More Praise and Criticism on Peace Weavers

My fellow alumni's vitriolic reactions [Mailbox, fall 2007] to the "Peace Weavers" cover story [summer 2007] are perplexing. I previously had believed that this country had moved beyond its self-imposed censorship of the years immediately after 9/11, by which criticism of President Bush was tantamount to treason. Evidently this mentality persists within the ranks of Northwestern graduates.

Neither the story, nor the cover montage, constitutes an unfair attack on the president, and they certainly do not criticize our troops. The limited references to Bush are comments on his policies, which in a free country ought to be fair game.

I would venture that, at a time when fewer than one in three Americans approve of the job the president is doing, displaying criticism of Bush actually represents a mainstream perspective. Irrespective of the president's popularity, however, I am truly disheartened that these Northwestern degree holders cannot handle perspectives with which they disagree.

Ann Nelson Dupuy (SESP63)
Redondo Beach, Calif.

I was startled and disheartened when I read the letters in the fall 2007 Northwestern concerning "Peace Weavers." Many of the responders seemed unwilling to even consider a viewpoint different from their own.

In my church we exchange the greeting "Peace be with you." This is done as a blessing and sign of friendship. "Peace" is a positive concept.

Some who wrote were very upset over photos of peaceful demonstrations against U.S. government policies. Others feel President Bush should never be questioned or negatively criticized. Are they not familiar with American history? While in office, every president has found himself at odds with some of his countrymen. Only dictators have the luxury of never being judged wrong.

I thank you for your "Peace Weavers" story. Please continue to cover a variety of issues and viewpoints — and, peace be with you.

Barbara Behnke Johnson (SESP52)
Oklahoma City

I was surprised and saddened to see such narrow-minded sentiments from my fellow graduates. I remember clearly the cover story featuring alumni serving in the military ["On Duty," winter 2005]. Despite my lack of agreement with U.S. military policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, I did not cancel my subscription, berate those supporting the policy or even feel compelled to write in to express my discomfort with that story topic.

Isn't tolerance of diverse opinions part of what a university education is all about? Besides, all the "Peace Weavers" story did, nearly three years later, was give balance to the military issue of 2005. I don't understand why the vitriolic letter writers did not see this. It is disappointing to think that some would discontinue supporting the University over balanced reporting.

Norvelle Merrill-Crawford (C77)
La Grange Park, Ill.

What encouraged me most in reading the letters about "Peace Weavers" was the virtually unanimous nonsupportive response to the tasteless cover.

I have been an academic my entire adult life, so I am well aware of the biases that permeate our colleges and universities. While I do not disagree with much of the sentiment of antiwar citizens, I believe that these well-meaning people are unrealistic. They cannot accept that there are truly evil people in this world.

Yes, there is a need for the world to change. But there are also countless historical examples for the need for war. We can only pray that they are few and far between.

Jack L. Ferracane (GD81, G83)
Beaverton, Ore.

I would like to thank you for focusing on peacemakers. As an American living abroad in France, it is encouraging to me to see America not only as a wager of war in the world.

I have a close friend serving in the U.S Marine Corps in Iraq, and yet I do not share the view of those readers who sharply criticized that issue. It seems sometimes that those voices are the only ones that get heard in our country these days. So it was heartening to read of Americans willing to put themselves on the line for peaceful solutions. I have never before given a contribution as an alumna. But your summer 2007 issue has changed my mind. I will be responding positively to the Annual Fund this year.

Barbara Weber-Scaff (C85)

My youngest son, Pearson, left for Fort Benning, Ga., for his basic training one week after 9/11. His Patriot missile battalion was part of the U.S. Army. The U.S. Marines did not have Patriot missiles, so my son's battalion was assigned the task of providing air defensive support for the 1st Marine Division as it fought its way across Iraq all the way to Baghdad.

Pearson came home safe and sound from Iraq and we have been extremely thankful and proud ever since.

While Pearson was home a few weeks ago, I came into the house one day and found him reading the "Peace Weavers" story.

When my 25-year-old son saw me walk in, he looked up with tears streaming down his face and said to me, "Dad, this is just so sad." For the first time in 37 years I was no longer proud to be a Northwestern Wildcat.

Harold Smith (SESP75)
Norwalk, Calif.

I remember the article about alumni in the military. The letters in response to that article were very much the same except that the political viewpoints were inverted.

