Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Letters appearing in the autumn 2019 print issue are marked by a double ##.


##I must respectfully disagree with Kerry Temple (“Before It’s Too Late”) on his analysis of the environmental issues facing the world. The hysterical overreaction to global warming follows a trend that I have witnessed from environmental extremists throughout my life. My first recollection of this trend was in the 1960s when the environmentalists all warned that the population “explosion” was about to overwhelm the earth and we would quickly run out of resources. Well, 50 years and more than 4 billion additional people later, we still seem to have plenty of resources (except for a few lost bees and butterflies). Population growth is one of the best things that can happen to society. Although no environmentalist will ever admit it, human resources are by far the most important resource.

The next big threat to civilization, according to the environmentalists, was in the 1970s when, once again, we were going to run out of resources unless we started dramatic conservation efforts and switched to renewable resources. This resulted in large sacrifices by homeowners, automobile drivers, etc. to reduce oil consumption in order to conserve it for the future. Well, we are now in the future and the environmentalists won’t let us use any of that oil that we sacrificed so much to save.

Now carbon dioxide is the new culprit about to destroy the world. This is especially hard for me to accept. Studying for my chemical engineering degrees, all of my professors hammered into us the concept that the best possible environmental outcome from any chemical or industrial process was to have nothing more than oxygen, water and carbon dioxide released into the environment. After all, how dangerous can a gas be that we inhale and exhale with every breath? We have now eliminated most of the truly dangerous pollutants from the air and, instead of celebrating that achievement, the environmentalists are busy looking for another reason to predict the end of the world as we know it.

The threat of global warming has been greatly exaggerated. Nature has always shown an amazing ability to heal itself. God knew what he was doing. God put natural resources on the earth for mankind to use to try to improve our lives. Billions of people live in poverty. I believe it is immoral for a bunch of relatively wealthy, comfortable environmental extremists to deny those people the use of the resources God provided to improve their living standards.

Kim McClain ’74, ’75M.S.

Westlake, Ohio


##I can share your concern for what mankind is doing to Mother Nature, but I don’t lie awake at night worrying about climate change. It [carbon dioxide] is 0.091 percent of the earth’s atmosphere. The earth’s average temperature has only increased by 0.9 degrees Celsius in 100 years.

While wildlife and bird populations are decreasing at alarming rates, so have their habitats. The forests and fields are being destroyed to satisfy an expanding human population and to accommodate everything from mining to farming. But 7.8 billion people have to eat every day. In 1920 it was only 2 billion. The farm products get to market by petroleum-powered planes, trains and trucks, so you get carbon dioxide. Take away the petroleum and every tree in the world will soon be gone — used for fuel to heat and cook. How will that affect the atmosphere?

Astrophysicist Wei-Hock Soon is labeled a denier in climate change circles, but he presents the unaltered data that says it isn’t as bad as the politically driven scientists would like you to believe. When science is motivated by politics, it is no longer science.

Daniel Rapp ’59

Canton, Georgia


##I can only think of one appropriate response to Kerry Temple’s doom and gloom article — take a deep breath, relax and embrace the joy of family, friends, community and the abundance that the U.S. of A. has provided you and yours. In short, it’s just not that bad. As a matter of fact, people living today (here and abroad) have the highest standard of living at any time in human existence, and the data show that we don’t live in an era of proliferating climate catastrophes.

World Vision reports that the share of the world population living in absolute poverty has fallen from 84 percent in 1820 to less than 10 percent in 2019. The trend continues to improve with more people exiting absolute poverty in the last 35 years than in the previous 165 years. America has provided a significant push to make this happen — better worldwide early education, better health care, a better economic system — capitalism — better technology, etc.

