December 17, 2003: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
As my class number would suggest, Ive been reading PAW for many years, but never with more interest than I gave the stories from Princetonians in Iraq (cover story, October 22). All well chosen, well written, and well edited. In my work at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency Ive had contact with many who were, and are, there, so this had special significance. Well done!
Wells Huff 52
The cumulative effect of recent events has collapsed my interest in flags and nations, partisanship, and chauvinism. The concept of Princeton in the nations service begins to seem parochial to me, and I wonder why Princeton would not choose instead to serve the whole world in its entirety? The student body is increasingly international, and if the school seeks nobility in its service then it certainly can foster no greater goal than serving the globe.
My disinterest with flags extends even to the fluttering blue banner of the U.N. I prefer to pledge allegiance to no power, but I am no friend of anarchy. All of this internal struggle I trace to the situation in Iraq, which started me thinking. I also appreciated your Reflections on Iraq, the thought-provoking anthology of essays.
It was Tally Parham 92s essay and photo that struck me. I was led to question myself further about my newfound discomfort with nation-states. A locomotive to that woman and to her skill and nerve; her story is a tribute to personal excellence and personal accomplishment.
But I am the father of two young daughters, and I ask, wouldnt it be a better future for them (and others), if they were not soon piloting the latest and greatest state-of-the-art model of flying destruction?
And what kind of world would it be if 100, or 50, or even 10 of my nations once 500-ship Navy fleet were hospital ships? What if they were platforms for dispensing life-preserving health care worldwide instead of platforms for missile-launching?
The world always will be a place of struggle, but I find myself wondering what the diplomatic power of $1 million of life-saving hospital care could gain our people (all people), over the $1-million cost for the launching of one cruise missile much too late after the fact. Reflections on Iraq stirs me now to ask myself questions like these. Thank you for the article.
Rocky Semmes 79
Gregg Lange 70s article about the war on terrorism (Perspective, October 22) hit the nail on the head in lamenting the disconnect between this and previous war-affected generations. It provided a haunting reminder of the sacrifices of the past, and an even starker warning that todays organization kids will be tomorrows policymakers.
I have one nit to pick: Lange points to the end of the draft as the point when students, and particularly Princeton students, began to disengage from national and international affairs. That may be the case at the most visible level, but it was the previous decades revolution in the academy that set the campus stage for todays warped conceptions of American foreign policy. That is, when those protesting the armed forces (either due to their policy on gays or their being used as a tool of imperialism) are made to feel more welcome than those serving in them, there is something wrong with our tolerant community.
When Princetonians consider our alma maters motto, we should think first of those literally serving the nation (and the peace of all nations) before applauding the various policy wonks and N.G.O.-niks who may or may not indirectly do so.
Ilya Shapiro 99
Your October 8 issue had a strong emphasis on remembrance President Tilghmans recollection (Presidents Page), Bill Plonk 83s letter, the Notebook item on the memorial garden dedication, and the announcement of 1948s Memorial Plaza outside West College. In her editors letter, Marilyn Marks *86 pointed out that remembering always has been important to Princeton and described the installation of bronze star memorials to alumni who died in the Korean War and the dedication of the garden to alumni killed on September 11, 2001. A university so stationed at the crossroads of history, as Princeton is, must expect that remembrance will be important and frequent.
Markss note that designers of the garden hoped that the memorial would be both a personal tribute to those who died, and a quiet space for contemplation cast me back 56 years to an afternoon in the fall of 1947 when I sat under a memorial grove of pine trees at the edge of the Princeton Battlefield and scribbled some very blank verse under the influence of a chill fall wind. While I wish it were better poetry, I also think there are hundreds of similar memorial verses written by Princeton students over many generations; I at least can plead to representing them.
Robert Ryerson Rodgers 47
Editors note: Click here to read Rodgerss poem.
I first enrolled in Princetons politics department as a graduate student in fall 1971. At that time a virtual civil war was under way between the leaders of the graduate student organization, most of whom were Marxists of one stripe or another, and the politics faculty, almost all of whom were Humphrey-McGovern liberals.