In both cases, letter writers said they would withhold donations for their opposite political stances. Taken broadly, I'd say this demonstrates a good balance by the magazine.

Both groups — activists and active duty — have a role to play in maintaining peace in our world. Those who work for nongovernmental organizations, charities and political groups serve to remind us of the goals we need to strive for.

To preserve peace, the military serves two functions, the first of which is deterrence. The second, more active role, is to stop violence or end a war already occurring with other countries. While not always pretty in the short term, the U.S. armed forces have been a major force in preserving peace in our world during our lifetimes.

Matt McLaughlin (J05, Nav05)
San Diego

I was aghast — really, aghast — at the letters from alumni chastising you for publishing "Peace Weavers." The letters were dishonorable, they were propaganda, they were tripe, they were offensive, and — the dagger in the heart! — the alumni writers won't be donating to the Annual Fund.

Well, an alumni magazine reports on the activities of alumni. Some alumni are serving in the military; you profiled many of them in a previous issue. Some are waging peace; and here they are. All of them learned a number of valuable skills at Northwestern: how to think critically; how to see a problem from a range of perspectives; and how to absorb new information without prejudice.

It's disheartening that so many alumni blessed with the same education and the time to write to their alumni magazine have forgotten or discarded those same skills.

Rob Morris (WCAS90)

Some of the letters in response to the "Peace Weavers" story are, while not entirely unexpected, deeply disappointing.

Equally intelligent and well-intentioned people can disagree about the Iraq war and whether to be pro- or anti-Bush. But haven't we learned to debate issues without name calling? In fact, isn't that one of the values a Northwestern education is supposed to teach? Instead, some of your correspondents cite no facts, don't try to be persuasive and call the article "tripe," "garbage" and, inevitably, "anti-American."

That's not the level of discourse I expect in my alumni magazine.

Warren Ross (GJ47)
Rye, N.Y.

I was not surprised to hear that so many people were offended by the "Peace Weavers" story written by Terry Stephan. I was featured in the article, but I was too embarrassed by it to show it to any friends and family. Not only were my responses severely edited, but I feel I was misled when I agreed to be featured in the article in the first place. I look so out of place on your cover in my police uniform standing next to anti-president signs and tie-dye! Stephan really should have omitted me from the article altogether, as my role in enforcing peace and justice does not even remotely fit in with the magazine's apparent agenda.

As a three-year captain of the Northwestern soccer team and Homecoming King in 1997, I am a proud representative and usually love talking up my school. In this case, however, I am just plain embarrassed.

Andy McDermott (C98)
Chandler, Ariz.

I was appalled to read the letters condemning your excellent story "Peace Weavers." The writers of these letters do not seem to take seriously the teachings of Jesus and many other enlightened religious and secular leaders.

I believe strongly in peace activities, which are not necessarily anti-Army.

I was drafted into the U.S. Army while writing my doctoral thesis. Two years later I took my final oral and graduated with a doctorate in physical chemistry, while still in the Army.

Later I worked at the Hughes Research Labs for 39 years, and I had many advanced research and development projects with support from the Army, Air Force and Navy.

My peace activities are strongly related to my judgment of the rationale and necessity to use U.S. military force. After a few years, I ended up in opposition to the Vietnam War. From the beginning, I have strongly opposed our present war on Iraq, which was never honestly justified.

I pray that we can stop Bush from attacking Iran.

J. David Margerum (G56)
Woodland Hills, Calif.

I'm not sure which scenario frightens me the most:

a) Osama bin Laden and his cohorts coming at me with weapons of mass destruction, or,

b) a Northwestern graduate coming at me armed with self-righteous "outrage" at my criticism of George Bush.

Either would take away my freedom of speech and association. The irony is that while bin Laden would act in the name of Islam, my fellow alumni would deny me my freedoms in the name of freedom!

Janer Olds Eldridge (Mu41)
Prescott, Ariz.

The enclosed contribution is sent in appreciation of the excellent alumni magazine. It is also sent in appreciation of the important and thoughtful "Peace Weavers" article in the summer 2007 issue. I am sending this contribution to counter the absurd, disingenuous protests to that article, which were printed in the fall issue.

I am very grateful for my Northwestern education that taught me to be open-minded, to look at all sides of issues and to respect thoughtful discourse. I am sorry that didn't take with all of my fellow alums.

