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When freelancer Kathryn Levy Feldman LPS’09 approached us about doing a story on Scott Mackler C’80 PT’80 Gr’86 M’86, she had recently seen a segment on 60 Minutes in which the Penn neuroscientist and alumnus was included in a story about new communications technologies becoming available for the severely disabled. Mackler, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a decade ago, and is unable to move, speak, or breathe on his own, was featured working with a device that allowed him to communicate by picking up signals from his brain to select letters and other symbols on a computer screen.

The technology piece is pretty amazing. Using the system, Mackler, whose mental faculties are unaffected by his condition, is able to send emails to colleagues, friends, and family; to write grant proposals to fund his leading research on cocaine addiction; and even to direct the lab he has headed since before being struck with ALS in the late 1990s. (The device has also been rigged up so he can change channels on the TV.)

But what became equally striking, as Feldman reported the story, talking with Mackler’s wife Lynn and sons Alex and Noah, his brother Harvey and sister Randi (Penn alumni, all), was the human element involved, the—one can only call it joyful—commitment shared by the members of Scott’s “crew,” as they call themselves, in conspiring to make his life possible. His older brother Harvey Mackler C’75 puts it simply: “We have a family network that supports each other and supports him.” See how Scott and they do it in “A Life Worth Living.”

When the delegates to what would become the Constitutional Convention straggled into Philadelphia in the spring of 1787, few thought that the gathering would amount to much. Prominent figures like Virginia’s Patrick Henry and New York’s George Clinton didn’t bother to get themselves named as delegates, and a quorum of the 13 states didn’t arrive until more than a week after the Convention was supposed to start.

How a modest effort to amend the Articles of Confederation instead brought about a wholly new form of national government for the United States is the subject of History Professor Richard Beeman’s new book, Plain, Honest Men. Beeman distills four decades of reading, writing, and teaching on the Constitution into a richly detailed account of the Convention that masterfully recreates the delegates’ individual personalities; the intense conflicts that divided them as they contended through the long, hot summer; and the eventual compromises that went into creating the document we revere—and continue to argue over—today.

In “Sunrise in Philadelphia,” we present an excerpt describing the moment when the delegates—many with mixed feelings—put their names to the Constitution, nudged by a timely intervention by one Benjamin Franklin, along with an interview with Professor Beeman about the book and his appearance on a certain late-night fake news show.

It’s a commonplace that the contributions made by America’s military in the centuries since the Constitution’s signing, in conflicts both noble and to be regretted, have not always been sufficiently repaid. The sacrifices of today’s veterans—from World War II to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq—resonate strongly for the Penn Medicine residents and students who receive training at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Freelancer Randy Mintz-Presant spoke with several of them for “Crossing the Street,” her report on the longtime association between Penn and the PVAMC and the special lessons future doctors can learn there.

—John Prendergast C’80

   
 

 

   
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