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Pro and con on Luntz, Savior was no sinner, foregoing Founder's Day
"PARTISAN RANTS" SHOULD HAVE
BEEN CHALLENGED IN PROFILE
It's one thing for Jeremy Hildreth to profile GOP pollster Frank Luntz ["Party Animal," March 1997]. It's another for him to accept unconditionally Luntz's "concern [that Penn professors] are so leftist at a time when so many of their views have been discredited," or Luntz's bleat that "when people chanted 'Four More Years' at [Bill Clinton's] inauguration, I think they were talking about his prison sentence, not his term of office."
Had Hildreth enrolled in Luntz's political science class, even Luntz might have advised him to challenge such intellectually lazy assertions. As for Luntz himself, Hildreth's profile shows that over-the-top partisan rants that would be discredited as such in a Penn classroom or in a Quad dormitory room will be printed admiringly in The Pennsylvania Gazette if you wait long enough.
DAVID HEYMAN, C'85
HOOKED ON POLITICS BECAUSE OF LUNTZ
The article "Party Animal" made me remember a young guest lecturer's 1990 American Civics course, "Candidates, Campaigns, and Elections," and its impact on my career. After attending Frank Luntz's first class, I was hooked.
Each week we had the top political consultants, media advisors, and pollsters in the business as guest speakers. We reviewed television commercials, discussed political ethics, and plotted a mock campaign. Luntz's class opened my eyes to a new perspective on a political science degree. His hands-on teaching style was unique because we actually analyzed current political events, instead of hothouse theories cooked up by stodgy tenured professors.
Luntz showed me that there was a practical use for my major, one that was important to the public, not just to academics in their ivory towers. It was this vision that made his course the first one I ever loved at Penn and inspired me to pursue a career in government and campaigns. It was this vision that also made Dr. Luntz so threatening to other Penn professors.
BRAYTON M. CONNARD, C'91
JESUS UNDERSTOOD HUMAN STRUGGLES, BUT HE DIDN'T SIN
I read with fascination David Bradley's essay "Passion Play at Mt. Pisgah" [March 1997]. It was an absorbing outline of one man's struggle to reconcile the truths of Christianity with the contingencies of everyday life. Mr. Bradley illustrated well the struggles it takes to act out the demands of the Scripture when life looms like a dark and threatening cloud. What a horrible and frightening thing it must have been to live the life of a person who drew so much hate and invective and violence just by virtue of the color of his skin. And his attempts to run his experience through the Scripture are admirable to say the least. I understand fully the mix of mystery and reality; the desire to please God but not being really sure how to go about that; the attempts to Do The Right Thing no matter what.
I am white and cannot fully understand the fear and intimidation that he experienced. The pressure to react to the bully's name calling violence by returning it in kind surely was overwhelming, and I myself am too cowardly to have crossed over to beating the hell out of my adversary, as Mr. Bradley did, though I reveled in his description and resultant glory in finally letting out his pent-up anger, so I will not presume to judge him. I only admire him for his continued attempts to reconcile his reaction with the Bible. My only concern is his reading of Jesus' violent clearing of the Temple. He writes, "There had been Jesus, in the Temple-forced, when He knew His death was at hand, to see the worst of those he would die to save. Maybe Jesus the man tried to be like Jesus the god and found that He could not; that He was angry, afraid and unforgiving just as I had been."
It is good to recognize that Jesus understands our struggles because the Bible says that he experienced everything we did, but with one crucial difference. He did it all without ever sinning. Mr. Bradley's description of Jesus, quoted above, lumps him in with the rest of us sinners. The Bible also makes it crystal clear that since Jesus did not sin he had the capacity to carry the sins of others when he died on the cross so that we could be forgiven.
Though Mr. Bradley's reaction to the bully is completely understandable, he should not try to remake Jesus to conform to his situation to explain away the guilt he feels. He should merely rejoice that he does have a Savior who is eager, able, and willing to forgive him.