Richard Turner (J62)

Judging from the letters in response to "Peace Weavers," I believe you hit a nerve with alumni. I agree with the general sentiment in the letters critical of your story and its criticism of our president at a crucial time in history. I believe your biased story showed a complete lack of balance but wanted to thank you for publishing the letters from alumni who disagreed with the article.

Michael Gillam (KSM90)
New York City

One of the qualities I have always valued about my Northwestern education is that we students were taught to respect the right of others to express their ideas and viewpoints, even if we ardently disagreed with them. Hence, I was deeply saddened by the vehemently negative letters in the fall 2007 issue written in response to the magazine's summer 2007 cover story, "Peace Weavers."

Some alumni angrily demanded that their names be removed from the mailing list. Others accused Northwestern of being disloyal to President Bush (so, now our democracy requires us to pledge allegiance to the president, instead of to the flag and to the republic?). Has Sen. Joe McCarthy risen from the grave and resurrected his 1950s witch hunts? Just what the hell is going on here?

I thought my fellow alumni and I were supposed to be among the best, brightest and most rational? Northwestern magazine simply reported events and occurrences that took place regardless of whether any of us liked it or not. The "Peace Weavers" story in no way or form endorsed any political viewpoint, nor was the magazine disloyal to the president. Should Northwestern magazine (and all other media) instead report news based solely on its appeal or lack thereof to a specific political ideology? That certainly seems to be the preference of those angry letter-writing alumni. No doubt such tolerant and freedom-loving adherents to the Bill of Rights would be far happier in the company of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or maybe that fun-loving junta in Myanmar.

Ken Calvin (WCAS75)

I believe our military is protecting us from Islamic terrorists by waging war on their soil instead of our soil. While you have the right to publish your opinion (I do not believe an alumni magazine is the correct forum) I have the right not to read it. Please remove my name from the mailing list immediately. Please inform President Bienen that no money will be targeted to Northwestern in my will.

Don Geiersbach (WCAS64)
Brookfield, Ill.

News on Campus

I was happy to hear about Northwestern and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation's support of the Google Book Search Project.

Northwestern has already played key roles in other important digital projects, including the Oyez Project — which has put online the audio recordings of U.S. Supreme Court cases.

These types of new digital technologies will allow universities like Northwestern to accomplish their mission of advancing learning and research in totally new ways as well as help promote the University around the world.

Michael J. Szanto (WCAS98, G98)

Seeking Justice in Guantánamo

Those who believe that everything possible should be done to eliminate terrorism ["Don't Defend Detainees," Mailbox, fall 2007] owe it to themselves to read law professor Joe Margulies' book, Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power, rightly designated by the Economist as one of the best books of the year [see "Defender of the Rule of Law," summer 2007].

If, in the name of defeating terrorism, we allow the executive branch to assert unlimited power, then the battle is already lost.

Ricardo Carvajal (L88)
Rockville, Md.

Efforts to "achieve justice" should never be a source of disappointment. The letter published in the last issue criticizing Mr. Margulies' work defending Guantánamo Bay detainees incorrectly equates seeking justice for detainees with supporting terrorists.

The very phrase "seeking justice" does not mean seeking to twist the law to achieve the acquittal of someone who is guilty, but seeking to use the law to give everyone a fair trial. Innocent until proven guilty is the standard in the United States. It must not be applied selectively.

Kaitlin Cordes (WCAS03)
New York City

Leave Room for Students with Learning Disabilities

President Henry Bienen takes understandable pride in the SAT scores and class ranks of this year's incoming freshmen ["Looking Ahead: A Year of Tradition and Change," fall 2007]. To his credit, he also acknowledges that these factors are not always "the best metrics" to predict later achievement.

That's a very important thought to keep in mind as Northwestern reviews new student applications each year.

When I transferred to Northwestern in 1958 I was unprepared for the school's academic rigors. Due to dyslexia, I could not keep up with the assigned reading, nor had I learned effective study skills, so I was on academic probation twice.

Some of us are "late bloomers." Fortunately, in my case, the admissions office gave me credit for my achievements in speech and theater. Few people with dyslexia do well on standardized tests, myself included. Obviously, the admissions people who reviewed applications were willing to blink when they peeked at my SAT scores and class rank. That was the break I needed.

My three years at Northwestern opened to me "the world of the mind." After I learned study skills from my sorority sisters, I began to bloom during my senior year. I've gone on to get master's degrees in speech-language pathology and English as a second language. I've had seven books published and presented 200 workshops to other educators who work with children with language-based learning challenges.

