Letters to the Editor

RAs Then and Now

How wonderful it is that Stanford has developed a true “RA Program” (“The Go-To Group,” May/June). As a grad student, 1963-64, I was an RA in all-male Lucy Stern Hall. No orientation, no job description, not a single meeting took place: I was simply given a key to a room and told that I was an RA. 

Formal responsibilities ranged from helping locked-out students gain access to their rooms, cope with lost meal tickets and arrange linen service, to seeing that everybody vacated for fire drills. The crises and counseling I dealt with were, apparently, at will: coaching freshmen through Pledge Week; trying to provide uninformed guidance about classes, majors and professors; attempting to play big brother to students who were suffering what we would now call “breakdowns” of one form or another. It was also during that year that I learned accidentally that the RAs in my own fraternity house had been required to provide incredibly subjective, incredibly sensitive “student reports” to the dean of men—a quota demanded each month—all logged and filed in an office on the Quad. By the time I became an RA, that policy had been lifted—and I used my access to the office to “lift” my own file, permanently, from the office. 
Stephen Phillips, ’63, MA ’64
St. Petersburg, Florida

[For me], having been an RA at Branner Hall in 1963-64, [the piece] brought back many memories. But times have changed! Interesting that the positions are now so competitive for undergrads to receive. In my case, I was a grad student, new to Stanford myself. The issues that today’s RAs deal with seem much more difficult. The students you profiled sounded like amazing young people, well prepared to deal with the issues. 
Louise Stallings Polizzotto, MA ’63
San Jose, California

While I appreciate that many have positive memories of their RAs, this is not true for all. The RAs in the dorm where I spent my sophomore year were pernicious and cruel. The memory that stays with me is the end-of-year dorm party. As part of that celebration, the RAs had created awards for everyone in the dorm. These were humorous, meant to evoke good memories of the person shared by all. A similar thing had occurred in the dorm my freshman year, and I remembered really enjoying it, so I went to this party with happy expectations.

Most of the awards were fun and humorous, but when they announced my award and the award of my roommate, an awkward silence fell over the room. They were not humorous; they were vindictive and cruel and meant to poke fun at our expense. The other students in the room felt that as well, as everyone grew pretty uncomfortable. One other student even shouted out in our defense.
I just sort of sat there, dismayed. I am not sure why we were targeted like that. Was it because I didn’t attend every single one of the activities the dorm put on during the year? I attended those that my schedule permitted. Maybe in the eyes of the RAs, I didn’t “fit in,” or wasn’t part of the group. Even the RA grew uncomfortable as she read my award. It was painfully obvious that the RAs had not expected me to be in attendance at that party, and so had planned a cruel joke at my expense in my absence, and had now been exposed.

When the RAs delivered the physical award certificates to our rooms later, my award title had miraculously been changed to some meaningless drivel in an attempt to cover up what they had done. Even after all these years, this memory still haunts me. I believe that RAs can have a good impact in students’ lives. But they can also have a lasting bad impact. 
Garrett Summers, ’00
Washington, D.C.


Stanford’s ‘True’ Legacy

President Tessier-Lavigne appears to follow past presidents in his preoccupation with Stanford’s eminence in basic research and its endless quest to secure funding for this research engine (“Research Drives Growth,” President’s Column, May/June). Education receives bare mention. With [two] Stanford degrees, I am hardly unaware or unsympathetic to both basic research and Stanford’s reputation. I do worry, however, that this disproportionate concern represents inward thinking and fails to look at the university’s greater legacy.

Over 50 years ago, then president Wallace Sterling stated that he hoped Stanford would have a role in producing the “uncommon man.” As one looks at the thousands of Stanford graduates, it is clear that an enormous number have distinguished themselves in myriad ways—most often not in any form of research. As a high school student, I was attracted to Stanford because its graduates seemed to represent leadership in whatever their endeavors. With the quality of current students, I doubt that legacy is in danger. At the same time, Stanford seems to have little interest in the accomplishment of its “products” when achieved far from the university structure or with no relationship to research.

It would be reassuring if Stanford leadership would acknowledge that its true legacy lies far from “home.”
George H. Koenig, ’56, MD ’60
La Quinta, California


Winners and Losers

Thank you, Brooke Vittimberga, for a refreshing dose of sanity (“I Didn’t Beat Cancer, My Doctors Did,” Student Voice, May/June). The notion that people who suffer bad outcomes didn’t fight hard enough, or weren’t strong enough, or didn’t have the “right” attitude, is nothing more than blaming the victim. I have heard otherwise loving people say that even the victims of war or natural disasters somehow brought it on themselves. What could be more self-serving or sanctimonious? And when those on the losing end point this out, it is simply taken as proof that they have a “losing” attitude. This of course has become a means of justifying all kinds of cruelty and injustice.

