Power of Persistence

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Here are some words that came to mind about Alan Schwarz C’90 as I read senior editor Samuel Hughes’s cover story, “Pressure & Proof”: conscientious, thorough, diligent, persistent. For a journalist who has broken two complicated, life-and-death-important national stories, Schwarz’s attitude is determinedly matter-of-fact and low-key.

This isn’t modesty, quite; Schwarz recognizes the impact of his work. He told Sam that his exposé of the NFL’s cover-up of retired players’ concussion-related symptoms was the only public relations war the league ever lost. But his reason for that was precisely (another apt descriptor) his meticulous marshaling of the evidence—a former math major’s faith in the data.

Schwarz is just as confident about what his research and reporting revealed to be the widespread over-diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and resulting over-prescription of amphetamine-based medications to “treat” it. He makes the case in his book, ADHD Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma, and the Making of an American Epidemic .

Sam—who says he can attest to the value of medications like Adderall and Vyvanse “from modest personal experience and observation”—notes that in their conversation and in the book Schwarz made it clear that “ADHD is real” and that drugs often do help those who are correctly diagnosed.

“The downside, which Alan addresses in such amazing detail,” he adds, “is the exploding rate of diagnosis in children and adolescents, the fact that these amphetamines have been so casually prescribed and obtained, and that both those phenomena reflect the pharmaceutical industry’s pervasive financial influence. (As Alan notes in the book, some psychiatrists and researchers have breezily said that the drugs are as safe as aspirin, which is hogwash.)”

Schwarz has been frustrated that, with this story, so far the data hasn’t carried the day: “The ADHD factions have grown so polarized and unwilling to learn anything that they use the book as a sword, not a mirror,” he says.

One person who’s worked with Eli Rosenbaum W’76 WG’77 describes him, admiringly, as “relentless.” And many attest to his “legendary” work ethic, writes freelancer Julia Klein in her profile of Rosenbaum, “In Pursuit of Justice.”

Over a more than 30-year career, mostly spent working for the US Justice Department, Rosenbaum has played a leading role in exposing and bringing to trial Nazi and other war criminals. Subjects of Rosenbaum’s pursuit have included John Demjanjuk, the concentration-camp guard turned Cleveland autoworker, and former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.

Fossil hunter Edward Drinker Cope was certainly a persistent investigator and a legendarily prolific—if not always careful—scholar. The sometime Penn student and faculty member waged a pitched battle for paleontological primacy with his more conventional rival Othniel Charles Marsh of Yale. Dennis Drabelle G’66 L’69 gives the blow-by-blow in “Bone Warrior.”

One meaning of persist is just to continue to exist. On that score alone the Palestra is notable, having lasted for nine decades now. But there’s much more to the mystique of the “cathedral of college basketball” than mere longevity, as frequent contributor Dave Zeitlin C’03 reports in “Good Ghosts.”

Last issue’s column on the election prompted a number of letters. The majority thought we should have done more to recognize President Donald J. Trump W’68’s victory (though one letter-writer seemed to feel any mention was too much). I’ve already had my say, so won’t add anything more—except to note that the column also said we’d be covering the administration’s policies as they continued to be discussed on campus. Some stories in this issue’s “Gazetteer” section follow through on that promise.

—John Prendergast C’80

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