Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: The letters that appeared in the spring 2012 print issue are marked with double asterisks (**).

Call it marriage

**When I was married in the District of Columbia on June 18, 2011, my friend and classmate Lorie Masters was kind enough to write about this joyous occasion in the classnotes section of the winter issue. You, however, saw fit to change the word “marriage” to “united in a ceremony.” Not only is your editorial policy intellectually and logically flawed, it is also downright insulting both to my husband and to me. We are married and have exactly the same legal status as any heterosexual couple married in the District of Columbia.

The attitude evidenced by your editorial policy is, in my view, most decidedly hypocritical and anti-Christian. Please answer me this question: Had I married a Jewish or Muslim woman outside the Catholic Church, would you have edited the column in the same manner? I think not.

Shame on this great institution. Our marriage occurred seven months ago. Our “union” began more than 30 years ago. Had I known that Notre Dame considered “union” the celebratory marker of our relationship, I would have asked Lorie to include that in her column in 1981.

Allyn J. Amato ’81J.D.
Alexandria, Virginia

His mother, too

**I very much enjoyed reading about David Matthews and his development efforts in South Bend. That story, however, had a glaring omission when citing Pete Buttigieg as the city’s mayor. His father’s faculty status was noted but not the mayor’s mother — J. Anne Montgomery, who earned a master’s in fine arts from Notre Dame in ’91 and taught at the University for 29 years.

Ellyn Stecker
South Bend, Indiana

Common grounds

**The article on Leo Burke’s work to introduce business school students to the concept of a shared commons (“A World that Works for Everyone”) was very heartening. Having given a lecture for the Notre Dame Energy Center in 2005 on energy sector decarbonization — in which I placed the imperative of action on climate disruption squarely within Judeo-Christian and American thought traditions dealing with the commons — I was happy to hear that at least someone outside of the philosophy and theology faculties is bringing forward the importance of this issue. There is nothing more central to Biblical teaching than our shared responsibility for the commons, and the fact that it comes as a surprise to anyone attending Notre Dame is deeply disturbing.

Michael Hogan ’80
Montpelier, Vermont

Rich and poor

**In her velvet-glove plea for the government to equalize income for all regardless of acuity, ability or achievement (“My Fair Share”), Lori Barrett makes a case only Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama might love. She leans heavily on Columbia University economics professor Joseph Stiglitz, the liberal writer and perhaps only one of his kind ever fired from the World Bank.

In rebuttal, I offer the following precepts — not original to me and of unknown origin: (1) You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating wealth out of prosperity. (2) What one person receives without working for, another must work without receiving. (3) The government cannot give to anybody anything that it did not first take from someone else. (4) You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. (5) When half the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the second half gets the idea it does no good to work because what they earned is halved, that is the beginning of the end of any benevolent society.

Thomas C. Murphy ’53
Green Bay, Wisconsin

**Lori Barrett thoroughly documents the problems associated with the growing wealth gap. But, as with all others, the root cause eludes her. Rising unemployment, poverty and declining incomes are all a natural consequence of an ever-worsening over-supply of labor. The inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption has been slowly, steadily eroding per capita consumption as our population soars. And since per capita consumption and per capita employment are inextricably linked, rising unemployment and poverty are inescapable as long as economists mistakenly lean on population growth to stoke macroeconomic growth.

Simply put, there are too many workers competing for too little work, and the problem grows worse as the world’s labor force grows by another 100,000 workers every day. There are no solutions to ever-worsening global unemployment that don’t begin with stabilizing the population.

Pete Murphy
Clarkston, Michigan

**Lori Barrett closes her article by telling us that “greed does no one any good.” Except that it does. If there is no benefit to being greedy, the behavior would not exist, and some Americans have grown wealthy beyond the dreams of Croesus because of greed. But beyond this obvious oversight, there is a much deeper aspect to greed. Simply put, a technologically advanced society cannot exist without some of its members being greedy. The greedy accumulate a surplus which can be deployed to allow some members of society to specialize in an activity other than gathering food.