We need more winners to point out that much of the outcome is out of our hands, whether it is fighting cancer or the entire arc of life. We need more people with your honesty, humility and grace.
Charles Hsu, PhD ’85, MBA ’90
San Francisco, California


NAFTA and Poverty

I’d like to subscribe to David Korten’s comment in the May/June Letters (“The Big Picture”) where he makes the case that “Growing the ranks of multimillionaires . . . is not going to eliminate poverty” (in developing countries). Along with foreign aid policies he described, one could cite U.S. trade policy as an example of favoring big business at the expense of small businesses and the poor, particularly in rural areas. The North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, encouraged U.S. manufacturers to box up their factories and send them to Mexico, with its low wages and less powerful unions. Less known is NAFTA’s ripple effect on the character and culture of both countries, particularly its devastating impact on small manufacturers, family farms and the rural economy. To quote Smithsonian magazine’s 2016 article “Living in No Man’s Land,” “One of the first consequences of [NAFTA] . . . was the emigration of the poor from southern Mexico, who had lost their livelihood as farmers and small manufacturers: NAFTA, in effect since 1994, had put them out of business. Some ended up in border factories, others as border jumpers.”

The author goes on to recount how large U.S. corporate farms were able to flood the Mexican market with cheaper-to-produce genetically engineered food and drive small farmers out of business.

NAFTA likely contributed to the stagnation of middle-class wages; less economic mobility; accelerated rural to urban migration; economic devastation of small towns; neglect of the rural economy; soil erosion and its depletion of nutrients, making food less nutritious; and more illegal immigrants, especially to factory farms that produce inordinate amounts of polluted water, air and soil, and food contaminated with hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and chemical fertilizers, which diminishes health and raises health care costs. 

Congress and successive presidents over 30 years have gone along with this. A few made money. As Mr. Trump has said, politicians benefited greatly from [corporate] campaign contributions. One would hope he would connect the dots for people and indicate what he would do to protect small business, the engine for new jobs, and the rural economy, the breadbasket for much of the world. And why not get a better deal for people on both sides of our southern border? Maybe that’s why rural America voted 3 to 1 for Mr. Trump.
Barry Stern, PhD ’72
Purcellville, Virginia


Facts of Life

Greta Lorge did a fine job summarizing the groundbreaking work being done with adult pluripotent stem cells (“Finding the Cures Within Us,” March/April). I need to point out that it should no longer be acceptable—nor, incidentally, necessary—to refer to research involving “embryonic stem cells.” That needs to be relegated as an episode from our recent barbaric and primitive past that we refer to in veiled terms, with horror and shame.

Human life begins at conception, and therefore harvesting human parts or tissue, from the instant of conception onward, is patently wrong—a violation of human rights, civil rights and natural law. I say human life begins at conception not as an ideological claim, not as a fiat of the Church, but as a simple fact of basic embryology. Organisms reproducing via sex always arise from a single cell (zygote) and are always the same biological species as their parents; therefore, the offspring of human parents is a human being, and this single cell, the fertilized egg, contains all the DNA, the genetic code unique to a new individual. Everything that constitutes identity exists at the moment of conception. It is just a stage in human growth and development. At no point in this continuum is there a singularity at which “humanity” occurs as an intrinsic property, except at the beginning.

Or, as Hymie Gordon, MD, FRCP, chairman of medical genetics, Mayo Clinic, testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee in 1981: “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, human life is present from the moment of conception.

Countless other medical experts and scientists know as fact that the unborn child is a human person. And need I point out, if her/his cells and organs are valued and used as human tissue and organs, then no lie, no equivocation, no rationalization, no deception can mask the fact of that child’s humanity.

We “moderns” of the technological age pride ourselves that we can anticipate such future possibilities of AI that we even contemplate the rights of robots—yet we continue to deny the rights of the unborn child. Yet in our technological prowess, we have found ways to use our own pluripotent cells, as Lorge herself mentions.
Deborah Arangno
Stanford, California


Railroaded

Daniel Arnold’s article was good (“A Gentleman’s Quarrel,” March/April) and could have been even more revealing. For example, Frederick Law Olmsted thought to hold Gov. Stanford at bay by asking for $10,000 to design the university, yet without a Stanford blink, the cash was handed to him. That begs for more illumination: It was but a wee fraction of the money Stanford had extracted from the U.S. government to build the Western section of the new transcontinental railroad.

