In August 1962, between my sophomore and junior years in high school, I was selected — I do not recall the reason for or process behind my selection — as a delegate to the International Religious Fellowship (IRF)-Student Religious Liberals (SRL) Conference at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, a week long conference. I may have been selected to attend by the Norfolk-Suffolk Federation of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), of which I was a member and by which I had just been chosen as a representative to the New England Regional Committee (NERC).
There were few other members of LRY in attendance. The conference was mostly for college students and slightly older people who were affiliated with the two organizations, namely, IRF and SRL.
I lived in Canton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The train trip to Springfield took around two hours. I took a train to get to the conference. It seemed like a big trip then, like going far away from home.
I was one of the youngest attendees. I felt a little strange at first, but I learned something valuable. I decided that I had no choice but to take the plunge and get to know people. It worked. I made some very good friends there. There was a fellow from Ghana, J. K. Ohene, a very nice man whom I befriended and who came to visit me in Canton during the 1962-1963 academic year. There was a Scotch guy named Frank. And, a German guy named Joe, who, in retrospect, I thought might have been gay. He was a very nice man.
It was an international conference, and many of the delegates were from abroad.
It was an invaluable experience for me. I was already a tolerant person and an internationalist by nature. (My mother had instilled these types of values in me.) But I learned a lot about relating to people, and I liked them so much. They fully reciprocated my friendship.
–– Roger W. Smith
Note: J. K. Ohene was author of Handle us with great care (Some religious questions answered) (Accra: The Ghana Society of Religious Liberals, 1965).