We Welcome Letters
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should refer to material published in the magazine and may be edited for clarity, civility, and length. Please note, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gazette offices are closed until further notice and we cannot retrieve postal mail at this time.
“Those whom we love and care for during life need the same type of empathetic care as they near their deaths.”
Kimberly Acquaviva’s story—“Finding Life in Death” by Dave Zeitlin [Mar|Apr 2020]—about the death of her wife, Kathy Brandt, was honest and full of empathetic compassion. Kimberly’s caregiving role was based upon Kathy’s needs, as Kathy perceived them. Kimberly was able to put aside outside noise and focus on what Kathy needed. In particular, Kimberly recognized that the battle metaphor—You’re going to fight this, you’re going to beat this—wasn’t going to be helpful in Kathy’s situation.
This compassionate awareness reminded me of a letter to the editor I was moved to write in 2011 about “A Train to Nowhere,” Don Trachtenberg’s essay about his journey as he accompanied his wife during her final years [“Alumni Voices,” Nov|Dec 2011]. In a very different setting, his compassion was based upon a key understanding of the kind of support his wife needed.
Those whom we love and care for during life need the same type of empathetic care as they near their deaths. It’s their needs, not ours, that are most important.
Jim Waters WG’71, Pearl River, NY
Beautiful Story of a Loving Family
Bawled my eyes out on NJ Transit while reading “Finding Life in Death.” Talking openly about the inevitable process of death makes life feel that much richer. A beautiful story of a loving family that forever changed my perspective.
Allison Strouse Williams W’07, New York
Government Concentration Is Also Taking a Toll
In his essay “Kronos Syndrome” [“Expert Opinion,” Mar|Apr 2020], Binyamin Appelbaum tells us that “we live in an era of giant corporations, and there is little evidence consumers are suffering. But corporate concentration is causing other kinds of damage.” He goes on to claim that it “is tilting the balance of power between employers and workers, because workers have fewer alternatives, allowing companies to demand more and pay less” and also “taking a toll on democracy.”
I suggest that we live in an era of giant governments, and there is increasing evidence consumers—a.k.a. taxpaying citizens—are suffering. Governmental concentration and intensification of regulatory power is causing all kinds of damage. It is tilting the balance of power between taxpaying citizens and government employees, because taxpaying citizens have so much less economic freedom and personal liberty, allowing government employees—especially unelected bureaucrats—to demand more compliance with their edicts even as they do less at higher cost. Governmental concentration of regulatory power also is taking a toll on our constitutional republic.
Stu Mahlin WG’65, Cincinnati
Wright Was My Hero
Regarding “Rewriting Wright” on Paul Hendrickson’s recent biography of Frank Lloyd Wright [“Arts,” Mar|Apr 2020], it is indeed reassuring that that irascible genius is still a subject of great interest even today. Hendrickson seems to have expended great effort in this latest endeavor.
Back in 1951, when I was a student in the School of Fine Arts, there was a great show of Wright’s projects at the Gimbel Brothers department store. Our class spent an afternoon at the exhibit and Wright was my hero for the rest of my years at Penn. I even projected my fascination with Wright in the undergraduate class taught by Louis I. Kahn. Fortunately, Kahn was a man of great empathy. He even told me, “You can do anything you want,” and I received an Afor my project. I should note that in a few later years, with his emerging master works, I recognized Kahn as the other great master of the 20th century and worked for him for six years.
In 1953 the Tyler School of Art at Temple University held an exhibition of Wright drawings. Wright also gave the opening lecture, which I attended. Tyler’s dean, Boris Blai, opened with a lengthy introduction that seemed to go on and on. To the delight of the audience Wright, who was sitting at the back of the stage, approached the podium and, with a mischievous smile, took Blai’s speech and asked him to sit down mid-introduction. He then delivered a hardly profound lecture that seemed to be a simple overview of his architectural philosophy. But he was in fact in his 80s and a bit frail. It was still rewarding to actually see the man and to see the sparkle in his eyes as he spoke. The drawings were remarkable and inspired my presentations to follow.