So, if properly managed, greed can be harnessed for the good of society. Entrepreneurial greed (good greed, if you will) creates economic activity where none existed before and fosters job creation as a side effect. Financial greed (bad greed) enriches some while passing the costs on to others. It is essentially a form of redistribution where wealth is transferred from the many to the few.

The key to a balanced and functional society is to formulate tax policy so that good greed is encouraged and bad greed is penalized. This is quite the opposite to what the United States has now.

Guy Wroble ’77
Denver, Colorado

I have just concluded the article ‘My Fair Share’ in the recent Notre Dame Magazine. While intelligent in its makeup, it is scary in its “conclusions.”

In my years of public and private education I was taught at various levels about the right to education and the rights to good jobs. Nowhere was I ever told society had an obligation to provide either. It was up to many influences but most important, our own initiative. I, myself, spent 30 plus years teaching in area private, Catholic schools without anyone forcing me to do so. My economic results were obvious. Nevertheless 4 children went to college and life has been both fun and rewarding. At age 60, without normal retirement benefits, I entered the financial industry as a stockbroker for a local firm. Again I like the job and respect our company, which has grown from 3 to 500 brokers in its 14-year existence.

Anyone who has lived in the United States has already won the lottery by accident of their birth, but many do not know it or appreciate that fact. The current economic crisis that is global in nature is going to require difficult choices to be made by people who may not want to make more choices. Our free decision-making dictates our job far more than any other factors. As you state, , a job guarantees many things but wealth is not one of them. I have never found anyone who knows what is “fair” for other people. This country gives us the best opportunity of any in the world to follow our own dreams. Jealousy because the byproduct of some people’s dreams in financial success is stupid.

Please excuse the paper, but I have a meeting. . . . I will probably be working for many more years (I hope).

Phil Donnelly ‘63
Albany, New York

I found Ms. Barrett’s “My Fair Share” article most interesting in what it did not say as opposed to what it said. No one will deny that there is a growing divide in America between the rich and the poor. Ms. Barrett missed a great opportunity in not setting forth some of the basic reasons as to why this divide has occurred and as to why it will continue to occur until America get back to its roots.

America was founded on the basis that it would be a country of freedom from religious and political tyranny, of family units, and where everyone who worked hard had an opportunity to succeed. I would observe that our government has severely diluted the basic freedoms that we started with, that the family unit is largely now gone, and the work ethic which we once cherished and allowed us to unparalleled greatness as a nation is hard to find. I would suggest that it is these three factors that have largely contributed to the growing divide between the “rich” and “poor.”

— Our government today is “hell bent” on over-regulating and socializing our country; each day it takes away our freedoms. Witness the “new and improved” health care act which mandates that every citizen purchase health care, excepting of course the president, members of Congress, members of the Supreme Court, and presidentially selected unions who are all given a pass. Query: what happened to due process for all?

— Family units, historically a man and woman who joined to have children, and who instilled in their children the basic tenets of their faith, our freedoms and work ethic, are rapidly disappearing as the norm in American society.

— Last, our work ethic has been disappearing for years. We now have over 14 million unemployed Americans while we simultaneously have over 12 million illegal aliens working in our country making a living because many unemployed Americans have declined to accept the very jobs that illegal aliens have undertaken. Note President Obama’s recent comment that Americans had gotten lazy.

And exactly what is one’s “fair share”? If it is unfair for members of Wall Street to receive “outrageous” salaries and compensation rather than giving part of it to other employees;

— Why is it not unfair for a star athlete to be paid millions every year to play a sport rather than giving part of their “outrageous” salaries and compensation to the ticket takers and vendors who work with them?

— Why is it not unfair for movie stars to get paid millions of dollars for acting, rather than giving part of their “outrageous” salaries and compensations to the members of the support staff that produces the movie and works with them?

— And finally, why is it not unfair for our president and the members of our Congress to each receive millions of dollars each year in “outrageous” salaries and compensation rather than sharing with the taxpayers for whom they work and by whom they are paid?