In fact, the total cost of the university was easily covered by Stanford, who cheated our government by sending a delegation to Congress to fib about where the Sierra Nevada actually began and why he should get the double rate (the mountain rate) per mile of rail, starting in flat Sacramento.

If Olmsted had known that bit of history, he might have asked for more and not been surprised at the ease of obtaining $20,000 or more.

So, Stanford University was built with about the same money Gov. Stanford picked from our congressional pocketbook. The Stanford library used to have Robber Barons of the West in its stacks—an enlightening read. With today’s web, this is a good substitute.
Alexander Cannara, Engr. ’66, MS ’74, PhD ’76
Menlo Park, California


Just Do It

Your article “Should We Lose the Lecture?” (March/April) reminded me how I embraced the same teaching concept in two totally different contexts.

In 1991, I closed my law office, accepted a position as professor of law at McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, and became a docent at the California State Railroad Museum. As part of my docent training
I was taught to encourage museum visitors to actively participate in the interactive exhibits. This training included an alleged ancient Chinese proverb that read:

Hear it—and forget; See it—and remember; Do it—and understand.

Although I was never able to verify the origin of this saying, I realized that I had been using the concept during my successful career as a trial attorney. Like most trial attorneys, I regularly relied on demonstrative evidence. More than most, however, I encouraged the jury to replicate my demonstration during its deliberation. On several occasions I learned that the jury did just that, becoming convinced of the correctness of my position and returning a verdict in my favor.

Back at the law school I had a large poster made of the “Chinese proverb” and kept it in the courtroom as I and another professor taught Trial Advocacy. Rather than lecturing to the class, we prepared scripts demonstrating the issue being considered and had students take roles and act out the problem. The rest of the class was then asked questions about the procedure. Then the facts would be changed and the students would have to resolve the new issue. The students loved the participatory nature of the class, which was demonstrated by the course being oversubscribed year after year.

Many years after I retired, I was still told by senior partners, district attorneys and public defenders how better prepared for trials were my former students than students from other schools that relied more on a lecture system.
Michael Sands, JD ’62
Portland, Oregon

I found the article to be a fascinating description of a long-term battle with scientists on their role in the education of science students. I was a graduate student at Stanford many years ago, and there was a combination of things I found unsettling, among them the treatment of students and the quality of the lectures. Although I must say my professors were, for the most part, quite good, at the graduate level it is a very different issue.

A few years later I entered another institution, similar to Stanford, and obtained a PhD in physics. Undergraduates were treated the same and had the same bad experiences. I then became a college professor and then a dean and then a program officer at the National Science Foundation.

I had the luck to have been the program officer for the project of David Hestenes noted in the article. Dr. Wayne Sukow was the NSF officer who first funded the program, and I was the contact person as the project was carried out. The focus was initially precollege physics instruction, and in my opinion it was one of the most successful programs funded in my time there. Eventually, more than one-half of the physics teachers in the nation’s high schools were trained, and many of them have implemented the program. The impact on student knowledge totally exceeded expectations.

Next we attempted to develop a program for physics students in college. The wall we hit was very diplomatically described in the article. The fact that trained scientists refused to agree or accept the very obvious and very effective outcomes is something we were not prepared for. Thus I want to emphasize that there are two real “heroes” in this program. One is certainly Carl Wieman, whom you have covered very well, and Eric Mazur, who was only briefly mentioned. Given the initial extreme resistance by many influential faculty, they, and others, faced impacts upon their careers.

Another program that has tried to encourage the “active learning” approach in physics courses was led by Dr. Lillian McDermott at the University of Washington for many years and verified the same success. This, unlike the Hestenes work, which was restricted to mechanics, includes other fields, including electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. Recent work at the modeling center at Arizona State has also expanded into other fields.

Several years ago, I received a short note from the Stanford physics department saying they were looking into revising their approach to teaching students. At one level
I was pleased, at another level it seemed to be kind of typical. I recognized most of the scientists who were going to be advising the Stanford department. All in one way or another had been involved either in the program at Arizona State or the program at the University of Washington. None of the people who actually developed this approach to physics teaching was invited. A little like me teaching relativity instead of Albert Einstein. But still it seems there will be progress.
Joseph V. Stewart, MS ’61
McMinnville, Oregon


New Map

I just read the article “Let’s Reconsider Russia” (Consider This, March/April), and it was very good. I have read the Hellmans’ book, A New Map for Relationships, which is also very good, but the excerpted article was even more powerful since it doesn’t get bogged down with all the other good ideas in their book.