After reviewing 150 years of hurricanes striking the United States, HurricaneScience.org concludes, “No significant long term up or down trend is apparent in this record.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded an annual average of 56 F3+ [strong to violent] tornadoes from 1954 to 1985. From 1986 to 2018, the average dropped to 34 per year, with the downward trend continuing in the last decade. Researchers at the University of Maryland, analyzing satellite data from 1982 to 2016, concluded that the world’s tree cover increased by 2.24 million square kilometers — an area larger than Texas and Alaska combined. Alarmists point out that the earth has lost 10.6 trillion tons of ice and snow in the last 50 years, but Wikipedia estimates the total weight of ice and snow on Earth is still 38,800 trillion tons.

The point is simple — the world will go on with our existence being but a whisper across the eons. Cheer up, be happy, plant a tree!

Dennis Regan ’81

Newport Beach, California


##“Before It’s Too Late” really deserves a closer look. The author has done some fine research and summarizes what we know are some key facts about the appalling results of what we are doing to the planet. However, he made the glaring omission of what we have recently learned about the holocaust our species has visited upon the animal kingdom, which [according to the World Wildlife Fund] has shrunk by some 60 percent over the past 50 years. And the article’s prose degrades into futile, first-person handwringing, as if we are dealing with somebody’s ineffectual and timid old auntie when discussing what to do and how to live now.

The stark fact is, we no longer have the luxury to ponder in drowsy longueurs the finicky nuances of the impending apocalypse, acting as if we’re on an extended beach vacation. We barely — and maybe even won’t — have the time to run to safer, higher ground. But there is a chance to avoid what our more honest spokespersons for science are willing to admit: The human species is at an ever-growing risk of extinction so long as we continue ignoring the cataclysmic consequences of capitalist-driven consumption.

It will take the nations of the earth and masses of people willing to come together and cooperate. It will take august institutions like the Vatican to start shouldering their responsibility by providing clear and authoritative moral leadership. Make no mistake; this is a moral problem, which lies at the foundations of how we have come to make a “tragic, desperate mess” of the planet, as David Attenborough said recently. For those Christians willing to cultivate a true inner life, there has never been a better time than right now to question our intimate relationship to the more lethal aspects of capitalism.

By now it’s apparent we can’t turn to Rome for leadership, so let’s look instead to the precepts taught and lived by Jesus himself. All throughout the New Testament Jesus warns us about the impossibility of achieving both enlightenment and pursuing material pleasure. Even righteous living won’t save us as long as we continue to place value in wealth accrual. We Christians rarely seem to account for the fact that Jesus chose to eschew the material quest because he knew how potent and alluring those attachments are. It is time for us Christians to follow his lead. Instead, we keep investing our faith and attention in everything Jesus warned us away from.

John Simone ’72

New York


Your recent issue features some of the best articles I’ve read in Notre Dame Magazine. The Judeo-Christian European tradition has mostly regarded nature with suspicion and as something to be controlled. The first inhabitants of North America saw animals as teachers. European settlers imposed their arrogance and fear of nature. Among other atrocities, we emptied the continent of 30 to 60 million bison in a mere 100 years. There are consequences to ignoring the balances of nature. How much human trafficking and migration, among other consequences, are we witnessing now as the direct result of our dependence on fossil fuels? Here in West Virginia we witness daily the poor health and pollution that results from coal and gas extraction. The consequences of our mindless consumer comforts and disregard for the natural world will come with a price we cannot afford.

Betsy Jaeger Lawson ’76

Morgantown, West Virginia


##Blessedly, Notre Dame Magazine has unswervingly dug into the brokenness of the environment and the Catholic Church — both of which raise far more questions than answers and are much easier (in the short term) to ignore than tackle head on. But what if Catholics can foster healing on both fronts by moving in one direction?

Each week, I drive past the property of the local archdiocese — acres and acres of barren, gigantic lawns and a limited number of trees. This land could be a Garden of Eden, if the concepts of permaculture, food forests and organic gardening were applied to this burnt-up sea of grass. This desolate land could be used to solve so many problems: capturing excess carbon through plants; healing the soil; providing local, nutritious food; connecting people to the land; even providing a place to farm for the struggling group of landless farmers. Many, likely most, church communities have land occupied by grass, which presents a fantastic opportunity. 

