Letters to the Editor
Appreciation for Kerry
I recently had an opportunity to read Senator John Kerry's speech given at Kenyon's 2006 Commencement. Even though I probably disagree with Senator Kerry on most of his political ideas, I think it was a good idea to invite him to speak and I'm sure that his words had a lot of meaning for the Kenyon students who were so involved during the last national election. As a Kenyon parent, I appreciate your efforts to provide a wide range of experiences for our students and hope that you will continue to do so in the future.
--Bill Seabrook P'07
Dismayed over Kerry
Although I did not attend the 178th Commencement, I was shocked to learn from David Donadio's ('03) letter (Spring/ Summer 2006) that the College invited Senator John F. Kerry to be the Commencement speaker. Not only am I in agreement with David, but I was totally dismayed that the College would invite Senator Kerry (or any other politician) to speak, as this politicizes the ceremony. I would hope that Kenyon's president would apologize to the alumni and students for this indiscretion and that it will not occur in the future.
--Philip S. Tedesco '50
An appropriate invitation
It is an extraordinary time in the life of our American democracy when partisanship has reached such lengths that the invitation to the unsuccessful major party candidate for president to deliver the 2006 Kenyon Commencement address is deemed by a Kenyon graduate (David Donadio '03, Spring/Summer 2006) to be "inappropriate and disrespectful to the Kenyon community." While I am extraordinarily partisan (in Mr. Kerry's camp), I would never have written such words if I had read that President Bush had been the Commencement speaker. In fact, I have never passed up an opportunity to hear Republican or Democratic presidential candidates speak, whether stumping for votes or giving commencement addresses, at least until 2004, when the visit of President Bush to Clark County, Ohio, was "closed" to all but the select few who could secure tickets for the event at the Republican headquarters.
I was gracious and patient when I heard President Nixon speak in his reelection campaign and in awe when, as a child, I saw candidate Nixon stumping by train in l960. I was gracious when Mr. Ford spoke here, and again gracious when Mr. Reagan performed. No one, in my opinion, has topped candidate John Kennedy when, in l960, he arrived in his convertible at the Wittenberg football stadium and addressed a huge crowd. But Mr. Clinton's Halloween visit here in 1992 came very close.
Let me be frank: in light of the fact that Kenyon students had to wait to vote for more than eight hours after the polls closed in November 2004, I think it would have been disrespectful to the graduating class to invite anyone else. Kenyon's lines were the longest, but all over Ohio in 2004 people stood in long lines to try to vote. That is a story worthy of a commencement address.
--Thomas W. Wilson '75
A salute to good writing
Dan Laskin's wry tribute to newspapers on The Editor's Page (Spring/Summer 2006) sank right through the tough crust of my journalistic heart. That could have been me, in 1970, willing verbal form to ethereal truth on the manual typewriters of the Troy Daily News. His description was evocative and precise, the cycle of anxiety, sweat, and pride portrayed so accurately I was for a few brief minutes back in the first flames of zeal all newspaper journalists know.
I am not an alumna of Kenyon, but I salute a college that encourages such writers.
Possibly working in a less noble climate, I had no editor who would ping the fire extinguisher to elicit the "ring of truth." But we had a conveniently named funeral home in town, from whom each telephoned death notice would cause the obituary writer to sing out to the desk: "Body by Fisher!"
--Harriet Howard Heithaus P'01
The right decision
Those who question your editorial decision regarding Rehnquist's passing (Letter to the Editor, Spring/Summer 2006) are indulging in fraudulence--and being just plain phony. You and your staff, without question, made the right decision. Congratulations on "standing tall." Bravo and "bully for you!"
--John Hartman '47
Another first for women
I just read the excellent piece "Madame President?" ("Ten Burning Questions," Spring/Summer 2006) on the Web and agree whole-heartedly that our country is ready to elect a woman president. I liked Pam Jensen's blend of Rosa Parks, Corazon Aquino, and Margaret Thatcher! I would encourage adding Shirley Chisholm in the "Firsts for Women in Politics," as she was the first woman to run for the presidential office in a major party. Although she lost the Democratic nomination to McGovern, she was a product of both the women's movement and the equal rights movement and definitely took a pioneering step that I think is worth noting.
--Stewart Peckham, director, Career Development Center, Kenyon College
A religious legacy of killing
May I respectfully but firmly disagree with Professor Vernon Schubel's answer to the question "Has Islam been hijacked by radical fundamentalists who despise Western culture?" ("Ten Burning Questions," Spring/Summer 2006). He concludes that it has not, because "we're all part of a shared global human heritage" and "most Muslims want to live in societies where issues of piety are left to individuals and their families."
This "feel good" answer ignores most of human history, which teaches us that events are directed by leaders, frequently psychotic, who overwhelm the common man with threats, death, and police and military power. Men such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the warlords of Japan, Saddam Hussein, many of the Popes, Mao, Roman emperors, and Muhammad (yes, him too) cared little for the individual's desires, nor for our "shared human heritage."
