Please accept my sincere thanks to Johns Hopkins Magazine and to Bret McCabe in particular for his fine, important article ["Prose of War," Spring] about Michael O'Donnell and In That Time by Daniel Weiss. I have been haunted for months by O'Donnell's poem that begins "If you are able" and only wish it, he, and In That Time could reach a wider audience. The poem should be engraved somewhere near the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and in the White House situation room.
I hope you will tell your readers that two other poems and some songs by O'Donnell can be seen and heard at inthattime.com.
I graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, so I was prime meat for the Vietnam War. Luckily, I found ways to avoid the draft and military service. At the end of "Prose of War," Daniel Weiss muses that we have not learned well from the Vietnam disaster. Perhaps that is because we insist on glorifying war and wartime experiences.
Earlier in the article, writer Bret McCabe refers to the "exalted space" given to World War II literature and the lack of the same for the Vietnam War. I have not read any of the World War II books mentioned or seen any of the films. I am not interested in hearing about war glories. I have read Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, Anna Seghers' The Seventh Cross, Iris Origo's War in Val d'Orcia, Marceline Loridan-Ivens' But You Did Not Come Back, and John Hersey's Hiroshima. There is little war glory in those books.
For the Vietnam War, I have read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and seen the movie Born on the Fourth of July. I have also read Viet Thanh Nguyen's essays in Nothing Ever Dies on how the American "war machine" of books and movies guarantees we will fight future wars. Some corrective can be found in books by the Vietnamese. Two of note are Dang Thuy Tram's Last Night I Dreamed of Peace and Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War. A final book recommendation is Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. I keep a copy around to look at whenever the drumbeats of war start again.
Richard Elinson, A&S '67
Huntington, New York
I can't find the words to thank Bret McCabe for "Prose of War." It took a while to read with tears streaming down my face, bringing again painful memories of those who did not return. Every incoming student should be given a copy to remind them of how little our leaders value our bravest.
Peter I. Berman, A&S '67
I finished reading the spring issue of the magazine while sitting in the garage getting lots of fresh air this afternoon. It was one of the best issues I have read in years; great articles about a great group of people. Thanks for your magazine.
Not So Standard
The line in the spring issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine "that standardized tests are not always the best method" ["A Targeted Talent Search," Idea] really struck me because of my personal experience in the spring of 1957. Most of my K-12 education had been in a small rural school in the Ozarks. Then for my senior year, I went off to a private high school that was turning itself into a junior college. Just before graduation, I took the standardized test for that year in that place. Like all my academic endeavors, I worked very carefully on each set of answers, and then ... oops, they called time on me! That happened over and over again. I should not have been surprised at my 32% score, but I was.
I did not want to go back to the physical labor of a dirt-poor farm, so I went to see the college admissions adviser. Again, I was surprised—it was my high school English teacher.
"What happened!" she exclaimed.
"I dunno," I mumbled in response.
"It's OK," she replied. "I know your work. You're in."
In appreciation, I did wonderful work there while earning an Associate of Science degree. I went on to success with a bachelor's and a master's at the University of Arkansas. I took a short break working, then went back for a PhD at Duke University. After that, I got serious about working, but not so serious that I ignored academics. While working full time, I earned an MPA at the University of Southern California—with straight As. After that, I just played around at being a student, taking a course here and a course there. Finally, after retiring (so to speak), I earned a second Associate of Science at Allegany College of Maryland—again with straight As.
Are you surprised that I strongly believe that everyone deserves more than a single route to success in life, however success might be defined?
Ronald A. Stanley
Time Well Spent
I spent a wonderful hour or so today with the spring issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine. First, I loved the English suffragettes game board ["Game Night," Artifact]. I tore it out and mounted it on cardboard—not to play the game but as a memento of the Women's Suffrage 100th Anniversary this year in the United States. Then, I was pleased to see reference to Professor Ron Walters and his writing manual, "How to Eschew Weasel Words" [Dialogue]. Dr. Walters was my adviser when I was in the MLA program. Finally, I was moved by Michael O'Donnell's poem ["Prose of War"] remembering the dead and wounded he transported in his helicopter. Thank you for an outstanding issue.
Joan K. McDermott, A&S '93 (MLA)
A Relatable Essay
Thank you for publishing "A Life in Revision" [Afterwords, Spring]. It was touching and well-written, and it speaks to the experience many alumni have had since leaving Johns Hopkins—living ordinary lives, celebrating accomplishments in our own worlds.
Shari Shea, SPH '98 (MHS)
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