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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Damage From Slavery Merits ReparationsTo the editors:
I found your editorial against reparations for descendents of American slaves (Editorial, March 8) wanting on several accounts. First, The Crimson editors should have been above throwing around silly insults by suggesting that serious activists in civil and human rights affairs are "digging through history for political or financial gain." The Crimson staff discusses favorably the reparation claims of Jews and Japanese-Americans during World War II and wouldn't dare attaching this "gold diggers" insult to these reparation quests. Furthermore, The Crimson staff ignores that those advocating reparation for slavery make it clear that reparations can take a variety of forms. These include both financial payments and public policy responses. Examples of the latter include attacks on American poverty and addressing the shameful neglect by Western states of the economic development crises in African societies.
The Crimson staff's thinking on the reparations issue is both shallow and riddled with confusion. The shallowness is seen in The Crimson's bid to absolve contemporary American citizens of judicial and moral responsibility for the cruel violations of human life and happiness of millions of African Americans under slavery. And The Crimson's phrase "the exact agent who harmed them," meaning European Jews and Japanese-Americans, reflects their plain confusion. It has been successor governments to both the Nazi German state and wartime American Roosevelt Administrations that have met reparations claims.
In short, the bid by The Crimson to absolve today's white American citizenry of obligation for reparations for the human rights violations under American slavery and racism is groundless.
Martin L. Kilson Jr.
March 9, 2000
The writer is the Frank G. Thomson Professor of Government.
The False Sense of 'Choice' in Abortion Clinics
There is more than one way to look at National Abortion Providers' Day. While Meredith B. Osborn exhorts us to safeguard abortion (Op-Ed, March 10), Priests for Life used the day to give special impetus to their ministry with abortionists. National Director Fr. Frank Pavone commented, "We respect [abortionists'] lives as much as we respect the lives of unborn children. Yet it is precisely because of our respect for them that we listen carefully to the pain and anger they have because of abortion. Pavone quoted abortionist David Zbaraz who said abortion is "a nasty, dirty, yucky thing and I always come home angry." A "pro-life" position means caring about all human life, including the lives of abortionists.
Osborn speaks of the "loose-cannon and irresponsible rhetoric" of those opposed to abortions, but rehashes the popular myth that partial-birth abortions are "rarely performed and then often to save a woman's life." 1997 figures from the National Coalition of Abortion Providers show 3,000 to 5,000 partial-birth abortions annually. Moreover, the American Medical Association has stated that the procedure is never necessary to save the mother's life.
Another of Osborn's pseudo-arguments is the picture of a harsh pre-Roe world where back-alley abortions killed thousands each year. This claim is not simply a misrepresentation, but a consciously fabricated and propagated lie. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of National Abortion Rights Activist League, who now opposes abortion, stated, "We spoke of 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year [from back-alley abortions]. I confess that I knew the figures were totally false...It was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics." Actually, in 1973 45 deaths resulted from illegal abortions.
Abortion clinics are hardly
"pro-choice" places. Counselors do not fully inform women about other options, and sometimes even lie to them. A former El Paso clinic manager stated, "If a woman we were counseling expressed doubts about having an abortion, we would say whatever was necessary to persuade her to abort immediately." Clinic workers are instructed not to allow women to view the ultrasound, because seeing the unborn child will discourage the woman from having an abortion.
A meaningful dialogue about abortion cannot take place if abortion advocates persist in misrepresenting the facts.
Melissa R. Moschella '02
March 13, 2000
The writer is president of Harvard Right to Life.
Harvard Should Adopt Yale Blocking System
Residential "blocking" strikes me as a lousy system for arranging students--whether in groups of eight, 16, or any other (Editorial, March 12). Instead, I suggest that the College consider an approach that has worked well for my alma mater, Yale: Assign first-years to Houses before they arrive in September and group them in the Yard so that, for instance, Eliot first-years are assigned to Matthews and so on.
The advantages of this method over Harvard's current overbearing system of "blocking" are numerous. There is cohesion--friends and acquaintances from the same entryways become familiar with each other, knowing they have four years together. There is flexibility--students can petition to join friends in other Houses for sophomore year and afterwards. And there is loyalty--students form a strong connection to a House from their first day there, profiting from the friendships with, and guidance of, upperclass students.
March 13, 2000
The writer is a preceptor in Expository Writing and graduated from Yale University in 1989.
In the Noble Spirit
Has J. Stuart Buck ever met Bishop Spong or heard him speak? (Op-Ed, March 6). He sounds as if he is rehashing a compendium of lies, rumors and poisonous innuendo circulated by a politically motivated faction of "Christians." If the purpose of the Noble lectures is to help students of Harvard discover Jesus, then the committee was quite right to invite Bishop Spong to speak.
I've known Bishop Spong for 20 years and worked in his diocese for the past several years. The faith of Jesus is alive and well here in the Diocese of Newark, as Bishop Spong has manifested more of the genuine faith of Jesus--notably Jesus' call for radical reformation and renewal--than most of his vituperative and platitudinous critics combined.
The Rev. Linda Strohmier
March 9, 2000
The writer is the vicar at the Church of the Good Shepherd.
Spong All Wrong
I am bewildered by Harvard's inviting John Shelby Spong to speak in the Noble Lecture series. After watching Spong's antics for many years, I have come to suspect that his real reason in speaking in the Noble series next week or in publishing "A Call for a New Reformation" is a narcissistic desire to call attention to himself and for self aggrandizement by being outrageous.
It is difficult for me to understand how Harvard can support such shallow purposes, or how it can knowingly and unethically violate the conditions and purpose of an endowment with which it is entrusted.
J. M. Kilpatrick, MBA '60
March 13, 2000
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