Back in January my office phone rang. It was a woman I did not know — an alumna, Class of ’82, a pediatrician named Norma Kreilein. I had to ask for the spelling. She said she had a story for me but that it might be “too controversial for the magazine.” We agreed to a longer phone call the following week.
A week later Dr. Norma Kreilein and I talked for an hour and a half — about public health and infant mortality rates and particulate matter and utility companies and lawsuits and little towns in southern Indiana where she grew up. And about her efforts to protect children from environmental dangers — efforts that had made Norma something of a pariah there.
At the time we were putting together our spring issue, “Who We Are,” that told stories of Notre Dame people taking brave stands in the world. When I said that this magazine isn’t 60 Minutes but that I’d think about it, she said, “The University is always talking about what it’s fighting for, and I’m down here fighting for the children of Indiana.” Her voice cracked.
So I emailed Kristin Shrader-Frechette ’71Ph.D., who holds an O’Neill Family professorship at Notre Dame and has made a distinguished career researching and writing about the effects of pollution on human health. She’s someone I respect, and she knew the situation. In fact, Notre Dame students, she emailed back, had researched the effects of a proposed biomass plant there, with their results published in scientific journals.
Shrader-Frechette described Norma as courageous, as David “in a real ‘David and Goliath’ story.” Others — some Notre Dame alums involved in the contentious battle — depicted Norma much more negatively; at minimum, it went, her passions have gotten the better of her. They saw the plant as economically beneficial.
It seemed to me a worthy story for us to look into — an American story, similar to other narratives where people and forces and various interests collide, but with Notre Dame actors. I also had the writer in mind, someone with the skills and experience to juggle the conflicting elements. John Rudolf has written about the environment and such disputes for The New York Times. He has also written for us and knows how to tailor a piece for this magazine.
It’s not the only article in this issue that may incite reader reaction. Andrew Bacevich, who was at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for Peace Studies in 2012-13, takes a hard look at America’s military approach to global tensions. Bacevich is a widely read author who retired in the early 1990s as a colonel in the U.S. Army after more than two decades of service. The Boston University professor speaks his mind. Not all will agree with his assessments of the decades of fighting.
Then, too, we hear a chorus of opinion on one of America’s most powerful forces — sports — and relationships among players and fans and teams and the business of professional athletics. We celebrate that relationship with the women’s basketball team fighting its way into another national title game. I think you’ll find the list of fans in these stories to be an all-star lineup.
— Kerry Temple ’74