Is there a growing disparity, certainly. However, when we examine “one’s fair share,” our review, to be “fair,” necessarily requires that our review is not limited to Wall Street alone but must necessarily include all those receiving “unfair compensation,” including but not limited to athletes, movie stars, our president and all politicians.

Moreover, as we go forward in analyzing this disparity, and formulating what everyone’s “fair share” is or should be, I would suggest that we would be well advised to remember the observations of noted economist and scholar Milton Friedman, who so pithily observed: “The record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way, so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free enterprise system.”

William L. Kallal ’66
Cheyenne, Wyoming

I always feel for the less when I read an article like the one printed in the latest Notre Dame Magazine, this one by Lori Barrett called “My Fair Share.”

I’m not going to go on a long screed on why printing such an article is an embarrassment for the magazine, instead just a few thoughts.

I challenge the editors to look into the claim, and the ramifications of the claim, presented as fact, that the wealth divide is growing. What exactly does that mean? Does that mean that the richest have more than the poorest?

If so, it is a point so vague in effect that it actually means nothing.

But it sure sounds baaaaad, doesn’t it? The question that seems to matter is, "Are people better off monetarily than they were five, 10 years ago?

The answer to that is yes. I hate to break this to people, but the point of a healthy economy is to make people richer. Of course that will never happen at the same rate for all. That’s impossible — under any scenario.

Our economy has not been healthy but people do have more money over what they had, say, 10 years ago. That some have more than others is not the point. In fact, you could say that the entire thrust of Occupy and wealth redistribution in the name of fairness is nothing more than a justification for envy (jealousy for those that have something you’d like) and theft (taking, in the name of taxing, from one group in order to give to another group (don’t forget that dependency eventually leads to degradation).

Worse is the inflammation that comes from the old canard about the “dying middle class.” The middle class, if you are to believe the hype, has been dying since the day it was born. Look closer. Also, look at more than just a few articles out there on the subject. There are many that perpetuate the same false premise over and over. In fact, if you look hard, those that perpetuate it are those that often simply want to increase taxes on higher income earners. They like that, raises the lust. Of course, they get away with it because it’s “fair.”

When you hear the following two Trojan horses, grab your wallet because someone is going to take something from you: “It’s not fair! and, It’s not safe!” That’s what they say right before you lose something you had.

But please look harder and come to a more fully informed conclusion. That’s all I ask, read more into it. Look at a broad spectrum of the supposed “facts.”

Lastly, what was the point of the article? That people should go to school more and that unions should be stronger? That money is the root of all evil? That there is some group out there that is "getting away with murder”??? I think that was the point, but I’ve got admit that there was a rueful twist when I realized that the author seemed to believe that strengthening unions, as they exist now in reality and not in some idealized version in her head, is honestly seen as a “solution.”

I love NDMagazine, always have, but as a ND economics major, nothing is more cringe-inducing than reading a grab bag article that preys on economic stereotypes, that stirs people up with the old standbys (“the middle class is dying!!!!”), and then either doesn’t bother to offer a “solution” or if it does offers incredibly bad ones.

If it’s just an opinion piece then okay, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Unfortunately, misinformed opinions have a way of not exactly helping.

Thomas Brannigan ’86
Via email

Worth fighting for

**Barbara Turpin’s “How Could They?” essay was a masterpiece for someone like me. Born a Northerner but a Southerner by choice, I’ve lived in the South for 49 of my 74 years. In a short time I learned what Ms. Turpin learned in her pilgrimage to Gettysburg. Although the figures about slave ownership vary, it was clear that the soldiers in the field weren’t fighting so somebody could own slaves. Camaraderie, states’ rights and an oppressive federal government drove the men in gray, not slavery.

Daniel Rapp ’59
Taylorsville, North Carolina

**While in Charleston, South Carolina, recently, I visited the city’s Confederate Museum, which proudly displays countless uniforms, swords, photographs, bullets, medals and other artifacts from the War Between the States, as some Southerners refer to it. A day earlier I’d visited a plantation where generations of slaves were forced to pick cotton and manufacture bricks. I enjoy history, so this was all very interesting to me. But an important fact crept back into my consciousness. For whatever other reason Southerners supported secession, they knew a Confederate victory would protect the institution of slavery. In an era of heightened reverence for the military, let’s remember there is nothing heroic or noble or intelligent in killing unquestioningly for an unjust cause — no matter how nostalgically later generations may remember it.

