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Syndicated columnist Ann Landers said last night that she sees her column as an opportunity to "shine a spotlight on fear, stupidity and unearned guilt."
"I have a reading audience of 60 million, the largest in the world," Landers said while speaking to about 200 at the Harvard Law School Forum. "I merely try to let people know that their problems are not unsolvable or even that unique."
Landers said the most important thing she does is to direct those with problems to professional help. "I don't try to play God or pretend to be an authority on any subject. I know the best men in every area and rely extensively on their judgement."
"I sleep well in the knowledge that the answers I have given have been carefully researched by experts," she said.
Her advice is especially needed today, Landers said, because America is suffering through a period of "moral leukemia," in which "it takes nerves of steel even to be a neurotic."
"We're paying too dearly for a money-oriented culture. Men are too busy making a living to take the time to make themselves a life," she said, adding "People know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
Landers said television, which "promises instant solutions and chemical answers to everything," is largely responsible for the moral decline.
Her 21 years of experience as a columnist have made her better able to cope with life's cruelties, Landers said, adding that this experience was the primary reason she was not emotionally shattered after her recent divorce.
Although some of the letters she prints might seem too weird to be authentic, she said, all of them are actually sent in by readers.
"Some of them are really unbelievable. I got one from a women who was having an affair with her plumber just so she could get faucet handles at a reduced rate, she said.
"Another came from a man who wanted to be buried in his 1939 Dodge," she said.
Landers said about half of her letters come from men who "write to complain about a wife of long-standing, a girlfriend of short-standing or some combination of the two."
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