I will always be grateful for the path that my years at Northwestern set me upon, and I hope that other students with less than sterling high school academic scores will be given the same chance.

Charlann Scheid Simon (C61)
Tempe, Ariz.

Mixed on Marriage

Thank you for highlighting a class whose time in arriving on college campuses is long overdue ["Marriage 101," fall 2007]. I was particularly impressed by the maturity and perspective of the two authors and the insights they gained along the road. Kudos to Northwestern faculty for recognizing an eminently practical and worthy class for all students, whether marriage even appears on the horizon or not. Having been married for 12 years with two young children, I wish I could have taken such a class as an undergrad. Marriage is indeed a most worthwhile endeavor into which we should all go with our eyes wide open.

Laurel Altpeter O'Sullivan (WCAS93)

Pretty much the same things we have been reading for the past 50 years on the topic of marriage and relations. Mostly a stocking full of triteness.

Raymond Tucker (GC54)
Missouri City, Texas

How useful the Marriage 101 class must be. I enjoyed reading about Ryan Haggerty's and Lisa Wayland's experience in the class.

Yet how tragic that a major university like Northwestern (and practically all other institutions in the United States) does not train its students how to be successful in marriage — the most basic and fundamental institution in our society.

And yet the breakup of the home, and all of the downstream pain it causes, affects how successful we are in our various occupational paths. So in the end, the excellent training we get — whether it be in business, engineering, journalism, etc. — will either be affected, stultified or derailed because there is no training in how to be successful in marriage — the fundamental building block of our society.

As I said, how useful and how tragic. It's almost like, as we say here in Texas, we've got the cart before the horse.

Terry McRight (EB59)
Katy, Texas

All the Presidents Men and Women, Plus Three

For more than 30 years, Augustana College has benefited from the leadership of Northwestern graduates [see "All the Presidents Men and Women," fall 2007].

Thomas Tredway (G64), who earned a doctorate in religion, served as president from 1975 to 2003. Steven Bahls (L79), who graduated with honors and Order of the Coif from Northwestern law school, became Augustana's eighth (and current) president in 2003.

Kai S. Swanson
Rock Island, Ill.

I wanted to make you aware that another Northwestern alumnus, Bryan Chapell (J75), is now president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. I had the opportunity to do some graduate work at his school. It was a fantastic experience. He is widely respected throughout the country. Chapell, a professor of homiletics, wrote Christ-Centered Preaching, one of the most commonly used textbooks in Evangelical circles.

Jeff Austin (McC01)
St. Louis

School of Continuing Studies

What a nice surprise to receive the fall 2007 issue. I found the cover story ["Dream Big"] to be interesting and informative. The many programs and grad accomplishments are certainly impressive.

In 1958 I graduated from the Traffic Institute — now the Center for Public Safety. I wonder if it is now part of the School of Continuing Studies. It sure seems appropriate. It may be of interest, that, even though we were somewhat of an offshoot from the University, we did participate in Northwestern's graduation ceremonies in caps and gowns.

I believe it would be good to highlight some classes of CPS graduates' achievements, too. For example, three of our class members went on to become CEOs of their law enforcement agencies, including the late C. Wayne Keith (CPS58), former colonel of the Colorado State Patrol.

I suspect others from our class — and the other classes from the center's more than 70-plus years — have also achieved significant professional successes thanks to Northwestern and CPS, too.

Larry Pavlinski (CPS58)

Editor's Note: As mentioned on Page 22 of the fall issue, the Center for Public Safety is part of the School of Continuing Studies.

Cause of Death

I was startled by a letter on Page 7 of the fall 2007 issue of Northwestern magazine in which a Medill School of Journalism alumnus took the editors to task for excluding cause of death from the magazine's obituaries. He cited this omission as "a disservice to your readers" because such information "is something the average reader wants to know." But are these points true?

The only people who legitimately should want and need to know cause of death are coroners. At best, reporting cause of death merely appeals to morbid curiosity. At worst, it can disgrace the memory of the deceased and embarrass his or her survivors, especially if death is occasioned by such causes as suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, dementia or accidents related to alcohol or other drugs. Given your limited space available for reporting obituaries, I think you have served your readers well by devoting that space to recalling our departed alumni's enduring accomplishments in life, rather than the grim and momentary details of their demise.

Curtis L. Katz (C75)

Northwestern welcomes signed letters of 250 words or less from readers. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Please send correspondence to the

1800 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-1800
Fax: 847-491-3040