Frank McCourt at Notre Dame

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

The invitation provoked incredulity and irony in equal measure. “Me?” inquired Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes and ’Tis. The first word of his letter was set off as a paragraph unto itself.

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The little penmaker who does

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

Back in high school during the 1980s, Mike Hochstetler developed a large, painful callus on his writing hand. After enrolling at Notre Dame and enduring more discomfort, he figured out how to cure the problem. Today the remedy has become his life.

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Letters from Campus: Kids these days

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

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The student seemed one discouraging word away from tears. Looming class assignments, snowballing extracurricular demands and a festering bout of homesickness had collided to create a case of First Semester Anxiety.

“I’m not sure I can make it,” she confessed, avoiding direct eye contact.…

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Presidential Campaigns and Their Dodgy Rules of Engagement

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

“Politics ain’t beanbag.”

More than a century ago, the wisecracking Chicago saloonkeeper Mr. Dooley lampooned the perpetual sport of American democracy. Created by journalist Finley Peter Dunne, Mr. Dooley instructed patrons that the hurly-burly of political gamesmanship could never be confused with the child’s play of beanbag.…

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Travel tales

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

Despite the intercontinental incongruity, the tour director’s brogue-sweetened recitation of “Casey at the Bat” made the coach excursion through the West of Ireland all the more memorable. Although the mellifluous guide (Seamus, by name) could liltingly deliver a sizable anthology of Irish verse, he thought U.S. travelers might appreciate a poetic change of pace, a reminder of home.…

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That's News To Me

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

When the Television Critics Association selected The Daily Show on Comedy Central as the outstanding news and information program for 2004, the host of the nightly satire, Jon Stewart, acted mystified. Winner the year before for best achievement in comedy, Stewart worried the award might be a case of mistaken identity.…

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The Communal Lifeline

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

In the dazed days following the atrocities of September 11, analysts and academics tried to come to terms with the unspeakable acts by speculating on their consequences. Such unprecedented terrorism created (in what began as a refrain and then became a cliche) a turning point, with potential for transforming America in ways large and small.…

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Where Have All the Thinkers Gone?

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

Despite an abundance of “talking heads,” a nation in need of wisdom finds the public intellectual missing from action.

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

After a decade when “the egghead” was constantly ridiculed for contributing little more than hot air to Cold War America, the historian Richard Hofstadter identified “resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind” as a deeply rooted national trait in his 1963 book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

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Obsessed with News

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

So there we were, surrounded by the majestic natural splendors of Yellowstone Park, and I was getting jumpy, sorely in need of a fix.

For three days, a long holiday weekend, no newspapers penetrated our remote camp, and the picture-postcard mountains blocked reception of television or radio signals. Late the next day, finding a day-old issue of the Billings Gazette

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Going Our Way: A New Foreign Policy

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

War is always a bloody interlude. Before the fury comes the triggering rationale — and afterward the consequences of scarring change.

The age-old pattern repeated itself last spring in Iraq. Beyond this theater of war, however, a related drama — with words as weapons — continues to play out nationally and throughout the world.…

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A Look at the New World

By Robert Schmuhl ’70

For an unworldly Hoosier boy, the prospect of going to Europe sounded romantic and adventurous. Back in the 1960s, Notre Dame began to develop its first study-abroad programs—there are now some 20 possibilities—and the one based in Angers, France, started in 1966, the fall of my freshman year. So that semester I enrolled in a class with what you might call zero-based understanding of the French language. Sans an iota of previous instruction, I dreamily hoped I could conjugate enough verbs to spend sophomore year in France.

I'm now convinced a mother's prayers rather than linguistic mastery sent me across the Atlantic the following August. The word callow grossly understates how at least one 18-year-old felt during the initial weeks of innocence abroad.…

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