October 6, 2004: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
Your last-page feature, A Moment With, is an engaging and enjoyable sign-off to PAW. The recent conversation with John H. Marburger III ’62 (July 7, click here), science adviser to President Bush, was intriguing. Among his many thought-provoking comments, Marburger had various observations in regard to this administration’s goal for manned space exploration to Mars. This brought to mind comments made by biologist J. Craig Venter (the scientist who beat the federal government in the race to map the human genome), in a recent issue of Discover magazine.
Writing about some of his groundbreaking microbial research in the Sargasso Sea, Venter exclaimed: “It’s amazing how little we know. Less than 1 percent of marine microbes have been characterized. We’re looking for life on Mars, and we don’t even know what’s on Earth.” It all brings to mind the old bromide that “the foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.”
Rocky Semmes ’79
PAW’s introductory comments to the interview with John H. Marburger III ’62, science adviser to President Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, briefly mention the assertions of the scientific community that the Bush administration has been improperly interfering with the scientific process in order to support its policy goals. PAW then includes Marburger’s assertion that the report detailing these charges is flawed, but does not note that his response is widely viewed as inadequate. Readers should have been made aware that since the original expression of concern, thousands more scientists have signed the statement circulated by the nonpartisan Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and the UCS has prepared both a response to Marburger and a summary of additional cases of serious concern, many of which have been reported on widely by the news media.
As just one example from the field in which I am active, the New York Times first reported on the administration’s interference with preparation of a section on climate change to be included in an EPA report on the state of the nation’s environment. Marburger’s response to the UCS regarding its summarization of this deletion indicated that the material would instead be included in a soon-to-be-published research plan on climate change. Even if switching the material from a publicly oriented document to a technically oriented research plan made sense, the research plan did not cover relevant material about the amount and sources of CO2 emissions in the United States, changes in climate and sea level being experienced, and projections of future changes and their potential influences on the environment and society. In fact, the plan (see www.climatescience.gov/Library/stratplan2003/final/default.htm) does not really even discuss the findings underlying the international concern over the climate change issue at all. Marburger’s explanation for the deletion from the EPA report thus looks to be nothing but a diversionary smokescreen that hides the climatic and environmental risks associated with the administration’s largely coal-based energy policy.
The circumstances relating to the EPA report are only one example of many that have been covered in the media and then carefully documented by the UCS (see www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/page.cfm?pageID=1449). Alumni interested in making their own evaluation should read these reports and Marburger’s response to understand the ongoing concerns of the scientific community and the need for the administration to take steps to better ensure the integrity of the scientific enterprise.
Michael C. MacCracken ’64
John H. Marburger III ’62 asserts, “You can point to periods in history when political ideology has intruded on the scientific process, and you can easily tell when it has. But in this country that doesn’t really happen.”
Princetonians who want a contrary point of view should consult the journal of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Catalyst (vol. 3, no. 1, spring 2004). The scientists who protest the Bush administration’s “distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends” include 20 Nobel laureates and 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science. The Web site is www.ucsusa.org.
Joseph E. Illick ’56
PAW readers might like to know about Princeton’s connection to one aspect of Billy Goodman ’80’s delightful article on his entry into the teaching profession through an alternate route to certification (Perspective, July 7, click here). This was a key part of a package of groundbreaking education reforms devised by Gov. Thomas H. Kean ’57 with his commissioner of education, Saul Cooperman, and his cabinet secretary, Chris Daggett.
In 1983, when I was Gov. Kean’s speechwriter, Cooperman and Daggett were lobbying the governor to announce his program of education reform to a specially called joint session of the New Jersey legislature. I worked with them for weeks to draft a proposed speech, with the input of many senior staff. The group presented the draft to Kean, but he said it was not compelling enough to deliver to a special joint session. I asked if he might continue to consider calling the special joint session if we gave him a new, better draft. He nodded kindly but noted that he had to make a decision the next day and didn’t think it was possible to overhaul the speech to his satisfaction in less than 24 hours.
Almost immediately, Cooperman, Daggett, and I got to work. We went over the most essential points of the earlier draft, and I was turned loose to write. I worked all night and returned to Trenton the next day, sleepless but satisfied. After a quick review, the new speech was presented to Gov. Kean that morning. Later that day, he did indeed call the joint session and gave the speech Sept. 6, 1983, to great acclaim.
Kean’s proposed reforms included the alternate route to certification, a higher starting salary for entry-level teachers, and programs for training, mentoring, and rewarding excellent teachers, as well as innovative ways to improve failing school districts. The speech, and the lasting reforms it proposed, established the governor as a national spokesman on public education reform. He later followed Gov. Pete du Pont ’56 as chairman of the Education Commission of the States.
I was delighted to read how the alternate certification route allowed at least one Princetonian to take his expertise and passion for science into a public school classroom. Bravo, Mr. Goodman! Truly Princeton in the nation’s service.
Katherine Brokaw ’82
I was curious reading Hugh C. McDiarmid ’56’s remarks about how the Alumni and Friends of Princeton ROTC “appears to be a crude effort to hype service in the military” (Letters, June 9). At a time when so many Americans, including several Princetonians, are risking their lives overseas, I wonder exactly what aspect of their service Mr. McDiarmid believes is being “hyped.”
Jackson Eaton ’99
The short feature in the May 12 issue (click here to read) about William Scheide ’36 and his musical and philanthropic career made me wish I had known this illustrious Princetonian.
The article is correct in stating that there was no music department at Princeton during Mr. Scheide’s undergraduate years. But in my senior year (1929—30), Ralph Downes, the Chapel organist, taught a course in music history and theory, which was one of the highlights of my Princeton experience. Only six of us took the course, five from my class and one member of ’31. Downes left Princeton in 1935 to return to the United Kingdom, which meant he was still at Princeton during Scheide’s first three undergraduate years. I would hope that Scheide knew him. Just to have heard Downes as an organist was a rich musical treat.
In teaching music history, Downes concentrated on Bach and Wagner. His explanations of Wagner’s Ring and Die Meistersinger were so thorough and inspiring that I can never hear these works without remembering what Downes taught us about them.
Two of the six of us became professional musicians. Joe Hawthorne ’30, a violist and conductor of the undergraduate orchestra, became conductor of some lesser-known but excellent U.S. symphony orchestras, including the Duluth-Superior symphony. Pianist Jim Sykes ’30 became chair of the Dartmouth music department and played piano all over the world for the U.S. Information Service. At several of our major reunions, Joe and Jim gave viola-piano recitals, which were enjoyed by music lovers from ’30 and by other alumni.
George E. Immerwahr ’30
I enjoyed your article on Albert Einstein (feature, May 12, click here). My first encounter with Einstein was on my first weekend at Princeton. As a newly arrived Canadian, I chose to go paddling on Lake Carnegie. Einstein and a lady companion, possibly Johanna Fantova, were sailing their “primitive” dinghy without oars. The winds had died down, and they waved me over. Could I please get them oars? I was thrilled to comply. On occasion I have mused about this demonstrated impractical side of genius.
My last encounter with Einstein was far more poignant. Toward the end of his life, in the spring of 1952, I attended a Chapel service and found him to be the guest preacher. From the pulpit, he poured his heart out, leaning toward the congregation with the greatest sincerity. What he said went something like this: “Boys, I’ve lived a long life. I’ve studied it all. I’ve thought about it all. And, it’s all too perfect for there not to be something.” And I thought, Albert Einstein, the world’s greatest genius, has just said that he believes in God! Wow!
Stan Stevenson ’53