Ed Cohen
South Bend

**I applaud Barbara Turpin’s understanding of the Civil War, but for some reason she feels compelled to compare the bravery and sacrifice of those soldiers with her stereotypical assumptions about Vietnam-era service — that Americans who fought and died in Vietnam did so out of coercion, mindless discipline and unquestioningly obeying orders on behalf of people who did not want us there against an enemy whom we admired for their tenacity in their commitment to a cause. Had she spent as much time studying the Vietnam War as she has the Civil War, rather than merely accepting her 1960s perspective, she would know the answer to the question, “How could they?”

As a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam, I saw too many friends and young Marines pay the price for others to not understand the cause we fought and died for. Any reasonable study of American post-World War II history would put that war appropriately within the context of this country’s decades-long commitment to challenge and contain the spread of communism. That era was known collectively as the Cold War, and we won it with the final collapse of communism in 1989.

So yes, there was a cause — the defense of freedom and our way of life. Like our forefathers, we fought for a cause, for patriotism and a commitment to our fellow countrymen, whether they appreciate it or not. The sacrifices made in that long ago Cold War protected the rights of a whole generation of self-righteous dissenters to develop and express their cynical opinions — opinions they are entitled to as long as they are not misconstrued as fact.

Patrick J. McDonnell ’65
Lake Forest, Illinois

Memories of Cuba

As someone whose family history with Cuba goes way back, I enjoyed your winter issue article (“The Rome of the Americas”) and it brought back memories. I thought you might be interested to learn of another connection between ND and Cuba — my grandfather, or “Abuelo” as we called him — C.C. FitzGerald, Class of 1894.

C.C., short for Christopher Columbus, was second generation Irish, born in The Dalles, Oregon, in 1873. After the death of his mother, at the age of 12, he was packed off to go east by train — we’re not sure if he was even accompanied — to get his education at Notre Dame. He went through grade school, high school and college there, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1894. He even taught for a year after graduation before joining the Southern Railway as a civil engineer.

In 1898, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a captain in the combat engineers, going to Cuba to fight in the Spanish American War. I have a photo of him in uniform standing next to his war horse on a banana plantation that sits prominently in my living room.

Apparently he stayed in Cuba to clean up after the war, including helping to raise the USS Maine from Havana harbor. At some point he returned to the United States and married an Irish lass, Eugenia O’Day, in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1903, but he had been so in love with Cuba that he took her back there and went into partnership with a Cuban to form a civil engineering company, Ingenieros Civil y Contratistas, which was very prominent and successful in Havana. The firm was no doubt responsible for building a number of the buildings referred to in the article. I know, for instance, that they built much of the old Havana Yacht Club. Abuelo retired in 1950 and continued to live in Havana until kicked out by Castro in 1960, having all his life and family possessions expropriated. He and my Abuela moved back to Lexington, where they died several years later.

C.C. was well-connected and respected throughout Havana. Having been there the longest of any American, he was considered “The Dean” of the American community. I know he also had fond remembrances of his upbringing and education at Notre Dame and had a large influence in my going to Notre Dame and studying engineering myself. As a matter of fact, I have the gold medal Notre Dame bestowed on him on the 50th anniversary of his graduation.

Needless to say, Cuba holds a dear place in my own heart. I was born there myself, but I have not been back since the summer of 1960, when we helped my grandparents get out. And I have mixed feelings about going back until the political situation there changes, although at a professional level, being in the travel writing and reporting business, there is clearly an evolving story there.

Mike Thiel ’67
Rye, New Hampshire

Remember the rules

The third commandment is found in Exodus 19:7: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” I am disappointed that the story, “If I can’t remember who I am…” was printed in the winter 2011-12 Notre Dame Magazine. The story takes our Lord’s name in vain. To print a story that included the use of our Lord’s name as a curse word is offensive. I have always felt as if Notre Dame stood as a force to fight against the tide of such cultural depravity.