Graduate students sometimes would denounce the reactionary faculty to their faces for their retrograde views, and the faculty, long accustomed to thinking of themselves as enlightened and benevolent progressives, seemed utterly bewildered, not knowing how to respond to a direct attack by people to their left.
I often wondered in those days how a National Review-reading conservative like me was ever going to survive in that sort of environment. Faculty with political views to the right of the Democratic party were essentially nonexistent, and most of the faculty considered the views held by political conservatives like me to result from a combination of malevolence and stupidity. A rare exception was the international relations theorist Robert Gilpin, who once explained to me that he was the sole Republican among the Woodrow Wilson School and politics department faculty. To me the overwhelming message of Princeton seemed to be: Keep Out! Conservative Views Not Welcomed Here.
Things have changed considerably since that time. As an academic adviser for the last several years at one of Princetons undergraduate colleges, I have been struck by the much greater ease with which conservative students, including religious conservatives, seem to get along at Princeton nowadays.
While the faculty remains overwhelmingly left-liberal in its political orientation (surveys by student groups indicate a Democratic-to-Republican ratio in many departments of 10 to one, or more), students with conservative views no longer feel isolated or unwelcome. Much of the credit for this unquestionably positive development must surely go to the heretic in the temple whom Jim Merritt 66 writes about in the October 8 issue, Professor Robert P. George (cover story).
Prof. George has shown how just one high-profile conservative professor, who enjoys the respect of his liberal colleagues for his personal integrity and scholarship, and the ongoing institutional support of the University administration, can significantly change the political atmosphere on campus.
Conservative students have come to feel that there is at least one faculty member at Princeton who believes that their own views are not necessarily misbegotten or retrograde, and that they may even have something of genuine value to contribute to the campuswide political conversation.
One cannot overestimate how important this development has been for Princeton. Robby George is a gem whose addition to Princeton all Princetonians, regardless of their own political or philosophical views, should enthusiastically celebrate.
Russell Nieli *79
In the July 2 issue, you published my letter asking why the University had a female administration, and in an editors note you included statistics implying that it didnt have such an administration. I read in the October 26 New York Times Magazine that President Tilghman, being asked about the University, a powerful institution run largely by women, and about alumni complaints about the female administration, says she was not really surprised, implying that these were the same alumni who complained about coeducation. This is a surprising and insulting generalization. However, now you know how you should have answered my earlier letter: Instead of trying to deny the female administration with statistics, you should have said that I was an old fogey.
John Brittain 59
I do not recall seeing anything in PAW about the 300th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Edwards (17031758), minister, thinker, prolific author, and third president of Princeton. Since even as a Yale graduate Edwards and his family became intimately involved with Princeton this somehow seems a strange omission.
Princeton faculty can evaluate Edwards far better than I. As an interested alumnus who happens to be one of his many descendants, I have found myself reflecting on this complex, remarkable man. It appears widely agreed that he and Benjamin Franklin were the two most brilliant intellects of our colonial history. Understandably, Franklin continues to fascinate us. But Edwards, too, keeps turning up. On college and university campuses, scholars are attracted by his spiritual, philosophical, and psychological insights. Not long ago a study showed that during the previous 40 years the number of doctoral dissertations on Edwards had doubled every decade. Now at the dawn of the ultramodern 21st century Yale has gone to great lengths to publish a massive multivolume edition of Edwardss works. An important new biography has come out, several well-attended conferences on him have been held in different states, and a national symposium took place at the Library of Congress in Washington.
Most people know Edwards mainly as the preacher of the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Yet any examination of his writings indicates that he stressed more often the beauty, love, and glory of God than Gods severity. Though at times he could be remote, his contemporaries generally found him to be a hospitable, lovable man with an unbelievably pressured but exemplary family life. We also might celebrate the fact that he labored to educate frontier American Indians when so many English and French forces were exploiting them. His lifelong interest in science is well documented. Ironically his early death was, to a degree, the result of scientific concern. Smallpox being prevalent in Princeton and vaccination still unknown, he had himself inoculated as a protection and perhaps encouragement to others. After only a few weeks on the job as Prince-tons president, he suffered a bad result from the innoculation and died at 54.