Our relationship with Russia is one of the most critical items in today’s world. Although I don’t agree with many of President Trump’s ideas, I do think working with Russia is a key to peace in the world. Most people think Russia is our enemy, but I agree with the Hellman article that we should also try to see things from their viewpoint. I remember reading in another book that the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia all had different viewpoints on why WWII started. It makes perfect sense that nations still have different views on today’s problems.

Hopefully this article will get published in other venues.
Larry Chasteen, Engr. ’71
Dallas, Texas

It’s so refreshing to get a change from the sea of misinformation and demonization that usually fills the Western media when it comes to Russia.

Well done and, again, thank you.
Tim McFadden, ’77
Florence, Arizona


Remembering Hubert Marshall

I was so saddened to hear of the death of political science professor Hubert Marshall (Farewells, March/April). I am forever grateful that I ventured outside my civil engineering department to take Professor Marshall’s class Government Decision-Making and Natural Resources. This class was a roundtable discussion group of about 12 students meeting several times a week. Professor Marshall assigned numerous (and voluminous) articles and books; you absolutely had to read all the material and to be prepared to actively participate in the discussion. At the time, as a “typical engineer” I was not that great a reader, but that class forced me to change those poor reading habits. The works were thought-provoking, usually bringing up unanticipated conflict and complexities as government approached and managed the natural systems.

For example, his assigned book Doe Day dealt with the controversies associated with reducing the herd of deer in New Jersey to control their increasing numbers, focusing on hunting the female deer. This practice became extremely provocative after Disney’s movie Bambi came out, arousing public sympathy for all the “Bambis” that would be left behind as their mothers were hunted and killed. Controlling the herd size was a biological necessity, but how were we to deal with the emotions this legendary cartoon left in the hearts of local residents? Professor Marshall then led a fascinating discussion on the unique public- policy issues that can arise amidst completely unanticipated cultural phenomena.

Professor Marshall was a strong advocate of citizens getting involved at the local level of government. At an office visit, he once told me he had seen far too many Stanford students wanting to get to the state and federal levels of government decision-making as fast as possible—apparently seeing more status and glamour at such higher levels of government—thus bypassing any local government involvement. He said that the most important impact we can have on our country’s governance is participation in decision-making at the local level and that that is where the most important movements commence.

Professor Marshall was such a bright and insightful teacher, who really focused on his teaching and on his students’ learning and truly comprehending the coursework. I am convinced knowing him and taking his class made me both a better engineer—and a better person. He showed me how a really great teacher can change you forever.
Donald Bentley, MS ’82
La Puente, California


Circular Reasoning

The article on roundabouts on campus gave a most interesting history about these new traffic directors (“Campus Traffic Goes in Circles, in a Good Way,” Farm Report, March/April). I have been enjoying using them since they started to appear, and I’ve seen the problem you mentioned: “Not everybody gets the rules.” The most obvious example is when strings of cars act as if the Yield sign at the entrance to the roundabout doesn’t apply to each and every car—but it does! I do appreciate not seeing the police citing bicyclists as they used to at four-way stops, but I’d like to see them going after drivers of cars who sail through behind the car in front of them while cars and/or bicyclists wait for a break in the stream.

And when will the next roundabout, at Serra and Campus Drive, be built?
Julie Spickler, ’62, MA ’65
Menlo Park, California


The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.


Data Decisions

While I applaud Justin Adamson’s consideration of energy vs. data accessibility (“Carbon and the Cloud,” May/June), I believe he has oversimplified the considerations. First, hard drives are not the only method of storing data on your computer or in the cloud. Flash drives are used in both applications, and the energy footprint for flash drives is completely different from the energy footprint for hard drives. Second, his comment about [cloud data storage] is that you “can access it anywhere.” I use Comcast for my internet access, a company that I have a love/hate relationship with. In the last several months, I have experienced critical times when network access has gone down and I was unable to access any data that I did not save on my local computer.
Steve Siegel, ’60
Saratoga, California


Critical Thinking

Although I enjoy Stanford magazine and the articles that let me know what is going on at Stanford, I feel I must direct a small criticism at you regarding the article by Greta Lorge in the March/April issue (“Finding the Cures Within Us”). Lorge interjects an argument for killing human embryos to obtain their stem cells that both violates the scientific [method] and also utilizes two fallacious arguments.