DeAnn Swinton
Notre Dame Parent
Southlake, Texas

Re: Patrick Hannon’s article in the winter edition (“If I can’t remember who I am”) — I enjoyed the article but think it’s too bad the Catholic Church still embraces celibacy because he’ll never get to see the second nine through a grandchild’s eyes.

Ken Peirce ’65
Via email

Suite miscount

Whoever was counting the house for the premiere missed four people in the balcony — three students together in the first row and me alone in the third. I was following the advice given us freshman year by an English professor who urged us to attend as many cultural events as possible at Washington Hall. His rationale was that our wives in future years would drag us to concerts, the opera, ballet, etc., and we should start to learn about these now. It was wonderful advice and I followed it assiduously, missing less than a handful of events over my four years. Because of Cunningham’s innovative choreography, the evening is still vivid in my recollection. I have seen his troupe 3 or 4 times over the intervening years. All incoming students should receive this advice.

Charles G. Conway ’56

Via email

Type size problem

To whom it may concern: I want to voice a concern about the size of lettering in the recent ND magazines. I realize that space is “everything” now days, but I simply quite reading most of the articles because it takes too much time to focus on the words. Thanks and what ever.

Dick Golob ’55
Sunnyside, Washington

Dr. Graf’s skills

I enjoyed the article about Kenneth Graf M.D. in the winter 2011-12 issue. Ken and I did our post-doctoral training together at the same Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, hospital. He was as dedicated, caring and skilled then as the article so cogently depicts him now.

Joseph Leaser M.D.
Via email

Hildegard revisited

I was interested to see that Dr. Fassler is studying Hildegard of Bingen. For several years I lived not far from the Abby of St. Hildegard in Eibingen, Germany. The beautiful Abby sits among the vineyards high in the hills above the Rhine River. It was one of my favorite places to visit. There is a quiet serenity and joyous atmosphere that emanates from the buildings, art, and especially the sisters; doubtless from their founder’s spirit. I often bought jelly, noodles, crackers and excellent wine from their Abby store. I am still saving several bottles for a special occasion! I will never forget the site of one of the sisters directing the grape harvest, the Rhine valley in the background and her full habit whipping in the wind.

Emily Wickham ’85
Via email

Icy times

As I sit here, during another frigid New England day, I came across the brief article (“Seen & Heard”) on the new hockey arena and it brought a smile to my face; remembering the first Irish hockey game I saw back when it was still a club sport. It was during the 1966-67 season outdoors in South Bend against Michigan State. I don’t remember the score or even who won, but I do remember how bitter cold it was. Those guys must have really loved that sport to practice and play outdoors in those conditions. Congratulations to those originators and the program for persevering.

Russ Pennell ’71

Franklin, Massachusetts

Peace Corp safety

I read “Pioneers on the Peace Corps frontier” in the autumn 2011 issue. As a ND MSA graduate and senior, I am presently extending my service as Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, Africa. I feel it is totally safe to serve wherever Peace Corps is working. They have very high standards of security for their volunteers. I taught two years in a village at PMSS for math, computer, English and library skills. Now I moved and I am teaching at Tumaini University: I am in the math education department, so I am teaching new TZ math teachers.

Secondly, I would like to encourage more seniors to volunteer during their retirement. We are so blessed in USA with good health and so many benefits. It is a privilege to serve where there is a need for teachers, health workers and other professional.

Thirdly, I was blessed to be in Dar es Salaam for town hall meeting with Director Williams and to attend the 50th celebration in 2011. I will never forget the program which emphasized our continued working together for fellowship and unity for USA & Tanzania for the next 50 years. Maybe I will still be volunteering here when Peace Corps celebrate 75 years in TZ!! The world is truly very small and universality of humanity is very rich. Welcome to any underdeveloped country to serve for a few weeks or two years!

Marilyn Bick ’84 MSA
Tumaini University
Iringa, TZ Africa