-hour film entitled “So Long Are You Young.”

As a child, Samuel Ullman settled in the southern United States before the Civil War with his family, comprised of German-born Jewish immigrants. After a life spent in a variety of fields, including as a soldier in the Civil War, merchant, rabbi, philosopher and community activist, Mr. Ullman turned to writing poetry in his final years.

“Youth” was written in 1917 when he was 77.

“Youth” came into the possession of General Douglas MacArthur, whose framed display of it deeply impressed Japanese visitors to his Tokyo office at the close of WWII. Subsequently spread across the then-broken nation, the poem inspired a generation of Japanese desperate for hope. Today, prominent Japanese businessmen still cite its influence.

Well-known in Japan, this little known American poem has been quoted by Ann Landers, Dear Abby, and both the American (1945), and Japanese (1946) Readers Digests. It was a favorite of Sen. Robert Kennedy, and was quoted by Sen. Ted Kennedy at the eulogy of his slain brother.

This compelling documentary was premiered at the Vancouver Film Festival in 2007. Carolyn is hoping to show it at Seattle’s’ Jewish Film Festival. If you have a group that would like to see this film, please contact us by email here.

Here’s the poem, “Youth” by Samuel Ullman:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease.  This often exists in a man of sixty more than a body of twenty.  Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.  Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living.  In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

And here’s an MP3 of a reading of it:

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