I assume Hendrickson has included some of the great Wright anecdotes. Philip Johnson once facetiously called Wright “the greatest architect of the 19th century.” Wright in turn called Philip Johnson’s glass house “a monkey cage for a monkey.” Hendrickson’s story about Wright’s appearance in court rings a curious bell, as it seems to relate to the following Wright episode: One of Wright’s greatest ambitions was the commission for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. He promoted this ambition with a conceptual design for the Academy that he presented to the Air Force, to no avail. He was goaded by the stone lobby to testify before Congress, disparaging the projected design. When he returned to his home, Taliesin, a friend asked Wright how he could have introduced himself to the Congress of the United States as the world’s greatest architect. Wright responded, “I had no choice, I was under oath.”
David H Karp Ar’59, San Mateo, CA
“The Art of Asking a Question,” quoting from Andrea Mitchell’s appearance at the Kelly Writers House [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2020] devotes its concluding paragraph to the 1980 presidential nomination attempt by Senator Edward Kennedy. Mitchell’s remarks covered various reasons why that attempt failed. She did not, appallingly, mention his cowardly culpability in the tragic, perhaps needless, Chappaquiddick death of Mary Jo Kopechne in July 1969.
Jim Rowbotham WG’69, New York
Don’t Give Them a Platform
I am puzzled by the Gazette’s decision to choose to highlight letters responding to the Jan|Feb 2020 issue’s “The New Climate Advocates” from climate hoaxers grumbling about the machinations of “the left” [“Letters,” Mar|Apr 2020]. There is no debate here in which two sides must be given equal weight. My son is 15 months old. In the three months since his first birthday, the world has seen catastrophic wildfires in Australia, record temperatures in Antarctica, and the hottest month in recorded history. What will the world be like in 10, 50, 100 years? Let these people rant and rave their lies and conspiracy theories in private. Don’t give them a platform.
Rachel Frankford GSE’15, Philadelphia
Science Needs Skeptics, Not Climate Deniers
What school did these folks attend? I was profoundly embarrassed to read the letters from John Silliman (“We Need to Come to our Senses”) and Les Schaevitz (“Reject the ‘Climate Cult’”), both of whom were at Penn during part of the time I was there. I don’t know what they studied, but they certainly didn’t learn anything about science or intellectual rigor.
I have no objection to someone being skeptical about some aspects of climate change. Science needs skeptics. However, rejecting the very idea of climate change while making profoundly ignorant comments about the science shows that your objections are purely political and devoid of the thought process (a quote I learned from Car Talk).
John Silliman says that there “used to be two sides to every scientific or political issue, or else.” As just two examples, I don’t remember any serious journalists taking the rantings of the John Birch Society seriously, or interviewing the crackpots who claim that quantum mechanics, or relativity, or whatever, is totally bogus. As soon as he says, “the right’s side of climate change,” he reveals that he has no interest in science, only politics. He then further reveals his complete ignorance of the science by stating that “climate has not changed that much (except in China and India).” Climate is a world-wide phenomenon and (at least to most rational people) decades of ever increasing “hottest years ever” would qualify as “changed that much.”
Similarly, Les Schaevitz calls climate change “a problem that does not exist” and “intellectual dishonesty.” He then reveals his ignorance by saying there is “no scientific proof whatsoever” for the effect of humanity on the climate. First of all, scientific “proof” is something that does not exist. There is only scientific “evidence,” of which there is an overwhelming abundance when it comes to the influence of our carbon emissions. Arguing about the subtle details of the data, or the best ways to address this problem, are legitimate activities. Blindly rejecting all of the data is not.
In all fairness, I commend the concern Schaevitz shows for other environmental issues such as plastic pollution. Our country would be in much better shape if more folks on the conservative political side acknowledged at least some of our many environmental problems.
George S. F. Stephans C’76 Gr’82, Arlington, MA
No Other Valid Point of View
There are not two sides to every issue. For example, there are not two sides to the flat Earth issue. The Earth is round. There is no other valid point of view. Another example is gravity. Gravity exists. There are not two sides to that issue. We may not understand all there is to know about gravity, but there is no other valid point of view regarding its reality.
The same is true of climate change. The Earth is warming, and the rate of warming is accelerating. The principal cause of this warming is the increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The principal source of the excess accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is human activity. There is no valid evidence for any other point of view. We may not know exactly what to do about it, or we may not be able to predict accurately the future course of events, but there is no point in lending any validity to the point of view that climate change is a myth.