Ultimately all the money in the world can’t fix the damage created by sexual abuse, but if clergy and laypeople were to reengage with God’s creation on Church land by getting their hands dirty, experiencing the humility of connecting with the soil and moving into action, maybe then healing can truly take hold for both the Church and planet.

Debby Reelitz ’92

North Granby, Connecticut


Thank you for this wonderful issue dedicated to the preservation of our earth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the No. 1 challenge in the long list of things the “Irish fight for” could be an effort to preserve our planet? When my husband Chuck ’63 died in 2005, our family decided that we would try to continue his philanthropic work in land preservation. After many discussions with [former Mendoza College of Business] Dean Carolyn Woo we agreed to fund a class in land conservation finance as a way to help fledgling conservation groups work with investors, bankers, real estate brokers and local activists, which had not been a subject taken seriously in academic institutions. To this day, our little class is chugging along under the design of David Hutchinson in Mendoza and is now affiliated with the new real estate major. Preservation and sustainable management of our precious lands and water sources are vital to the health of our planet. 

Mary Louise Hartman

Princeton, New Jersey


##The issue on climate change made me proud to be a triple Domer. But I do take issue with one aspect relating to the efficacy of carbon offsets, which then leads to a much deeper issue.

I am one of those “ecoradicals who hate market-based solutions like carbon offsets.” The reason is simple. These may seem like a good idea, but in practice devolve into fraudulent accounting shell games. In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein thoroughly presents “overwhelming evidence that manufacturers are gaming the system by producing more potent greenhouse gases just so they can get paid to destroy them.” In one case, “[S]elling carbon credits constituted a jaw-dropping 93.4% of one Indian firm’s total revenues in 2012.” Supposedly buying Amazon forestland and setting it aside does little to clear the air of greenhouse gases, and recent events in Argentina show the folly of thinking anyone can maintain the set-aside in the face of growing population pressure and simple greed.

The deeper issue is highlighted by the subtitle of Klein’s book: Capitalism vs the Climate. This clash of values is the real “inconvenient truth.” Simply adopting some of the many forms of socialism certainly is no guarantee that we can solve the problem (and indeed to me it appears insoluble in any case), but it is certain that wild-west capitalism (including the Chinese state capitalism variety) is out of the question. It is disheartening to listen to our own grads who speak of capitalism as some kind of religious issue that somehow trumps common sense: as if capitalism and our tolerance for its excesses have not changed over the last two-plus centuries, along with everything else. The only glimmer of hope that I see is in the changing values of many (enough?) of the planet’s young people, including some at Our Lady’s University.

Patrick J. Roache ’60, ’62M.S., ’67Ph.D.

Socorro, New Mexico


##I read with interest the article “Where Are We Headed?” by Anna Keating about my alma mater, Colorado College. Frankly, I feel that she mischaracterizes — and overgeneralizes — students at Notre Dame and Colorado College. The picture she paints was not the experience my friends or I had as undergraduates. In 1991, the Volunteer Center at CC was established to help students engage in their local community. It also helped to connect the various service groups on campus already serving Colorado Springs in order to amplify their efforts. In the same year Alternative Spring Break was started to provide students opportunities to serve their community during school breaks.

Through my participation in both efforts I learned to think globally and act locally, to take quick showers, to volunteer as a basketball coach at local public schools. I learned (after a semester in Urban Studies in Chicago) that volunteering locally was more important than traveling across the world. I learned that there is poverty and need here at home. It is important to care about the desperate situation of all Christ’s children, and it is equally important to build a just society here at home.

I know that Notre Dame seeks to instill the same values. I just wish that you did not paint the students at ND or CC with such broad strokes. For every student that goes to study sustainability in Indonesia — an important pursuit in itself — several more are getting food for a local pantry, tutoring kids at local schools or helping families transition from homeless shelters to more permanent housing.

Jim Marshall

Portland, Maine


This is in response to “Before It’s Too Late” and “The Sacred Earth.”

I am not writing this to be nasty. Hopefully, this will be a dialogue.

I am a veteran; I was a member of the Gulf of Tonkin Yacht Club.