She presents a red herring fallacy and an attack-on-the-person fallacy. On page 50, she argues that the fact that in vitro fertilization usually results in the death of some of these organisms justifies killing these organisms. The status of the argument is the morality of killing these organisms, not whether the status quo in fertilization assistance is moral. This is a standard red herring fallacy. She immediately follows this with “often rooted in religious doctrine,” a clear attack on the person, another well-known but particularly egregious fallacy because it leaves violence as the only course of resolution of disagreement.

Let’s see how a scientist should act in the matter of this debate. A scientist would need to first postulate a hypothesis and then [carry out] an experiment to investigate the hypothesis. For example, one could hypothesize that killing the organism in question is not murder. The experiment would be to establish a control—for example, the organism in question placed in an environment known to be survivable for it and a second organism also placed in an environment known to be survivable but deliberately killed by the experimenter. Then see which one results in a human being/person. If the organism that was deliberately killed does not result in a human being/person but the one that was not deliberately killed does result in a human being/person, then the hypothesis is proved wrong. Actually, this could probably be done via a thought experiment!

The issue of the morality of killing organisms that arise from human germ cells can make for a fascinating debate; however, the expertise evident in such a debate ought to highlight an excellence in education and not be an embarrassment to the Stanford community.
Joe Iaquinto, MS ’71
Leesburg, Virginia


Fair Trial?

Glad to hear that Stanford has a most extensive program to cope with alleged sexual assaults on campus. Many such programs continue to deny the (usually) male accused of assault the opportunity to confront [the accuser], do not allow the accused the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and do not allow the accused the right to have legal counsel during proceedings. In addition, hearings at many schools are not conducted by persons with legal training. As a result, more than a few young men have had their lives and careers shattered by a conviction based on revenge accusations from a jilted woman or a woman who wakes up regretting what she has done the night before.

How does Stanford’s program score on these matters? It would seem that with a new administration in the White House, the ax that the Office of Civil Rights has held over schools that do not comply with its Title IX demands should be much less fearsome.
Tom Macdonald, MA ’66
Sarasota, Florida


Memory Lane

After a year at Stern Hall, we sophomores were shunted off to the Village in Menlo Park in the fall of 1953, at which time we met our RA—John Ross [MS ’53]. Even in the dead of night, these former Army barracks were not quiet. I had four roommates, one of whom was a super-brilliant electrical engineering major who held court until 3:00 a.m. many nights teaching, for money, other students how to play poker. His huge winnings went to purchase laboratory equipment for his personal use. John had to explain to Ma Bell investigators how this EE major could send long-distance phone calls from the hallway without paying for them.

RAs back then were chosen for their maturity, as John was 10 years older, but he became a lifelong friend to most of us.
Bill Poppino, ’56
Schenectady, New York


Moral Imperative?

I read with despair the profile of Stanford senior Esther Melton (“Meet Esther Melton,” May/June), who says, “Though I recognize Judaism as a part of my history, I don’t necessarily identify with the religion. I think my identification as a black woman is more important to me.”

Being a Jew means not only recognizing the absolute moral truth of the first five books of the Bible but submitting to one's own place in a moral tradition of accountability, honesty, heterosexual marriage and humility. In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx commanded that Judeo-Christian values had to be overthrown to create a swamp of sufficient anarchic despair for his oppressive dystopia to triumph. Being a Jew means standing up against that.
David Altschul, MA ’76
Nashville, Tennessee


Russian Evolution

This letter is in response to the article “Let’s Reconsider Russia” (March/April) by Dorothie and Martin Hellman. In this day of our greatly divided America, I wouldn’t dare guess the balance between the pros and cons that this very thoughtfully presented piece will generate. So I will go out on the limb and put my checkmark in the “like” column.

Russia is hard to consider without also considering the period when it was called the Soviet Union. U.S. reaction to the two Russias varied over time, from an unofficial admiration for the new ideology, to wartime alliance, to Cold War enemy No. 1, to the detente of Yeltsin and Gorbachev, and now to an enemy with whom armed conflict is possible. What has been behind these swings of opinion?

I believe three factors play a role: 1) the United States’ lack of understanding of Russia; 2) the shifting of U.S. interests; and 3) the failure by U.S. politicians to understand that all nations have a right to their own national interest and a right to protect it.

