Letters to the Editor

Letters: March/April 2019

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be e-mailed to yam@yale.edu; mailed to Letters Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905; or faxed to (203) 432-0651. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing. Priority is given to letters of fewer than 300 words.

Today’s mail brought me a copy of the latest issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine, with its wonderful cover story on the late George H. W. Bush (“Bush and Yale,” January/February). While I never voted for him, I have grown to admire him greatly over the years for his honesty, integrity, love and concern for his family and his country, and sense of humor, as well as the excellent use he made of his later years, in particular through sky-diving! I’ll add that, like him, I am a longtime lover of zany socks, as anyone who knew me as a Yale grad student might remember (though admittedly it’s been a few decades). He was truly a remarkable person—someone of whom one can certainly say he had a good, long run. Thank you for an excellent article!

Barbara Pilvin ’76MA
Philadelphia, PA


Thank you for having the courage to publish two complimentary (and complementary) articles about George H. W. Bush. I suspect that you will receive numerous protests in response to the articles.

Hamilton Osborne Jr. ’68LLB
Columbia, SC


Google would be a better source for information—and appreciation—of G. H. W. Bush than your politicized piece on him in the most recent issue. Gentleman that he was, I suspect he might just be giving you the one-fingered salute wherever he is. I would join him. You didn’t do him justice.

Frank Hotchkiss ’64
Santa Barbara, CA


The tributes to George H. W. Bush call for some counterpoint.

Campaigning for the presidency in 1988, Bush said he would protect all remaining wetlands and pass a national recycling plan. After the election, his administration proposed redefining the term “wetland” so a large proportion of existing wetlands could be drained and used for agriculture. His national recycling plan never materialized.

Bush criticized Fidel Castro’s Cuban government for its record on human rights and vowed to maintain the severe US embargo on food and medicine for Cuba. But over considerable opposition, he renewed China’s most-favored-nation trade status, even though he concluded that China had taken only limited steps to guarantee human rights after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. 

In the Gulf War, Bush ordered American forces to bomb non-military targets such as Iraqi water-purification plants, causing widespread disease and death of Iraqi civilians. He drove Saddam Hussein’s troops out of Kuwait, then encouraged Iraqis to rebel against Saddam. Apparently expecting American aid, many Iraqis began an armed rebellion, then were slaughtered by Saddam’s army while Bush ignored their plight.

Following the war, Bush began drastic economic sanctions against Iraq. He persuaded the UN to join in imposing the sanctions, which were continued during the entire Clinton administration. These sanctions were ostensibly intended to bring about Saddam Hussein’s downfall. Instead, they caused widespread poverty, disease, and death among ordinary Iraqis while leaving Saddam unscathed.

Bush proposed a constitutional amendment banning abortion except when the mother’s life is in danger. Interviewed on NBC News, he was asked how he would react if his granddaughter told him she was pregnant and wanted an abortion. He said he would try to talk her out of it but would stand by her in any case. The interviewer asked, “In the end, the decision would be hers?” Bush replied, “Well, who else’s could it be?”

Karl K. Norton ’59
Bangor, ME


I would like to correct a glaring error and omission in your article about the late President Bush. As a result of this error, the article failed to recognize what history is likely to identify as the most significant accomplishment of his presidency, namely the execution and ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Your article incorrectly states that the United States did not sign the UNFCCC. 

You may have been confusing the UNFCCC with the other major international treaty that emerged from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity. Although the United States was involved in the negotiation and drafting of that treaty, it ultimately did not ratify the treaty and is not a party to it. 

Robert B. McKinstry Jr. ’79JD, ’79MFS
Kennett Square, PA


We did indeed get our treaties mixed up. We regret the error. Also, David Frum ’82 mentioned in his essay George W. Bush’s complaint that Yale was slow to award the first President Bush an honorary degree. For the record, recipients of honorary degrees are chosen by a committee of trustees, alumni, and faculty, not by the university administration; a university official often attends the meetings.—Eds. 


David Frum notes that George H. W. Bush opposed civil rights acts in the early 1960s and supported Barry Goldwater. But later, in Congress, Bush voted for the 1968 Fair Housing Act, incurring death threats from his constituents. He also firmly supported Richard Nixon at the 1968 Republican Convention, though a majority of the Texas delegation was pro-Reagan.

Max S. Power ’71PhD
Denver, CO


One omission is noteworthy in your coverage of George H. W. Bush’s life. In presenting the milestones of his presidency, you note the Yale degrees and years of Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton, but fail to do so for Anita Hill ’80JD. One hopes that this is merely an oversight, and does not reflect the lesser visibility of women.

Amit A. Pandya ’80JD
Silver Spring, MD


It was an oversight—and an unfortunate one. We regret the error.—Eds.


What’s in a name?

Huh? “Yale Alumni Association” represents something different and better than “Association of Yale Alumni” (“AYA Is Out. YAA Is In,” January/February)? Oh, I appreciate the multicultural sensitivity of switching from AYA to YAA. With so many Chinese students these days, we don’t want them thinking “aiya,” a Mandarin expletive meaning “oh crap.” Much better to have us thinking the Scandinavian “jaaa,” like we just settled into a hot tub with our liebling. That’s much more conducive to getting us to come to reunions and write big checks. But we’ll be expecting hot tubs in the courtyards every five years, monitored by the School of Public Health. Or is it the Public Health School?

I just hope AYA didn’t pay some New York branding firm big bucks to delete its preposition. I would have done it for free.

Brian Wu ’86, ’88MFA
East Greenwich, RI


A Whiffenpoof’s view

I’m a member of the Whiffenpoofs of ’64. Regarding the recent discussion in this space of the subject of women in the Whiffenpoofs (Letters, July/August), I want to add two comments, but first I need to make a pair of qualifications. First, pace Richard Slade ’80, “young whippersnappers” is not part of my active vocabulary: three of my closest friends are exactly 20, 30, and 40 years my junior; and we hang out together whenever possible. Second, I am hardly a misogynist: in fact, I tend to idealize women, and I named my two houses after the heroine in Fidelio.

I’ll certainly grant Richard Slade’s point that a considerable overlap exists between the male and female vocal ranges—in fact, some postmenopausal women could even sing the bass parts—but the ability to sing a given note is not the point. Nor is the question of “access” and “power,” as stated by Molly Perkins ’10. Rather, the issue is the sound: I defy anyone, for example, to show me a woman singer who can duplicate the tone of the late countertenor Alfred Deller, because the voice quality of women is simply different. Therefore, mixed Whiff (or Whim) groups will no longer sound the same as before.

Apparently, regardless of this uniqueness of sound, modern-day audiences no longer want to hear male choruses or a cappella groups. Heraclitus was right: time has passed and change has occurred, so we of the earlier generation of singers must accept these differences with serenity. These changes won’t matter to us before long anyway. I can simply say that, personally, I’m thoroughly glad that I was born when I was, because I definitely had the Whiffenpoof experience of my choice.

Don Haggerty ’64
La Plata, Argentina


Hanna Gray’s heritage

I noticed in your profile of Hanna Holborn Gray (“Hanna Gray’s Extraordinary Life,” January/February) that her mother was Jewish. According to Jewish law, that means Gray was Jewish, whatever her religious practice or affiliation was. So apparently Gray was Yale’s first Jewish president. That would have been worth mentioning.

Paul Kujawsky ’78
Valley Village, CA



In our report on Yale alumni in elected office (“Elected Elis,” January/February), we left the “JD” off the class year for Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo ’98JD, a graduate of Yale Law School.

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