I grew up on a farm in northern Indiana, 10 miles south of South Bend. I learned that no matter how cold you are, or how badly you want to do something else, the animals had to be fed and watered. There was a mantra: Do it right or don’t do it. I learned that just because I thought I had a good solution didn’t mean it would work, no matter how much wishful thinking I put into it. Reality is a cruel taskmaster.

I am a civil (structural) engineer. When I was at Notre Dame, I had fantastic professor. They taught me, they opened my eyes, they showed me to dig for that gem of understanding, and most importantly, to not quit digging until you find it. These very simple and yet very complex traits have taken me to cool places and put me in challenging positions where I didn’t really have a boss, and found or was handed problems no one else could solve. I thank my lucky stars that I went to Notre Dame. The following is a brief summary.

I worked on the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). I spent eight years at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. I spent the last 23 years and retired from the Ford Motor Company. While at Ford I taught myself the numerics of vibration analysis and used this book to teach the class on vibration analysis 16 times to over 400 Ford engineers. I became a technical expert in advanced methods of NVH (noise and vibration analysis), and also in durability (fatigue) analysis. Ford has hundreds of engineers worldwide doing vibration analysis, and when they got stuck, they would contact me. It is really cool to be in a position where you get handed the most difficult problems, until you realize you have to solve it. Then things get very lonely, and I gave up trying to find someone who could help me.

When you face a complex problem, you find there is almost never a perfect solution. There is typically always a penalty. The design has to be changed dramatically, or you have to add weight, or a bracket has to be added, or a machining operation has to be added or. . . .

And now we have climate change. To be clear, every fourth grader knows about climate change. They know that 20,000 years ago there was an ice age, and thousands of years from now there will be another one. The issue is whether humans are causing climate change by releasing CO2 into the air. The climate change pundits believe that CO2 is creating human-caused climate change. To solve climate change, we have to stop creating CO2 by burning fossil fuels.

Simply put, there are two things putting CO2 into the air — generating electricity, and cars.

Five years ago, an engineer friend of mine handed me two tech journals on climate change. He wanted me to read them, and then we would discuss them. I read each article three times and even took notes. (I knew he wanted to discuss this in depth.) The articles said that because of climate change hundreds of millions of people were going to starve to death, and it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to build the seawalls that would keep the coasts of the United States from being under water. This has a profound effect on me. I cannot imagine any worse scenario than this. The articles go on about photo cells and windmills. The author, to show he knows something about the subject, mentions that when the wind isn’t blowing, natural gas will be burned to generate electricity. When it is night and the photo cells don’t work, they burn natural gas or coal to create electricity. He mentions that this is inconsistent because CO2 is still being generated, but it is the best we can do.

Do you see this? At this point, I realize that these climate change pundits don’t believe it themselves. If you really believe CO2 creates climate change and this will lead to hundreds of millions of people starving to death, you advocate, you demand, that no fossil fuels be burned. You advocate nuclear power. If you really believe hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death, you have to advocate for nuclear power, but they don’t. I realize the climate change pundits have turned this subject into a career. They travel all over the world attending conference after conference. They go to Antarctica and Greenland, to places the rest of us will never be able to go. Almost daily we see them on television, telling us how bad it is going to be. They are snake-oil salesmen, where the snake oil is gloom and doom.

Let me create an analogy. They are saying there will be a flood. For 20 years they tell us there is going to be a flood. Hundreds of millions of people will drown. But when you look, the wall to stop the flood is only six inches high. You realize they don’t believe it.

When the climate change pundits advocate nuclear power, I will come aboard. But right now I don’t believe it. And this is the reason that so many people don’t believe it. They think this is a scam.