One may suggest that U.S. reaction can be affected by the behavior of Russia. This may not be the case: Some of the most horrific and abominable acts perpetrated by Soviet leadership on the world—and on its own people—happened when the United States and the Soviet Union were wartime allies, or even before the war, when there was a “love affair” going on between American intellectuals with the Soviet Union and its ideals. Then came World War II.

World War II was won for the Allies at Stalingrad . . . there can really be no question about that: Nazi Germany was in retreat continuously from that point. The Allied landings happened when the Red Army was nearly on the border of the Soviet Union with Eastern Europe. The Hellmans chronicle the questionable Allied actions with the Soviets carefully and accurately.

Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union and a group of halfhearted attempts at normalized relations. None of them really took root. Whose fault was it? Did the United States do things that would cause Russia not to trust it? Yes, indeed!

Did the United States behave provocatively or insultingly with USSR/Russia, exacerbating bad relations? Again, the answer is an unqualified yes. The United States has consistently acted over many decades as if Russia did not belong in the family of nations. This is no way to win friends and influence people. No wonder the Russian leadership has problems with U.S. behavior!

Now, let’s look at the more recent hitches in relations, starting with the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Again, the subject’s treatment by U.S. politicians and the media reeks of ignorance and is an indication of hypocritical behavior by the United States. The Crimea belonged to Russia for many centuries. It was/is the base of the Russian/Soviet/Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sebastopol. Then Khrushchev “gave” it to Ukraine. This didn’t cause much of a stir in Russia or Ukraine because it was meaningless. In 1954, there was one USSR, and all its “member republics” were simply meaningless entities: Everything was run from Moscow, and there was not one practical consequence to the “gift.” When the USSR collapsed in 1990 and the republics became independent, this anomaly was focused on for the first time. The Russian Black Sea Fleet was still there and most of the population of the Crimea was still Russian, so the two states tried to paper over this idiocy as best as they could: The base was “leased” from Ukraine, etc. This seemed to work as long as relations between Russia and Ukraine were amicable. When that ended, in 2014, Putin restored Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

The next major topic of contention between Russia and the United States is Ukraine itself. Ukraine was never really an independent country. During most of its history, it was part of Russia. Western Ukraine became Western by geography; eastern Ukraine was and is practically a continuation of Russia westward. Since 1990, elections in Ukraine have flip-flopped between pro-Western and pro-Eastern parties. In 2012, Viktor Yanukovych was democratically elected to be president. He was pro-Russian. After some consultations with Putin, he nixed the incipient agreement with the EU, which was preparing the way for future EU membership. This was a major thorn in the Russian side. He was also extremely corrupt and generally not a nice guy. But to U.S. and Western eyes, his main flaw was that he was pro-Russian: He had to go. So, with a little CIA help, he was “couped” out of office. These events split Ukraine. The conflict continues, but should it be an obstacle to formalizing good relations between the United States and Russia? In my judgment, definitely not!

As the final point, let United States examine the Soviet/Russian leaders the United States had to deal with during the past 100 years. There was Stalin, the all-powerful dictator until 1953. His demerits are well-documented. Twice as many lives are drying on his soul as on Hitler’s. And yet [the United States] had no trouble speaking to him, helping him for nearly 35 years. No sanctions, no boycotts, but lots of jeeps and other war material. Then came Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Gorbachev and Yeltsin could be considered for sainthood next to Stalin, yet they received more slings and arrows from the United States than Stalin ever did.

Putin may be smartest of all. Yes, he was a KGB colonel. But Yeltsin chose him; he had good instincts for leadership, and he wanted good things for Russia. He succeeded with Putin. Putin wants a strong and proud Russia, a little like Reagan wanted to restore pride in America. Putin will not be a pushover, but he can probably be dealt with better than any of the mentioned predecessors except Gorbachev.

Who authorized, or anointed, or requested the United States to be the dispenser of democracy all over this varied and suffering world? Who empowered it to act as police enforcer of human rights in the far corners of the globe? It would be much better if it dealt with everyone not as a schoolmarm with an unruly teenager but as one independent country with another.

Let us not tarry a moment longer and start reconsidering relations with Russia, with a fair and even-handed approach.

In case readers charge me with pro-Russian bias, they should know that I grew up under Soviet occupation in Hungary and fought the Red Army with machine guns, Molotov cocktails and cobblestones in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. I escaped with the shirt on my back and two wounds, courtesy of the glorious Red Army.
Adam von Dioszeghy, ’64, JD ’70
Budapest, Hungary