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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Spring 2004 > Letters


Kennedy’s legacy
I especially appreciated the commemoration of President John F. Kennedy’s “poetry and power” address at Amherst 40 years ago in the Fall/Winter issue of Amherst. My wife, Laura (Smith ’65), and I became “pinned” that day, and JFK’s remarks helped stimulate what eventually became for me a 19-year career of public service with the federal government and 38 years (and still going) of community volunteer service. Amherst can be proud of the significant role that its sons and daughters traditionally have played, and continue to play, in leadership and support roles in public service, the military and volunteer organizations. This is no coincidence; it was taught us consciously and subconsciously at Amherst.

Jerold L. Jacobs ’65
Rockville, Md.

Kennedy’s voice
What a great pleasure it was to relive the Kennedy visit to Amherst and to be able to hear his voice again. He mentioned preserving our old American buildings. As a San Francisco city guide, I lead tours of the old Victorians here in the city. Many
of these buildings were preserved with the help of FACE grants that were offered during his administration.

There was much, much more that I enjoyed in Amherst this time and only wish there had been more images from the Folger. Thank you for a wonderful edition.

Paul Cooney ’50
San Francisco, Calif.

Kennedy’s host
I have been enjoying the expanded quarterly with much timely information on the college. The write-up on the JFK visit was most interesting. The person who set up the visit was Jim Reed, a classmate of mine in the Class of 1941. Jim was one of the star athletes of our period, who went on to Harvard Law and who was in the PT squadron with Jack Kennedy. He was a very close friend of Kennedy, who appointed him assistant secretary of the treasury. Jim and JFK had discussed an honorary degree for Jack at Amherst [which led to the visit].

John Jinishian ’41
Old Greenwich, Conn.

Kennedy’s officer
I especially enjoyed reading two pieces in the Fall/Winter issue: “JFK Remembered” and “The Poet and the President,” both
involving JFK’s visit to the Fairest College just one day short of four weeks before his assassination. Like my friend and classmate Doug Wilson ’62 [quoted in “JFK Remembered”], I was there that day, [in my case] with my commander in chief.
At that time I was a young Navy intelligence officer working at the Pentagon.

Lee Perlman ’62
Ashland, Ore.

Painting the town red
Here are some questions for fellow alumni, prompted by Justice Antonin Scalia’s February visit to the college: Have you ever made your annual contribution to the Alumni Fund, only to be overcome by apprehension that your gift will be used to subsidize a grim intellectual gulag dominated by a hard-core cadre of left-wing academics? Have you ever had second thoughts about sending your sons and daughters to Amherst out of concern that, after four years of subjection to a ruthless regimen of political reeducation, even the strongest among them are likely to succumb to that syndrome in which captives begin to identify with their captors? Who among them, you might ask yourself, could ever recover from the progressive debilitation that results from a steady diet of stale collectivist gruel? How could they ever stand upright again after suffering the steely blows of the ideological hammer wielded by the faculty’s commissars of political correctness?

Have you observed how the left uses diversity not as a means of enlivening intellectual debate, but as a front behind which
to build its army of true believers? It presses institutions like Amherst to recruit particular groups of students who, according to its hothouse theories, are aggrieved and oppressed. Then, once these students are in its clutches, the college does everything in its power to convince them that they are in fact aggrieved and oppressed. Instead of inviting these students to reflect seriously on traditional political and moral understandings, it bludgeons them into believing that those understandings are the source of their oppression.

Do you believe that the principal mission of the college is to foster a climate in which diverse opinions thrive and clash? Do you believe that those who reject traditional moral and political understandings should encounter intellectual scrutiny as rigorous as that directed against those who embrace these ideas? Do you believe that the college has utterly failed in that mission?

If so, then it is time to unite and rise up. It is time to cut the shackles that bind Amherst students to the chain gang of the left. Bringing Justice Antonin Scalia to campus was just the start. Now we must turn to the work of the real revolution.

Joseph H. Nesler ’78
Winnetka, Ill.

Baghdad mail call
I am Class of ’98 and have just returned from a year in Baghdad, Iraq, with the U.S. Army. My father would send Amherst magazine to me every quarter, and it was a huge boost to my spirits. It really is a fantastic magazine—well done, and thank you.

Paul Rieckhoff ’98
Brooklyn, N.Y.


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