How to Serve
Thank you for the empowering issue about service [Sept. 22]. Three years ago, as a freshman in college, I became frustrated that my peers and I were constantly studying community problems but not actually doing anything to solve them. So I formed Students Serve, a national nonprofit organization run by college-student volunteers, to provide service grants to students. At this point, our grants have enabled college students to start a shelter for abused women, teach art classes to inner-city youth, create interactive history lessons and begin a wheelchair-recycling program. We the people can choose to make a meaningful difference by serving our nation and fellow human beings. Angela Perkey, WILLIAMSBURG, VA.
Your issue on national service was thoughtful, provocative and, I hope, fruitful. I would like to offer a 22nd way to fix up America: create a U.S. public-service academy on par with the three major military academies, designed to attract the best and the brightest young people who want to make a difference. It should provide free college and postgraduate education, offer majors in both domestic and foreign public service, require strong prerequisite credentials like those demanded by the military academies and be apolitical and headed by a person of great prestige who is neither a politician nor a military officer. What better way for taxpayers to spend their money than on training talented future leaders? Frank R. Nataro, HUNTINGTON, N.Y.
Most of us who want to serve cannot join the Peace Corps. One way you can serve your community in almost any town is by joining a service club. Many are looking for members to help with civic projects. When you sign on, you are working with some great people who want to help--and you have fun doing it. Jim Montgomery, GEORGETOWN, TEXAS
I was disappointed that there was no mention of donating blood in your article. For anyone who cannot give blood, groups such as the American Red Cross can always use volunteers to help contact donors (as I do each month) and greet them at contribution centers. Patrick Ivers, LARAMIE, WYO.
As a third-grade teacher, I provide ways for students to make a difference by following my classroom motto: "Adding to the Good." Despite their young age, my students are now forming indelible memories that will be key to their future learning and lives. Sadly, elementary-school kids are often not given the same opportunities to serve as those in middle and high school. Anna Saldo-Burke, WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.
The Palin Effect
I must confess I'd been struggling to understand the recent surge in the popularity of Sarah Palin until Joe Klein put it all into sepia-toned perspective [Sept. 22]. I realized that her appeal reflects a wistful desire for an American abstraction, a wholesome place in our memory that is no more--and perhaps never was. We want to be reminded of who and what we think we were, not who we are. But yearning for our past, real or imagined, will not bring it back. And I fear that after the tribulations of the past eight years, we may not survive waking up on the wrong side of the bed for four more. I can only pray that by November we will stir from our sentimental slumber long enough to elect a President who has the vision and intelligence to lead us in the world in which we actually live. Kevin Thompson, MAPLEWOOD, N.J.
Is it so hard to understand the nostalgia that many Americans feel for a reasonable return to the culture of small-town America--to its appreciation of education, traditional arts, the work ethic, hunting, community spirit and moderate churchgoing? Moderation and mutual cooperation within the international community are what we so desperately need in the U.S. That is the change that John McCain and Palin would bring. Jim Clemons, FREDERICKSBURG, VA.
Why do voters need to relate to the presidential candidates as if they were one of us? I don't want the President to be my friend, share a carpool or be a drinking buddy. I want my President to be qualified to lead the greatest nation on the planet. I want my President to bring all Americans back to playing on the same team, because I'm tired of the divisive anger and blame. We have a President now who seemed like one of us--and where has it gotten us? L. Bonomi, PALO ALTO, CALIF.
The hundreds of thousands of people who live in and around the many small towns throughout northern Ohio might be shocked to learn that "suburbanites and city dwellers do the fighting and hourly-wage work now." Klein insults our intelligence, our work ethic and our values when he suggests that we live in a place where "myths are more potent than the hope of getting past the dour realities." Oh, I forgot--like our brethren in Pennsylvania, we embrace guns and religion to escape the harsh realties of our existence. Steve Mohr, BUCYRUS, OHIO
No one in the media would be calling it "touching and credible" if a teen pregnancy had occurred in the Obama family. Everyone would be writing about the tragedy of teen pregnancy in the African-American community, the high school dropout rate of teen mothers and so on. Barack Obama's career would be under fire, and no one would be spinning myths to stop it. Catherine D. Nardi, CHICAGO
Palin's myth, as described, seems to appeal to racist and homophobic people. McCain is certainly not the honorable man he claims to be if that is how he intends to win this election. If ignoring people who suffer at the hands of injustice is part of the American Dream the Republicans want to bring back, then they need to wake up, because America is about freedom. It's not about everybody's being just like you. Lisa Toms, CINCINNATI, OHIO
The Kids Aren't All Right
As a high school english teacher of at-risk students in an urban school, I have seen firsthand how sexuality is exploding [Sept. 22]. First of all, we need to have an honest conversation about protection. Also, girls don't have sex or get pregnant on their own. We need to start promoting male role models who don't just use women and leave. We need to start teaching our boys to treat females and their own children with more respect. For both girls and boys: Use condoms every time. Don't have sex just to fit in. And babies won't make you happy. We adults must be willing to talk about these big issues. We can't simply squeeze our eyes shut to the situation and hope it will go away. If we continue to do that, by the time we open our eyes, our babies will have had their own babies. Stacy Lica, LAKEWOOD, CALIF.
The Coen Brothers Burn It Up!