Some further comments:

In “The Sacred Earth,” I read that “bishops in the Philippines have led protests against new coal-fired power plants.” Truck drivers in Alabama refer to Birmingham as Smoke City. Birmingham used to have huge steel mills and pumped enormous amounts of black smoke into the sky. The mills are gone now. In Pittsburgh in the 1940s you could look at the sun at noon and not have to avert your eyes because there was so much smoke in the air. Environmentally, this was a disaster. But you have to understand that this activity helped to build America. Steel for the rails, for the structural steel for the buildings, for the cars, for the locomotives. This activity made America great, and allowed us to become the greatest nation on earth. Now, the people of the Philippines want the same thing we already have, but the bishops want to stop them. I think this is cruel.

Further, I read how the Church’s worldwide network of humanitarian agencies has divested from petroleum companies. You are proud of the fact that Notre Dame has converted from coal to natural gas to generate electricity. Where do you think the natural gas comes from? Do you drive a car? Do you buy gasoline for your cars? You use the products from the oil companies, but you think they are evil. This is inconsistent and hypocritical. Also, and I don’t understand this at all, how does divesting from the oil companies solve climate change? Explain this to me. You belittle the oil companies, but you buy their products. Do you see the confusion this creates? Also, the oil companies have done things that are essentially impossible. They risk their lives and money to bring oil out of places that are absolutely hostile. They have allowed the society of the United States to be great, to allow people to travel and get to work and get groceries.

Finally, I read that that first of the documents signed at the Vatican calls for “reliable and economically meaningful carbon-pricing regimes.” How does this stop CO2 from going into the air? When people read this, or hear it, their thoughts are that you are just playing with the problem.

Why don’t the climate change pundits advocate planting a million acres of trees? Find the land, hire the foresters to test the soil so they know which trees will grow on the land and determine the spacing. Get a Fortune 500 company to cover the expenses of the foresters, the seedlings and the people to plant them. Is there a downside to this? As the trees are being planted, will there be protesters? I would think not. A million acres of trees would reduce CO2 by 1 to 5 percent — not a lot. But it is doing something. You mention the planting of trees. So why isn’t this happening? Because the climate change pundits don’t believe it?

Enough on generating electricity, now we start on cars. Go to the mechanical engineering department at Notre Dame and ask them if the diesel engines put out less CO2 than gasoline engines. If they say diesels put out less, are you going to buy a diesel powered car? You have been manipulated. You think diesel engines are evil. Sit down and ask the professors in the mechanical engineering department about the truth.

Robert P. Thacker Jr. ’76, ’77M.S.

Ypsilanti, Michigan


Sure, the earth’s climate is changing now as it always has for the past 4.5 billion years. These changes today do not differ from those of the earth’s existence. I assume during your research you discovered that we are in a period known as the “Holocene” interglacial, which lasts for relatively short periods of about 11,500 years. The earth has been gradually warming during this period. And you also most likely discovered that this temperate “Holocene” period is nearing the end of its existence.

Indisputable geological and scientific evidence shows that the earth has been through hotter and colder periods during its long existence. This occurs because there is considerable cyclical variability in the sun’s warmth. The energy output of the sun itself has determined when the earth gets hotter and colder. Sunspot activity is closely correlated with the sun’s total energy output. When there are lots of sunspots, the sun produces more energy and the earth gets hotter. When sunspots recede, the earth gets colder. Data collected by the National Solar Observatory further shows that the magnetic strength of the sunspots regardless of their amount has linearly declined since 1990.

Western Antarctica ice is melting primarily due to volcanic activity. Eastern Antarctica, four times the size of Western Antartica, is cooling and gaining ice. By September 2014, the Antarctic ice cap set a new record high of 16.8 million square kilometers. That's more than 600,000 square kilometers greater than recorded since 1979, when satellites began tracking sea ice. At that time, CO2 (which makes up only 0.117 percent of the “greenhouse effect”) in the atmosphere was 336 parts per million. Although that figure has inched toward 390 ppm today, Antarctic ice is growing rather than melting. Lest I forget, 99.72 percent of the greenhouse effect is attributed to natural causes like water vapor and trace amounts of gases not caused by people.