TIMOTHY STRAPP Nu'85
BRING BACK FOUNDER'S DAY
How disappointing it was that no celebration was held this year to celebrate Benjamin Franklin's birthday. My recollection is that a Founder's Day banquet has been held for many years on the Friday night nearest Franklin's birthday. Although awards formerly given on this occasion are now given at Homecoming in the fall ["Warm Welcome Home," December 1996], the celebration of our founder's birthday should be held every year.
There are many reasons for bringing honor and recognition to Penn and Benjamin Franklin on his birthday. Among them is the fact that the study of history is poorly done at most U.S. secondary schools. Many Penn students must arrive with slight knowledge of the glorious history of our country. Penn also now includes a high percentage of foreign students, who may have even less knowledge of U.S. history. All of us, alumni, students, guests, and others, would benefit from more information about the beginnings of our country and the role played by Benjamin Franklin.
Philadelphia is the city in which the United States was born. Benjamin Franklin was an important participant in the deliberations held in this city, and is included, along with his colleagues, as a Founding Father. What an opportunity to tell and retell the story at a celebration of Benjamin Franklin's birthday.
It is hard to imagine a good reason for eliminating this event from Penn's calendar. I hope it will be announced, soon, that Benjamin Franklin's birthday will be celebrated at a banquet and program in January 1998.
B. FRANKLIN REINAUER II, W'38
Green Pond, N.J.
Martha Z. Stachitas, CW'75, director of alumni relations, responds: I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to Mr. Reinauer's letter.
The decision to change the calendar of annual alumni events was made with some reluctance because we honor tradition, but we decided that, in this case, change was indicated. The problem with Franklin's actual birthday, January 17, as an alumni celebration, is simple-its timing. January is a difficult time to bring people into Philadelphia; the weather is too uncertain. Not only are many alumni and their guests reluctant to travel in January, but many of those who make the commitment wind up canceling at the last minute because of inclement weather. Had Ben been born in the spring or fall, we would happily commemorate his birthday with appropriate celebrations.
As you note, we have moved our awards dinner to coincide with Homecoming so that we can draw as large a crowd as possible for an event that honors alumni service to Penn. The turnout this year confirmed the wisdom of that decision. This does not mean, however, that we intend to decrease attention paid to our founder. In fact, the General Alumni Society is looking at new ways to honor Benjamin Franklin.
Alumni volunteer leaders are particularly interested in making a connection between Ben Franklin and one of the University's newly-stated academic priorities, "American Democratic and Legal Institutions." There is great potential for honoring a man who helped create American institutions based on his knowledge of European institutions.
We look forward to celebrating our founder in ways befitting the man and the Penn of today.
EDUCATION FOR THE MONIED ELITE
I found "The Road Not Taken," in the November Gazette to be inaccurate. The premise that the University, in the 1920's, opted to become an "egalitarian meritocracy" populated with "commuting students...of lower-class and immigrant backgrounds" as opposed to the more socially select path chosen by Princeton and other institutions is not confirmed by the characteristics of the present student body.
The current demographics are not "democratic and pluralistic": they are monolithic and plutocratic, constituting not an academic aristocracy that is permeable (as Digby Baltzell would have it), but a caste which ignores the talented in favor of the monied.
I was a commuting student who paid all of his expenses from his earned income. I was concurrently a full-time student and a full-time employee. This was in the period 1970-1974, and the situation was then so rare as to be commented on frequently. The tuition and fees were then $3,600-$3,800, and now they are heading toward $25,000.
There are probably no students in the present University community who are able to do what I did. There are certainly a few who are accumulating enormous loans.
How I wish that the U.S. had a system like Europe where the national governments completely subsidize students who are accomplished enough to be admitted to elite institutions.
The increasingly privileged students are unable to relate to staff and neighborhood residents (and even faculty), all of whom the students are inclined to regard as a category of "other," who exist to provide them with a service. This attitude generates resentment and creates a work and living environment laced with paranoia and hostility.
I would prefer Dr. Farnum's description of the University, but sadly, I find the reality to be consistently at odds with this depiction.
THOMAS J. MCCARRON, CGS'74
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