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Picking presidents II, patenting paradise, embarrassing error.

The Best Person For the Job

I read with great surprise and great distress the letter from a male alumnus (Howard D. Greyber Gr’53) who raised the question: “Does the choice of a second consecutive female to be Penn’s president endanger the legitimate interests and aspirations of male students and male professors?” [“Letters,” July/August].

“He’s gotta be kidding!”

I’ve never heard of anyone complaining when a male president is added to a consecutive string of male presidents that the legitimate interests of females will be endangered. Why is it only when a woman is named president that you hear these types of “questions”?

It’s clear that Judith Rodin has worked successfully to make the University a better place for all people (not just women). I’m confident that the search committee looked for—and found—the best person when they selected Dr. Amy Gutmann as the University of Pennsylvania’s next president.

Ellen Richter Ettinger C’80 New York

Isn’t Six Out of Eight Enough?

Howard D. Greyber’s whining, resentful diatribe disguised as a rhetorical question knocked the wind out of me.

What does Mr. Greyber take to be men’s legitimate interests—monopolizing power and decision-making in the public sphere, in policies that affect women as profoundly as they do men? Does he think it “legitimate” that men impose their will on women and deny us representation in our society’s powerful institutions?

According to the University Archives website, Dr. Gutmann is Penn’s eighth president. That gives us two women presidents and six men, since Mr. Greyber is keeping score. A ratio of two women to six men makes Mr. Greyber feel crowded out? Really? He should try this. Until recently, the number of women in the U.S. Senate hovered between one and zero, out of 100 members. Now, the women’s head count has soared to 14. That same ratio, give or take a few, prevails in most of our halls of power at a national, state, and local level. Perhaps Mr. Greyber would like to try that kind of feeble representation on for size. Maybe he’d feel less persecuted. 

Patty Quinn CGS’02 Elkins Park, Pa

Why Not Three in a Row?

When we were at Penn in the forties, women were not permitted to dine on the main floor of Houston Hall; they were exiled to the balcony. Perhaps an area might now be set aside for men who feel their “legitimate interests” threatened. 

If those who select future presidents of Penn—where roughly half the students are women—were to hesitate to select a third consecutive woman solely because she was a woman, then, we believe, female prospective students should be informed that they are not considered quite the equal of male students.

Larry Spruch Gr’48
Grace Marmor Spruch Gr’49 New York

What About Stassen?

Given that Penn had consecutive male presidents from its founding until 1994, did that endanger the legitimate interests of female students and female professors? Perhaps the answer is: that was not a problem back in the early years because there were no female students or female professors, and later, the problem was addressed by isolating them in their own College for Women.

In another letter to the editor in the July/August issue, Richard Barton questions the trustees’ selection of Presidents Rodin and Gutmann, and compares their qualifications unfavorably to those of Gaylord P. Harnwell, who was president of the University at the time Mr. Barton graduated. Perhaps he would be more comfortable with “the criteria used by the trustees for selecting the last two Penn presidents” if he were to compare their qualifications to the “world class educational qualities and scholastic achievements” of Harold Stassen, who was president of the university at the time Mr. Barton entered Penn as a freshman.

Thomas J. Harley Jr. C’51 EE’58 GEE’65 Palo Alto, Ca

Morality and Patriotism Stand Together

The editorial note after Howard Greyber’s letter in the July/August 2004 issue presented the context of Professor Amy Gutmann’s views on “democratic citizenship,” and context is always important.

While I remain sure that only left-wing views would get Professor Gutmann anywhere near her present prestigious position, and remain dissatisfied with her sentiment, I am not outraged by it. We are not without common ground. 

Gutmann seems to maintain that her main argument is that teaching students to view themselves as citizens of the United States of America “above all” is the “my country can do no wrong” attitude that provided sailors for the U-boats and guards for the SS camps. If distrusting or deploring that is liberal, then my rating as a conservative drops a notch or two. 

My loyalty and patriotism for America is based on the ideals she so long has represented and to which so many still try to hold her true. To me, as to countless other Christians and other Americans, America is not just our geographical realm of sovereignty. America is a principle. America is a concept, or a complex collection of concepts. The United States of America can be lost without any invasion of troops. It can cease to exist through malign transformation and devolution. 

Some theologians have puzzled about the apparent omission of such a tremendous geopolitical fact as America from the prophecies in the Revelation to St. John. We have grown to such power that one of our carrier groups has more might than some countries’ entire navy. Yet why are we “missing” from prophecy? 

Thinking about that was how I arrived at my present beliefs. For the world to be governed by evil, even for a short time of seven years as the Bible prophesies, I believe that such an entity as the United States of America must cease to be. The whole love and devotion to freedom must go. And America, as I said, is a concept. Her nearly three hundred million people may still be here. But her soul, her beloved democratic spirit, may not. 

In that sense, I agree with Gutmann: we must have a primary moral allegiance. I do. But that moral allegiance does not send away or dismiss my American patriotism: the two are married and they stand together. 

Kenneth A. Rumbarger C’78 Audubon, Pa

Who Owns the Trees?

I’m interested that the Morris Arboretum is working to “patent an Hinoki false cypress collected at a Buddhist temple in Korea” [“The Global Garden,” July/August]. If the species represents an alternative to our native Eastern hemlock which is being devastated by insects, I’m all for it, and my fondness for the Arboretum makes me glad that they and not a logging corporation would hold the patent. But can someone explain to me why anyone should be able to patent an entire plant species, or even a variety, which they apparently had no hand in creating? Surely the Korean temple that bred and preserved the tree has a greater moral right to claim ownership than Penn—if anyone has that right. 