Elliot Werner C’67 M’71, Fremont, CA
The idea that we can control a chaotic climate, governed by a billion factors, by fiddling around with a few politically selected gases is carbon claptrap. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a UN-run bureaucracy whose reliance on faulty computer models forfeits any claim to scientific veracity. No models can explain why global climate has been remarkably stable for 20 years despite a substantial increase in atmospheric CO2.
Fossil fuels have dramatically raised living standards all over the world. To deprive the developing world from utilizing them would be to consign billions of people to misery and poverty. To have this happen in our country would be catastrophic.
Eric Hoffer wrote: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and degenerates into a racket.”
Barry D. Galman C’59 M’63 GM’65, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Critiques Missed the Point
I was both disheartened and disturbed to read the multiple letters to the editor from obvious climate deniers who confused an article that focused on how to reduce global warming with an article that might have been about the science behind climate change. The critiques missed the point. Climate change is real. Human activities—i.e., burning fossil fuels—contribute to it. And we can do something about it, if we set our minds and efforts to the task. But to answer those who still question the anthropogenic sources of climate change, don’t take my word for it, read NASA’s summary of the problem at https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/ or read the 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was referred to in “Tipping Points” [“From the Editor,” Jan|Feb 2020] that introduced the issue containing the article “The New Climate Advocates.”
The idea that humans contribute to climate change is hardly a left-wing conspiracy, nor are those who would seek to limit climate change a “cult.”
I would expect every academic institution to look at the science behind a hypothesis and subject it to rigorous examination. Having done that, I would expect that institution, like Penn, to support ideas that reflect the consensus of scientific opinion on the subject.
Bruce E. Endy C’66, Wynnewood, PA
God Controls the Climate
In reading “The New Climate Advocates,” I notice an omission too important to leave out of a discussion on climate control: there is a God who controls the climate. Reading the article one might think “climate” is something that politicians and lawyers and activists “control.” What a difference our effectiveness would have if we lifted our hands in surrender that we are ultimately not in “control.” Then the practical actions can begin!
First, may we give thanks to God for His mercy to bring the sun up each day and give us life, and give us “climate,” and for keeping it so preciously balanced that we can live and breathe in each day. Let’s put aside our pride and desire to be in control of something that is in the hands of the Almighty, and subordinate ourselves to the “Climate Controller.”
I can suggest, after humbling ourselves and giving thanks, that we take the next small and yet great step to start—each person in the privacy of our room, kneel in prayer and confess that we can’t do it without Him, that we need Him, and desire to be in relationship with Him.
What a great partnership to seek! And to acknowledge that it is thanks to His grace and mercy—chen and chesed in Hebrew, the language of the Bible that He speaks all things into existence—that we are able to have any kind of discussion at all, as He gives us breath. Let us bow in reverence to say we know that there is a great Hand who controls the climate. We can and will soon see a change in the climate if we “return” to Him (in Hebrew, teshuvah) and humble ourselves. Admit our reliance on the “agency” that is much greater than we are, and live in partnership with our real CEO, the God of Creation who gives us our Existence and Our life. The Creator of the Universe. Our Lord and maker. Blessed be He!!
Joanne Gover Yoshida W’82 GAr’86
What Does It Say About Penn
To call the reaction to the mercenary plan to change Penn Law’s name to Penn Carey Law “some backlash” is like calling the Civil War a bit of a tussle [“Gazetteer,” Jan|Feb]. Thousands of students and alumni are up in arms, many of us swearing never to donate another penny to the law school. Ultimately this misguided plan will cost the law school far more than the $125 million with which the W. P. Carey Foundation bought naming rights. Penn Carey Law sounds ridiculous, and like we’re a franchise of Maryland Carey Law. Can you imagine Harvard or Yale doing such a thing? If not, then what does it say about Penn, other than that we have internalized the view that we’re second-rate?
Rose M. Weber CW’75 L’96, New York
The Duel Is a Standoff
While I agree with Brian Rosenwald’s essay, “Bill Busters” [“Expert Opinion,” Jan|Feb 2020], that the conservative movement for the most part has taken over talk radio, the left-wing movement to compensate has taken over TV, dominating the programs and presentations. Apparently considering the closeness of recent elections, the duel is a standoff.
Nelson Marans, parent, New York