Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the summer 2018 print issue are marked by a double ##.
The key piece missing
##I liked the article on Scott Malpass ’84, ’86MBA (“Vested interests”), but I think you might have said a word or two about why Malpass is a good investor. What do the handful of good endowment managers have in common? Even if you had said, “We just don’t know,” that would have been more satisfying than ducking a key question.
Norbert Wiley ’57
Little River, California
1968 and beyond
##As a Jew who came to Notre Dame in 1973 and stayed for more than 35 years, I want to thank David Dreyer ’77, ’80J.D. for his fine article on Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy (“The man who would grieve King”). As a young boy in Akron, Ohio, I knew nothing about the Catholic Church, but I well remember the absolute despair I felt after Bobby Kennedy was so needlessly shot and killed. Kennedy was my first, but in no way the last, Catholic hero — before Tom Merton, St. Augustine, Dorothy Day, Notre Dame Professor Fred Crosson and now Pope Francis. Because of such people and because of the great teachers and colleagues I had at Notre Dame, I learned what the Catholic Church might mean, especially for the poor and wretched of the earth. Due to the example of such fine and compassionate people, I was baptized and came ever so close to becoming what perhaps I was meant to be, a humble Trappist Jewish Catholic monk. They taught me how to live and showed me the True Way.
We need Bobby Kennedy again, perhaps as never before, someone who can bind the poor, both black and white, and everyone in the great “rainbow coalition” of our nation into a movement that might break through the walls of hate and fear. I pray to the Lord for Bobby Kennedy, who, through a thoroughly redemptive grief, offered himself for his nation and brought us a little sense of what America and Roman Catholicism might really mean.
Alven Neiman ’78Ph.D.
During the 1968 Sophomore Literary Festival, we were at a party at a professor’s home when the tragic news from Memphis broke on the living room TV. Everyone recoiled into his or her own private shock at the shooting of Martin Luther King. A campus Marxist told anyone within earshot this would end only when everyone was armed. I recall making endless laps around the house, unable to stay put. On several of my orbits, I encountered a tall, thin gent with curly grey hair and a McCarthy button. It took a couple of passes for me to recognize Kurt Vonnegut, obviously, like some of his characters, “unstuck in time.” That year was one of those awful years. One hated to live through it, not knowing what new horror would come with each day. Yet having come through it, you’d not have missed it.
Jack Lavelle ’68
##I have been reading Notre Dame Magazine for 40 years, but the latest issue has touched me the most. As a young man, I worked for Robert Kennedy and helped organize his 1968 presidential campaign in the Indiana primary. The article by David Dreyer was well done, recalling memories of two exceptional leaders whose inspiring careers ended too soon. As a professor of theology whose doctoral dissertation was on reconciliation and who has taught for 35 years on that topic, I read with great emotion — at times needing to stop because of tears — “To Forgive a Killer,” by Reverend Sharon Risher and Abigail Pesta ’91, describing Risher’s painful journey to forgiveness after her mother’s death in a Charleston church. The two articles seemed like bookends reminding us of the great tragedies that gun violence has caused in our nation and in the lives of individuals and families. The two reaffirmed my commitment to work for responsible gun laws and an end to easy access to guns.
Edward Sellner ’78M.A., ’81Ph.D.
Saint Paul, Minnesota
##I make my living by selling artificial intelligence (AI) to the Department of Defense. Your survey of this topic was great and covered all the key concepts with excellent reach. Back in my Notre Dame days, I studied moral philosophy and fell under the influence of Alasdair MacIntyre and Thomistic moral philosophy. That’s partly why I chuckle at the occasional scientific study to produce ethical AI, as if you could bake it in so humans don’t have to monitor or manage that aspect, which is silly. AI is an expression of the values of the person who creates it. What gives AI purpose is a person.
The best option we have to prevent AI from making war much more efficient is to use it to tackle the conditions that lead to war — resource scarcity, illiteracy, fanaticism, misunderstanding, disharmony between a state and its citizens. Anyone seeking to please God and perhaps become the future patron saint of artificial intelligence has no shortage of opportunity.
Brennan Murphy ’94
##I found Jason Kelly’s cover story (“Too Smart for Our Own Good?”) to be thought-provoking and unsettling — enough so that I think a follow-up article is in order. Kelly effectively outlines how the trajectory of technology suggests that “something big is coming” which has the potential to “alter the natural order of things” in ways both beneficial and disastrous. It may be wise to prepare for such possible social upheaval.
The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari speaks of the inadvertent creation of a large, new socioeconomic group he calls the “useless class” — a rapidly growing number of people who are rendered permanently unemployable by the development of labor automation technologies that are both physically and intellectually superior to the best that most humans have to offer. It is noteworthy that this is taken very seriously by many of the tech billionaires driving the technology forward. Some have said it is inevitable that wealthy countries will be forced to institute government programs to allow citizens to survive without working and receive a “Universal Basic Income.”
There may be good reasons to think a Universal Basic Income is politically unfeasible, economically impractical or socially undesirable. But what better alternatives do we have for coping with the profound disruptions that Kelly’s article alludes to? The magazine has shown us an important problem; it should follow up with an exploration of possible solutions.
Chris Sayre ’83
John Zahm and intellectual freedom
##Thank you for the wonderful article on Father John Zahm (“Way Out Front”). In this time when many religiously affiliated institutions ostensibly devoted to “higher learning” more often appear to aspire to indoctrination, it is thrilling to be reminded that Notre Dame was, and remains — as quoted from a newspaper article of the time — a place where students “are making scientific advancement pretty rapidly for people who are supposed to live mainly in the mists of the middle ages.” Zahm was assailed by reactionaries who wished Catholics to remain thoughtless sheep beholden to them for what and how they should think. As evidenced by some of the letters you receive, there remain among our fellow alumni those who view any departure from mindless repetition of orthodoxy as betrayal. My love for Notre Dame is inextricably linked to its commitment to cultivating a critical, mindful faith, strengthened by free inquiry and by acknowledging and wrestling with the mystery of faith and the questions any thinking person must have in closely reading the Scriptures. I applaud Notre Dame Magazine for constantly and courageously honoring that proud tradition.
Michael Hogan ’79, ’80
Georges Mills, New Hampshire
Statuary to-do list
I enjoyed the article and photos on Jerry McKenna and his statues (“Bronze star”). It got me thinking. Isn’t it time for a Muffet McGraw statue? Two national championships by a Hall of Fame coach. Let’s get Jerry working on it!
John Zurcher ’71
I just finished my first skim, looking for familiar names, and as usual you have done a fine job. But, looking at the statues, the notion struck me: Where are the statues to our immortal teachers? Wouldn’t our quads look even better with casual poses of our eminent educators placed strategically about?
Perhaps there are too many candidates? But excess quality should not deprive those deserving lasting recognition.
My first nominee is Frank O’Malley. A small bench near Lyons Hall of him with his pipe, a dram and a book.
Mount Sterling, Kentucky
I read “What do you make of the ride?” by chance while on the New York City subway. Thanks to Ms. Sivanandan for an insightful, resonant piece that made my morning commute more enjoyable than usual!
Ashleigh Thompson ’98, ’03MSA
New York City