Every one of the "great" religions came to power by killing opponents and non-believers. None took the view that we are all part of a shared human heritage, and they don't today. If you believe the Old Testament,
you believe that the Jews, when freed from slavery in Egypt, fought a 200-year war against the Canaanites and Philistines, killing everyone they could in the name of God. Muhammad built Islam by multiple wars, forcing people to follow him. He killed the ones who wouldn't. The Christian church killed first the pagans and then, for centuries, every heretic they could get their hands on. Every one of the bibles has justification and even instructions for killing.
The history of Islam has not been controlled by the peaceful Muslims. Schubel's "exclusivists" may be relatively small in number, but they cause a lot of trouble and are a very dangerous group who consider the West the enemy. I see no evidence that peace-loving Muslims are trying to stop them. There are many, considerable differences between the Western world and Islam. High on the list is the willingness of the
terrorists to die. One, however, will always divide us. It is the Muslims' treatment of women. "No society can ever be great as long as they hold half of their people in bondage."
--Alan R. Spievack '55
Divorced from reality
Kenyon's ideals of academic integrity and "diversity" were breathtakingly violated in professor Vernon Schubel's response to the question ("Ten Burning Questions," Spring/Summer 2006) of whether Islam has been hijacked by radical fundamentalists who despise Western culture.
Of the many dubious statements contained in Schubel's response, one stands out far above the rest and simply cannot go unchallenged. In his response, Schubel stated: "We have fundamentalist Christians in the United States who are just as exclusionary as the more radical Muslims."
I challenge professor Schubel to cite one instance where fundamentalist Christians in the United States, incited by their exclusionary zeal, have beheaded anybody with whom they disagreed, or have strapped themselves with explosives and, in the name of Christianity, blown up restaurants full of innocent people. I challenge him to provide the name of one person killed during Christian rioting instigated by the display of Serrano's anti-Christian "art" (Piss Christ), or the name of one adulterer or homosexual stoned to death by "exclusionary" Christians in the United States. Finally, I challenge him to cite one instance where Christians have hijacked a jetliner and flown it into a building while chanting "Jesus is Great."
Professor Schubel's response is so divorced from reality and offensive that, frankly, I am angered and disappointed that it even appeared in the Bulletin. Evidently the concept of "diversity" as promulgated by the College does not extend to fundamentalist Christians. Talk about exclusionary! I have no doubt that the Bulletin would have rejected Schubel's response, in the name of diversity, had he used the words "members of Nation of Islam" in his response instead of "fundamentalist Christians."
I am not a fundamentalist Christian. I am, however, a Kenyon alumnus who expects even-handedness and truth to be the basis for any scholarly work published under the College's name. Professor Schubel's response fails miserably in both regards.
-- George P. Harbison '76
In praise of dialogue, understanding, and tolerance
Thanks for publishing "Misunderstanding Islam" ("Ten Burning Questions," Spring/ Summer 2006), the interview with professor Vernon Schubel, which helped to dispel some of the misconceptions that cloud Americans' judgments about Muslims both here in the United States and abroad. It was refreshing since many of our talk-shows and magazines--not to mention locker room banter and cocktail party talk--are so full of anti-Muslim bigotry these days. Schubel's observations are well informed and easy to understand, but never simplistic. With great economy, he expresses a lifetime of thinking about, studying, and traveling in the Islamic world. He tells the truth about religious fundamentalism, while also recognizing that fundamentalists, whether Muslim or Christian, are a diverse lot. Schubel's insistence that Muslims be viewed as complicated human beings--rather than caricatures--points the way forward to dialogue, understanding, and tolerance. Such erudition is the hallmark of what it means to be a student of the liberal arts, and you can see how Schubel inspired me (a religious studies professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) and several other Kenyon graduates to devote our lives to teaching others about religion in the modern world.
--Edward Curtis '93
Another big WOW
Congratulations on the outstanding Spring/Summer issue. There isn't much I can add to the letter Bruce Willitts '52 wrote in his comments on your Winter issue except to perhaps add another big "WOW." Not only is the content eminently readable, but so is the first-class design and layout. The combination makes it far superior to most of the Bulletins I have received over the years. In the past,
I have usually made a quick check of the death notices on its way to the waste basket.
I thought the series "Ten Burning Questions" was a wonderful way to not only highlight the answers to a number of serious questions on the minds of your readers, but also to introduce me to faculty members in a way that gave me a keen desire to meet them if it were only possible.
As a former Collegian business manager, I appreciated and enjoyed your coverage of the Collegian's 150 years. It brought back so many memories.
And what an interesting way to introduce your readers to economists Harrington and Krynski through the story "Coffins and Nails."
I could go on because I read most of that issue, but I do have one criticism. Your choice of the cover photo I thought was unfortunate.
--R.A. Mitchell '39
In the Bulletin's recent profile of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles "Cully" Stimson '86 (Spring/Summer 2006), an editing error led to a mistake in noting the number of detainees in Iraq. The correct number is approximately 15,000.
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