Prior to his presidency, Edwards often attended Princeton commencements. One of his daughters married another Princeton president, Aaron Burr Sr., and his three sons all went to Princeton. Edwards Hall is a campus fixture, and a prestigious endowed chair in American history bears his name. When we look at his portrait in Nassau Hall, we do not see a president who did much to shape the college. He died too soon for that. Certainly, though, we are looking at one of the greatest figures ever to hold the office. If he does not rate a PAW cover story, my thought would be that his 300th birthday deserves honorable mention.
Robert L. Edwards 37
I would like to agree with J. Wilson Morris 61 that certain Princeton alumni in government service do not embody the ideals expressed in the motto Princeton in the nations service (Letters, September 10). Perhaps what all Princetonians in government service need to keep in mind is that a philosophy of winning at any cost ultimately will be destructive of the democracy Princeton so much wants to serve.
Robert J. Hall 67
The letter of Robert H. Braunohler 68 in the October 22 issue deftly avoids reality. Referring to his numbered paragraphs:
1. He ignores the increasingly huge chasm between the wealthy and the rest of our population. Tax cuts have accelerated the process. The wealthy should pay more.
2. Underfunding programs for the poor has the same effect as cutting them. Even the presidents No Child Left Behind campaign is being left behind.
3. When Bush took office, we were basking in budgetary surpluses that promised to continue and would wipe out a major portion of our national debt, thereby providing protection for the future of Social Security and Medicare. The Bush tax cuts decimated that possibility even before September 11.
4. Republican senators habitually rejected Clintons nominees to the federal bench. Their screams of outrage about similar treatment of Bush nominees smacks of hypocrisy.
5. It is farcical to claim that a coalition of nations fought alongside us in Iraq. Those few troops that we did extort from elsewhere, aside from Britain, have been provided under enormous economic pressure. Their numbers have been dwarfed by the relatively small and still inadequate numbers of American troops that Bush continues to keep in harms way. J. Wilson Morris 61 is correct in decrying such bullying tactics and in being concerned about their effects upon the long-term attitudes of countries that have been subjected to such treatment.
American soldiers are being killed every day in Iraq. Each of their deaths increases my rage at the senselessness of it all. So does the report of Michael Viola 59, Despair flowed from a river that once brought luck, in the October 22 issue of PAW (cover story). I get no solace from the suffering imposed by us upon Iraqi men, women, and children.
Eugene F. Corrigan 47
It must be nice for alumnae to be able to read a full-page article about a retiring field hockey coach (Sports, February 26) and then another full page about her successor (Sports, October 22). Meanwhile the alumni search almost in vain for football (and basketball) reports, which in essence indicate little more than the scores. I would like to remind those who produce PAW that at present and for several decades to come the vast majority of the PAW readers are men, and they should be acknowledged accordingly.
Lawrence P. Mills Jr. 40
Princetons black squirrels figured briefly, but importantly, in my college career (feature, October 8). On my only tour of colleges north of Athens, Georgia, I visited Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, and Princeton, in that order. My Princeton interviewer noted (accurately, although I had no idea at the time) that those are three very different schools. Why those schools, she asked, and why Princeton?
The questions caught me off guard, and my answer was unrehearsed. I explained that all three schools had black squirrel populations, but no, that was not really the connection. I had no good answer to the first question, so I went on to the second. At Northwestern, the squirrels had ignored me; at Hopkins, they ran away; but at Princeton, they came near and begged for food.
From this I concluded that students at Princeton had time to feed the squirrels and, I assumed, to smell the roses, too. When she stopped laughing, she said no promises, but shed see what she could do for me. Some months later, William Ruckelshaus 55 explained to my entering class why he had chosen Princeton: I liked the way the name sounded, he said, letting the name roll out: PRINCE-ton. But whats in a name? Ill take the squirrels any day.
John Williamson 81
I am one of the clean-cut athletes in your From the Archives photograph (October 8). At the left is the late Jack Powers 50, who played fullback. I am next to him. I played center and linebacker. Across from Jack is the late Norm Moore 50, who played weak side guard (single wing in those days). The picture was taken in 1949, our senior year and the first year the team went to Blairstown for early fall practice.
Don Cohn 50
In a letter in the September 10 issue, PAW misidentified Mitch Danielss class. He is a member of the Class of 1971.