Christopher Marshall C’70 Montville, Me

Prostate With Embarrassment

As a Penn Vet alumnus and a practicing veterinarian in California, I was delighted to read “Saving Bentley” in the July/August issue. It was a touching and well-written article about the benefits of doing everything possible to save a pet. I was looking forward to using it as a talking point with my clients in similar situations. However, I was dismayed to discover that on page 44 there is a remark about photodynamic therapy being used to treat “prostrate” cancer in dogs. 

As someone who, as my husband likes to point out, never fails to find every typo in any menu we have ever seen, I can not merely take this lying down, but felt compelled to comment. 

Lauren Flato V’93 Santa Clara, Ca

A Fan of Freud

Thank you for the article about Dr. Liliane Weissberg teaching Freud at Penn [“Gazetteer,” July/August]. Freud and contemporary analytic thought has an essential place in the University curriculum; it has the ability to amplify our understanding of the human mind and of human development. Consequently, reading Freud has the potential to inform us of a more comprehensive educational practice towards a just and democratic society.

Edward Goldberg GEd’96 Merion, Pa

By Speaking Out Earlier Clarke Could Have Saved Lives

Perhaps the question to ask Richard A. Clarke C’72, the national coordinator for counterterrorism policy under Presidents Clinton and Bush, is why he couldn’t have helped prevent the Iraq war? [“Alumni Profiles,”July/August]. Had he publicized what he knew before the Congress voted to authorize President Bush to start the war, things might have turned out differently. It seems to me that instead of becoming part of the solution, Mr. Clarke has become part of the problem. Obviously, it is most difficult to put one’s neck on the line in such circumstances but because Mr. Clarke didn’t, many innocent American and Iraqi people died needlessly and America repeated the same mistake as in Vietnam. And now he’s a consultant? 

Edward King W’66 Freehold, NJ

More Than a Rock Star

With regard to the Joseph clan’s note [“Letters,” July/August] as to how “surprised and disappointed” they were with the choice of Bono as the Commencement speaker—I encourage the family to dig a little deeper in their research. Aside from being a rock star, Bono has met with the likes of Presidents Clinton and Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the pope, as well as countless U.S. senators and other world leaders. Why? Because he champions the very unglamorous cause of the millions dying of AIDS in Africa. Bono is responsible for convincing the ultra-conservative Senator Jesse Helms to introduce legislation to donate money and medicine to Africa. He traveled with then-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill to the poorest of African countries to document the plight of a vanishing continent. Furthermore, Bono has utilized his celebrity status to promote causes that do something positive for the planet. His tireless work on behalf of Greenpeace and Amnesty International during the 1980s helped to more than double the memberships of both organizations. When he appeared on Oprah and Charlie Rose, did he promote his music and band? No, he promoted the idea of Americans getting up and doing something to make the world better; the land of wealth and opportunity giving a boost to the less fortunate. If anything, this Irishman gives an outsider’s perspective and he unabashedly declares himself a fan of the very American ideals we take for granted everyday. He is an inspiration for Americans to realize what we have and the power we have to change the world. I cannot think of a better Commencement speaker to address and spur the graduates of Penn. 

If anyone has reason to be disappointed, it’s my class. The graduates of 1990 were fortunate enough to hear the inspiring words of Barbara Bush, whose sole lifetime accomplishment was marrying an ineffective, one-term president (as well as being the mother of another one). I would have been proud to have Bono as my Commencement speaker. He is a fiercely sincere and passionate man who fights to make this world a better one for his children. 

Nelson Bae C’90 Los Angeles

Quit the Male Bashing

I wish to complain about the undercurrent of gratuitous male-bashing in the July/August issue:

1) page 19The idea of internal equality went as far as for the lodge catechism to call on women to “recognize the injustice of men and to throw off the masculine role, to dominate in marriage, and to claim equal wealth” … the Masons’ modern successors have “lost those innovative qualities.” 

As I recall, late-18th century France also showed equality in chopping off women’s heads. That was pretty innovative, too. And, to “dominate” in the marriage?

2) pages 20-21“He gets the Viagra pill from his medical doctor. He takes the pill. He now has an erection from the floor to the ceiling. He goes home and tells his wife, ‘Hop into bed’ … All the women here know what that wife or that girlfriend is going to tell that man to do with that erection. So we know we have to work, of course, on the relationship.”

Does the wife have any responsibility in this relationship dysfunction? 

3) page 57She became known in poker circles for her quirky and often outspoken presence at the table—her jangling bracelets, her bare feet beneath the table, the girlish way she blew her bangs out of her eyes … Being the only woman at the table has never fazed her, and she even declines to play in ladies-only events. “I find it insulting,” she says. 

No feminine wiles here—this woman is seriously playing “a game about the mind.” I’ll say she is. 

Come on, guys. It’s not 1974. It’s 2004. The gender war is supposed to be over. Lighten up.

Mark Homer C’66 Knoxville, Tn

No Forgiveness for O’Malley

This “old die-hard Brooklyn Dodger fan” has reconsidered his enmity for Walter O’Malley and concluded that the former owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers richly deserves the loathing he incurred for moving the team west [“Alumni Profiles,” July/August]. The Dodgers belonged in Brooklyn; they had been handsomely supported by Brooklyn, and had O’Malley stayed, he would have outlasted Robert Moses and eventually gotten his new stadium.

It would not have been easy, but he owed it to the fans of Brooklyn to work harder for it. Instead, he took the easy way out and followed the money to Chavez Ravine, exhibiting the kind of greed that is choking the game today, and breaking the hearts of Brooklyn Dodger fans. We have not forgotten. The pain remains.

Jim Murray was right: O’Malley did bring the game “kicking and screaming into the 20th century,” but this kicking and screaming thing is a slouching rough beast. 

Don Z. Block Gr’78 Malvern, Pa

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