What we need to be concerned about is global cooling, not global warming. In the 17th century, the sun plunged into a 70-year period of almost no sunspot activity. The astronomer Edmund Halley monitored the sun and failed to count more than a dozen sunspots per year compared to the usual thousands. During this period the average global temperature fell by two degrees Celsius. The result was devastating. The summer of 1693 got so cold that millions of people in France and surrounding countries died of starvation. In Scotland there were crop failures in eight of the last nine years of the 17th century. This was the primary driving force in Scotland joining England to make up the United Kingdom — they needed access to fields at lower altitudes to grow grain. A major reason for the collapse of the Roman Empire was colder weather that drove the barbarian German tribes south looking for food and warmth.

Think about this: If the United States experienced the “Little Ice Age” of the 17th century, it would end U.S. economic predominance, bring about the death of the dollar, see a huge surge in gold, and wipe out the multidecade progression of real living standards we have enjoyed since World War II. Global warming means good weather to grow food and to keep our standard of living intact. The earth's base climate is an Ice Age; we are in a very short period of warming as noted above. During pre-Copernican days when people believed humans and the earth were the center of the universe, none of them ever insisted that human action could arbitrarily change the climate. In those days, that was the province of God.

Brian Sontchi ’75

Batavia, Illinois


Your statement on climate change is all I need to know about you. Did you ever consider one article from someone who doesn’t think it is important? Don’t think your readers could handle it? Maybe Notre Dame hasn’t prepared us for the evils of this world. Are you?

Tom Wich ’63

Fairview, Texas


The image that graced the cover of the autumn issue depicting the earth roasting over a fire must have jolted some readers. Surely this is alarmist!

But is it? When the issue hit, California was on fire again, followed shortly by Australia, and the Amazon was burning at an unprecedented rate, just as rainforests along the earth’s tropical belt — which provides much of the earth’s respiration — were being destroyed to plant soybeans and palm oil and raise more beef.

The month before, a report from the Army War College warned that within the next 20 years rising temperatures coiuld cause the U.S. electrical grid to collapse, diseases to spread out of control, and sea levels to “displace tens (if not hundreds) of millions, creating massive, enduring instability.”

It is not “if” but “when” the United States will experience a large outbreak of infectious disease such as Zika, West Nile, Lyme and other diseases affected by heat, the report says. If called upon to respond, the military could be overwhelmed.

The army says today’s fires are just “a taste of the future.”

Since then, Pope Francis has suggested that “sins against the environment” could be added to the catechism and corporations prosecuted for “ecocide.” This, too, could be dismissed as alarmist, but we cannot dismiss the moral question of what each of us, in our comparatively great wealth, should be doing right now. Travel less, eat less meat, waste less food, and support public officials who would take action to protect our common home?

Alarm is noble if true. Congratulations, Notre Dame Magazine, for lighting a fire under your readers.

Jerry Brady ’58

Boise, Idaho


In all the years I’ve been reading Notre Dame Magazine, I found your autumn 2019 issue, worthy of special attention and reflection. True, there’s certainly more bad news than good for us all to absorb in this new era of the Anthropocene — and I’ve struggled to keep up with much that’s been written about it elsewhere. But aside from your magazine, one doesn’t often find testimony to the ways in which climate change poses not only a geophysical threat to humanity’s health and survival, but a profound spiritual and theological challenge as well. In the articles by Kerry Temple and John Nagy, it’s that often-ignored dimension of our planetary crisis that I most appreciated seeing placed on center stage. And for those of us who teach at academic institutions, most of which still encourage a jet-setting-studies mentality that’s sadly at odds with our presumed commitment to environmental sustainability, Anna Keating’s article offers a bracing, much-needed corrective to the sort of student-recruitment hype that’s too often inclined to compromise our highest educational ideals.

John Gatta ’68

Sewanee, Tennessee


The permafrost is melting

The Amazon is burning

The people are yearning

My stomach is churning

And our leaders diddle

And fiddle and yawn

John Monczunski

South Bend, Indiana


Venn Diagram concerning Autumn 2019 issue:

A: Notre Dame Magazine editors who support team travel to away games, fan traffic to home games, lighting and HVAC for indoor stadiums.

