December 5, 2001: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length, accuracy, clarity, and civility. Our address: Princeton Alumni Weekly, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton, NJ 08542 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Ben Edelmans letter (October 10) about Alex Rawsons article on the need for more historical exposure (On the Campus, May 16) deserves an answer. I have no doubt Edelman speaks for the future Princeton that Harold Shapiro began to shape, Princeton in the service . . . of all nations. A hundred years from now, at Princetons tercenquinquagenary, it may well be that we will no longer be an American university. We may be a purely global enterprise, one thats merely situated in New Jer-see. Until then, however, I take Rawsons side. Princeton boasts American roots. We have an American identity. We are an American university.
Edelmans reply was thoughtful and articulate, but it shows what happens when a representative of one of those worthy cultures that make up Princetons (and Americas) diverse array feels compelled to assert that groups claims to curricular hegemony. Of the five items he considers indispensable for all Princeton undergraduates, two focus on what I take to be his own cultural priority the Holocaust and the Middle East. Do those events deserve coverage? Of course. Should the lessons they teach be analyzed and absorbed? Absolutely. But to make them the spine of any American universitys historical curriculum strikes me an act of distorted cultural self-interest.
Im with those who say that all Princetonians, and especially those who come from abroad, ought to learn some of the crucial facts and principles of American history and culture. If this means knowing the name of John Marshall, the dominant shaper of the third branch of the U.S. government, then by all means learn it. And learn it first. Global affairs, as we are now even more aware, are going to impinge increasingly on our way of life. Our teaching of history should take note of that pressure its sources, its beliefs. But we should have a clear knowledge of our culture first. Such a mastery could in fact prove instrumental in helping us shape that wider world according to those unique ideals we as a nation have formulated.
Jamie Spencer 66
Like many Americans, I am amazed at the hatred being vented on our country at this time. This is the country that comes to the rescue of people victimized by natural disasters anywhere in the world with all the help we can muster. People seeking to live in freedom come here legally (and illegally) from all over the world, and are welcomed. We take in hordes of refugees, and on many occasions we have helped to overthrow their oppressors and return their countries to them.
After much thought, I have concluded that the reason for the fanatical hatred of America is not just our superpower status or our prosperity or even envy of our lifestyle. We have what many world leaders consider dangerous ideas.
There is no other country in the world that provides its citizens with the protection from government embodied in our Bill of Rights. This concept is a threat to all who would control the lives of others. That individuals can be free to own property, travel as they wish, say what they think, work where they will, own weapons, be entitled to a speedy and public trial by a jury of their peers, be entitled to confront their accusers in court, and to subpoena defense witnesses, and, more important, that our government is required to honor these rights, is a concept not specified anywhere else in the world.
The founders of our United States understood, from firsthand experience, the importance of limiting power. They labored long and hard to provide us with a constitution that would protect us from government. As the direct result we have been blessed with one of the longest surviving governments in the world.
Since the end of World War II and the advent of the Internet, which authoritarians find difficult to control, these dangerous ideas are being spread worldwide at an ever-increasing pace. Many think this must be stopped before people understand that they CAN all be free.
America has created the worlds most successful economy precisely because of these freedoms. We have no monopoly on the worlds resources. Free people just make more efficient use of them, when left to their own devices. Freedom also causes self-reliance, and optimism, and encourages individuals to take risks and create new and better products and ways to accomplish objectives.
In this country we have built a better mousetrap, and those who decline to emulate us, for whatever reason, hate us for our success, and especially the ideology that made it possible.
Burnet Fisher 46
I was at the splendid outdoor enthronement of Shirley Tilghman as our 19th president on September 28. Everything was perfect except for the invocation. I found it dismaying that Bishop Frederick Borsch would begin by invoking O Creative Spirit! and never once in his lengthy address ever utter the word God, though he returned vigorously to Spirit. This in spite of the fact that throughout the U.S. in this period of national crisis and trauma God bless America is sung with fervor at public gatherings, and never mind that Princetons banner with our motto Dei sub numine viget was prominently displayed behind the platform, or that the oath of office of the president required her to say so help me God three times.
Is this an ominous harbinger that Dei sub numine viget will soon become mundi creatori numini, if not ingenii sub numine viget?
Edward A. Tiryakian 52
When I was a sophomore, I bickered and was not accepted. Raised in an affluent WASP culture outside Philadelphia, I never questioned the morality of bicker. Of course I never felt like an outsider, and I couldnt understand why five of my roommates refused to participate and considered it shallow and antiquated. They perceived it as an exclusionary, vestigial remnant of Princetons prep school past.
It was only after I was turned down and had to find a place of my own that I understood what my roommates meant.
What is the moral of this? That bicker is socially useful and should exist to bring sheltered affluent students into the reality of multicultural upper middle and lower income class America, or that its presence is an affront to the majority of Princetonians whom it seeks to exclude?
I would love to hear the opinions of those who chose not to bicker or were turned down.
Karen Smith 83
I wholeheartedly support those whove written with criticisms of the alumni trustee ballots as they have evolved in recent years.
It is always helpful to learn of a candidates personal and professional attainments and some such information should be on the ballot, of course. But the gut issue the only one that really matters, since we can assume the Alumni Council nominating committee has done due diligence is what the candidate thinks about one of the great educational institutions of the modern world. What is the candidates vision of Princetons future? How would she or he want the university to change over time? In what respects should Princeton not seek to change? What does the candidate most value in a higher education? What specifically does Princeton in the nations service and the service of all nations mean to the candidate?
Charles W. Bray 55
Several of our readers contacted us about this photograph (From the Archives, October 24) of a picnic near the Armory in 1971. The fellows were identified from left to right as George Frelinghuysen, Jack Lloyd, and Charlie Scribner, all from the Class of 1973. The women are still not positively named.
Those who communicated with us included R. Marks Arnold 73, S. C. Parsons 72, Chuck Goldberg 71, Gil Lamphere 74, Mac Brown 73, and Jonathan McCall 72. Gordon Walmsley 71 wrote from London, noting the strong physical similarity between himself and Frelinghuysen.