November 19, 2003: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
I was delighted to see Robert George recognized in your October 8 issue (cover story). As an alumnus, I had the privilege over several years of auditing his lectures. His erudition was obvious, but, more important, his talent for engaging his students and stimulating their minds was an example of teaching at its finest. Regardless of political persuasion, one could not help but know one was in the presence of a special mind and a true credit to our university.
Wil Britten 45
In your article, Professor Robert P. George is called a social conservative. In the opinions described in the article, however, the professor favors government sanction of a social agenda based upon traditional Catholic doctrine. For example, he apparently opposes the legal rights to abortion and euthanasia. Also, he approves of laws against adultery, fornication, and sodomy.
A conservative should be wary of government power in support of any social agenda, whether it be called liberal or conservative. Government power is necessary to provide for the physical security of its citizens and to redress egregious wrongs. Beyond that, the people should be left alone. Government power should not be used in the service of any orthodoxy. Calling Professor George a conservative is akin to calling President Bush one.
Robert C. Lang Jr. 70
I wish you had interviewed more students who dont share Georges right-wing views. I disagree with him on nearly everything, but when I took his civil liberties class in the early 1990s, I found him engaging and prepared to argue the right (progressive) side of the debate as persuasively as he argued his right-wing side of the debate.
Mike Bocian 95
The article about Professor George was entitled Heretic in the Temple.
We know that President Tilghman is committed to ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity. Why not an equal commitment to intellectual diversity?
It seems to us that there should be more than one tenured professor in the humanities and social sciences able to reflect an established intellectual tradition, one that represents the viewpoints of a substantial portion of our citizenry. We call upon President Tilghman and the trustees to seek more heretics, so that Professor George wont be so lonely in the temple.
Alex B. Donner 75
In a September 27, 2003, New York Times op-ed piece, columnist David Brooks quoted Professor Robert George as saying of conservative students, We need to send our best soldiers into battle.
Students as ideological soldiers? Far from the balanced, scholarly professor portrayed in PAWs October 8 article, George apparently sees his classes as boot camp for right-wing combatants in the culture wars. Although indoctrination is the accepted mission of some universities (Bob Jones and Liberty, for example), training ideological extremists of any stripe can only corrode Princetons academic integrity.
Kurt Schwarz *84
Edward W. Said 57, the longtime Columbia University professor and the author of numerous books and articles, died September 25. According to obituaries, Dr. Said served as a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale and was awarded 20 honorary degrees, including one from the American University of Beirut last June. As an alumnus I would be interested in knowing whether Princeton ever honored him.
Robert F. Ober Jr. 58
Editors note: According to the Office of the President, Said has not received an honorary degree from Princeton.
I send my heartfelt thanks to Kristina Chew 90 for An Unexpected Childhood (Perspective, September 10). She is an autism mom. I am an autism grandmom to a delightful little fellow named Joseph.
Joseph and his family live about 100 miles from us but because Grandpop (James W. Sayre 37) was an invalid, they would come to our home to visit. Joey would stand by Grandpops huge electric chair and pat his knee, looking up with his shining brown eyes, and smiling. He is a little boy who is easy to love.
Let us all be aware and open our hearts to these special children, for they share with us a special gift.
Elaine Sayre w37
In his October 8 letter Jonathan Ophardt 03 criticizes President Tilghmans Commencement address because it did not specifically mention military service as an avenue for performing public service. He said he found her remarks discouraging. His criticism is unfair. In some sense the armed services are part of the federal government and thus, in fact, were mentioned as a place where one may serve the public. Second, any fair reading of President Tilghmans remarks leads to the conclusion that she was attempting to be as inclusive as possible in conveying an idea within the constraints imposed by the time allotted to make an informed and inspiring address. This goal she accomplished. Finally, I observe that President Tilghman also did not specifically mention the myriad other ways the public may be served, including by service as a judicial officer or as a member of one of the several councils of the National Academy of Sciences.
Henry Kennedy Jr. 70
Mark Bernstein 83s Soldier of Fortune (cover story, September 10) was a refreshing and incisive piece. What I found impressive, however, was not so much Johnny Poe 1895s struggle with his ambitions or demons, as the literary quality of the snippets from his letters, etc. These from a young man who spent very little time at Princeton and, while there, was not terribly assiduous. Nonetheless, his erudition and phrasing are remarkable for an essentially high school education; one wonders if current Princeton graduates could write as well.
Stephen M. Nagy Jr. 60
It was my luck to have known Johnny Poes younger brother, Arthur Poe 1900, who often delighted in describing Johnnys predicament in a Central American port when, with an enemy army in hot pursuit, Poe had to escape quickly. Lo, there along the quay was a ship just ready to leave. Perfect except that the captain made clear that Poes passage would depend on how many pieces of baggage he had to take with him. Fifty-four, was Johnnys prompt reply. The captain declined, the two argued, and finally the captain relented to the point of inquiring as to the nature of the baggage. Poes classic answer, A deck of cards and a pair of socks.
John M. Ely Jr. 41
Regarding Johnny Poe, one of Arthur Krock 08s favorite stories concerned Poes comment that life in the trenches in France wasnt too bad until the German band would strike up For God, For Country, and for Yale.
William W. Stevenson 50
The other day I was telling the story of a hero from Princeton, and now I see his photo in PAW with a group of former Rhodes Scholars (Notebook, September 10). When I was a senior a proud moment in Princetons history occurred when many at the University protested the secret bombing of Cambodia. A campus-wide debate ensued about the neutrality of science.
During that debate it was pointed out that Agent Orange had been developed at Princeton by a chemist to help with harvesting peaches, synchronizing ripening by defoliating the orchard. The use of this chemical cocktail as a weapon was beyond the scientists control, but he was working under a grant from the military.
Much thoughtful exchange occurred during the debate, but it eventually devolved into an academic exercise when it was announced that science is neutral and Princeton would not refuse grants from the military.
It was then that a very courageous hero stood up and announced that even though he could see no way the results of his Navy-sponsored grant to study the edges of the universe with a radio telescope could be used to wage war he would, nevertheless, give up his grant. To this day I occasionally relate my admiration for individual heroism by telling this story of Bruce Partridge 62.
I have often wondered what became of this brave Princetonian whose courageous act was in the nations service.
Larry Campbell 70
The September 10 issue had more interesting material than Ive seen in a long time, including the two-page A.C.L.U. advertisement.
The piece that really caught my fancy was about the scientist/poet collaboration. Poetry is highly compressed language, packing the most possible power and meaning into few words. In the same way, scientists are searching for the simple relationships that underlie complex observations.
Rick Mott 73
Our October 8 story on Robert George misidentified the third McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence. It was Edward S. Corwin, not Edwin. PAW regrets the error.