B: Notre Dame Magazine editors who are advocates against global warming.

A&B: Notre Dame Magazine editors who have no need for logical consistency.

Warren Smith ’68

Washington, North Carolina


Great cover!

Rich Jalovec ’62

Oak Park, Illinois



##Julia Scott’s bravery in revealing so publicly her lifelong struggle with her fears and “dread” (“The Panic Button”) prompts me to do the same. I can remember my mother telling me in my preteen years that I was “too sensitive” compared with my four brothers. Girls are sensitive, Bobby, not boys. That label is indelible and is at the root of my own lifelong fears and occasional panic attacks. Ms. Scott’s article helps reassure me that I am not alone. I suggest readers who share such feelings also check out Elena Herdieckerhoff’s TED lecture, “The Gentle Power of Highly Sensitive People.” It’s an eye-opener in that some 50 percent of HSPs are men.

Robert Ferrante ’58

Shelton, Connecticut


Endowment tax

##I am sorry to learn that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will have such a profound and negative impact on the University’s endowment ($8 million to $10 million annually). Interestingly, the article (“Taxation without explanation”) fails to mention that the single most influential individual supporting the act, who personally ushered it through Congress, was the former Speaker of the House, prominent Republican and now Notre Dame economics professor Paul Ryan. I wonder if perhaps the administrators who are so unhappy about the law’s direct impact on the University, and who are devoting so much time and resources to determining exactly how much the University owes — due to the “thicket of uncertainty” of a law “enacted so quickly” — might simply walk across campus and ask Ryan to clarify and assist?

It is also curious that the article quotes the University’s president, Father John I. Jenkins, CSC, as saying that the law was “politically motivated,” yet fails to mention that this was a Republican initiative, and that zero Democrats in the House voted for it and zero Democrats in the Senate voted for it. Interesting omissions.

Doug Klostermann ’93

Arlington, Massachusetts


The writer’s gift

Jennifer Ann Moses just blew my mind at so many levels with her articulate but soulful essay (“What Are We Writing For?”). This should be required reading for parents and children. I have read a lot on the subject. I mothered one Notre Dame graduate who still writes; he is a medical doctor. I married an ND grad who still writes. Your honesty is our gift.

Marla Talbot

Goldsboro, North Carolina


Family heirlooms

“Look What the DNA Brought In” echoes my journey over the past seven years or so — and yes, I did have the gag reflex at the combination of Ancestry.com and the idea of ancient royal lineage.

What anyone who’s serious about evidence and proof and who’s spent any significant amount of time on Ancestry will know, is that it’s chock full of the most ridiculous and unsupported (and unsupportable) claims of descent from the likes of Roman emperors and Moorish caliphs. But there are good sources that offer credible, if somewhat tenuous, lines of descent from medieval royalty. One of my 17th century immigrant ancestors, for instance, is credibly (though I say still with a dollop of skepticism) the 17th great-granddaughter of Henry I of England.

I started the journey looking for my Irish roots and ended up documenting, to the satisfaction of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, that my mother is a descendant of Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins. But as Ken Bradford notes, the larger and most rewarding part is the incredible opportunity to reacquaint yourself in a more personal way with parts of history you’ve studied before, and to become aware of history at a personal level that you were never aware of. For instance, I’ve learned through my Quaker ancestors about the incredible role played by the Quakers in pushing the frontier westward, from late 17th century eastern Pennsylvania to the Upper Potomac wilderness of the Shenandoah Valley in the early to mid-18th century, to the western Carolinas in the mid- to late 18th century to escape the hostilities of the French and Indian War, then into the Northwest Territories in the late 18th century to escape the increasingly aggressive slave-based economy of the South. So many other episodes as well, including ancestral connections to both sides of the Salem Witch Trials and to the Hannah Dustin frontier captivity narrative. It’s a terrific way to deepen your understanding of both your personal genesis and the complicated, heroic, tragic and sometimes shameful history of our country. Bravo.

Michael Hogan ’79

Georges Mills, New Hampshire