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Letters to the Editor

Too Left? Too Right? Just Right?
Readers respond to “Dianne Feinstein Goes Her Own Way” (December).

Dianne Feinstein, one of the few politicians for whom I have a modicum of respect, was absolutely right 24 years ago about the corrosive effects of partisan politics in Washington. However, when equally correctly asked about the same atmosphere today, where the Democrat party mantra is "resistance," she became aggressive and dodged the question.

She became what she criticized. How sad.

Imagine an environment in Washington where elected reps represent their constituents instead of their party, and legislate and vote accordingly.

Are you listening, Dianne?
Bob Olson, ’60
San Ramon, California

Your article about the 84-year-old politician lost me with “Having announced plans to run for a sixth term in 2018 . . .”

Why didn’t this prompt [writer Romesh] Ratnesar to ask why Feinstein wants to cling to power into her 90s? Does she really believe her constituents will be well served by a nonagenarian senator? Or is she just focused on what she wants?

Feinstein has become the poster politician for why we need term limits.
Mark Edmondson, ’81, MS ’81
Dallas, Texas

The Class Notes section of Stanford that my daughters receive properly omits notes from older generations, as the accomplishments of these Stanford grads look more to the past than the future.

Does their magazine also include a cover story from someone whose “proudest legislative achievement” occurred less than 23 years ago? Father Time steps down every New Year; it is time for Senator Feinstein to do the same. 
Daniel Broderick, ’74
Sacramento, California 

I would like you and others to know about an action Dianne took in her first years as mayor that was brave, bold and lifesaving.

In the early 1980s, I received a phone call from my colleague Mervyn Silverman, who was serving as director of public health in San Francisco. Dr. Silverman requested that I, as president of the California Public Health Association, be ready with a suit and tie on a very busy Monday for him to pick me up at my Sausalito pharmacy. We were to go see Dianne on a serious public health matter involving life and death for the citizens of San Francisco. 

While riding in the car, he told me about the new epidemic affecting the gay community in San Francisco. His education in public health told him that it was being transmitted by gay men having sexual relations in the bathhouses. His game plan was to try to get Dianne to close the bathhouses.

My role, when Dr. S. kicked me under the table, was to jump up, start hollering about how we were to going to sue the city, carry on like a lunatic about how the epidemic was killing off citizens of San Francisco, and implore her to close the bathhouses.

Owners of the bathhouses and the gay community at large were big supporters of Dianne. They had lots of political clout, including having made large donations toward her election. Merv and I understood it would be difficult for her to close the bathhouses.

It never got to Merv kicking me under the table. As Dianne said in the Stanford article, “you have to remember why you are here and whom you really serve.” Three days later, the fantastic San Francisco mayor approved of closing all the bathhouses, averting many, many AIDS deaths. She got it done without fanfare, quietly consulting with the bathhouse owners.

As an 85-year-old youngster with all my marbles like Dianne, I propose Dianne for president of the United States. 
Frederick S. Mayer 
San Rafael, California

Guys, no matter how progressive and Dem you are, Senator Feinstein is one of the most prejudiced, straight-Dem hacks alive. She doesn’t have a bipartisan bone, nor has she proposed or supported a single decent piece of legislation.
Doug Reid, MBA ’77
Atlanta, Georgia

Thank you for this article and for the decision to put Senator Feinstein on your December 2017 cover. There shall never be a better time than now to highlight the value and critical importance of intellectually rigorous, hardworking, assertive yet cooperative, moderate, honorable, “long game” public service representatives. Senator Feinstein is a credit to Stanford and a treasure to all who love our country, reject tribalism, hold faith in democracy and honor politics for what it should be: the art of not demagoguery but diplomacy.

I’ve often disagreed with Senator Feinstein. She has, to my mind, been too attentive to Southern California agricultural interests. Yet I’ve never doubted her intelligence, diligence, patriotism or integrity.

California is a big state in a big country. We have diverse interests and concerns. We want honest governance. Trust allows compromise; it’s how we all get along. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a shining star in Stanford’s sky. As such, she deserves a cover. I thank you for it.
Betty Jo Chang, ’69
Palo Alto, California

You are probably getting lots of emails from folks critical of your decision to put Dianne Feinstein on the cover, emails from both left and right, but I wanted to say “right choice.” I do not often agree with Feinstein, but your article managed to show how she comes from Stanford and how she continues to use the skills she learned there. So, well done; keep up the good work. 
Walter Stahr, ’79 
Newport Beach, California


Murph Deserved Better
A headline and story about the death of Bob Murphy, ’53 (December), quoted a colleague who referred to Murph as a “homer broadcaster.”

Your choice of Dianne Feinstein for the cover of Stanford was appropriate and, given today’s “party over country” political landscape, particularly inspired. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Feinstein twice, and found her to be a brilliant, tough, highly principled public servant. 

As fitting as Feinstein’s cover story was, your superficial, half-page piece about Bob Murphy’s passing was disappointing. Pigeonholing “Murph” as a “homer broadcaster” would be akin to calling Feinstein a political hack. 

I had the honor of working closely with Murph for many years. His contributions to Stanford over the past half century—as a publicist, event promoter, community activist, goodwill ambassador, broadcaster, fund-raiser, emcee and mentor—are without peer. He overcame personal tragedy, losing two children to cancer, and showed uncommon creativity, strength and perseverance in cultivating support for Stanford Athletics. He successfully engaged hundreds of thousands of fans and gained national recognition for the university’s football and basketball programs.

Away from Stanford, he managed the U.S. Open, launched Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament, elevated the East-West Shrine Game and served with distinction as San Jose State’s athletic director.

He was truly a man for all seasons and deserved a more fitting tribute from your magazine.
Gary Cavalli, ’71
Danville, California

How touching to see your tribute to our father, Bob Murphy, in the current issue of Stanford. He certainly deserved the recognition from his alma mater. It’s hard to imagine that Stanford basketball fans will ever hear another play-by-play announcer with the extemporaneous recall of stats, players, coaches and games that Dad could effortlessly call up, or that Stanford football fans will ever see another color analyst occupy the Bob Murphy Booth in the Stanford Stadium press box for 43 years, as he did. The era of long-tenured affiliation with one university or sports team seems to be passing into sports broadcasting history.

As happy as we were to see your piece on Dad, our hearts sank a little when we saw the headline. Of all the things you could have put in 48-point type about him, “Homer” would not have been our first choice, nor his, even though he was unabashedly proud of his fierce loyalty to Stanford and never apologetic about it—on or off the air. The brevity of the article didn’t afford much space to expand on Dad’s many other athletic, social, cultural and financial contributions to Stanford, as well as his achievements off campus: in professional golf and baseball, with the Olympic soccer games he organized at Stanford, as AD at SJSU and in his role as a legendary Bay Area emcee, to name just a few of his professional extracurriculars. He wasn’t a one-dimensional man by any stretch, and we think your readers may have enjoyed, and he may have deserved, a more nuanced portrait of an alum whose mark carves deep and wide in the long and storied narrative of Stanford; a story so profound Stanford archivists recorded hours of oral history with Dad.

We were struck by the inclusion of his profile alongside articles about adult caregiving, Bryce Love, Big Game, Dianne Feinstein, Bikini Atoll and breast cancer. So many points of intersection with Dad: the long years of caregiving that Dad required as Alzheimer’s claimed his exceptional memory; his excitement and admiration for players like Love; his encyclopedic knowledge of Big Game history; his memories of Dianne, who attended Stanford at the same time as our mom, Linda Rudy, ’56, MA ’57; his passion for history, his major at Stanford—particularly WWII and places like Bikini Atoll; and the loss of his daughter, our sister Marisa, to breast cancer, as well as his son, our brother Jim, to brain cancer. An endowed scholarship—the Jim Murphy and Marisa Murphy Woods Scholarship—honors Dad in their memory, and has helped many deserving Cardinal student-athletes since its establishment. He would have found this edition of Stanford uniquely relatable.

And that’s who he was as a friend, father, broadcast personality and champion of Stanford—uniquely relatable. He occupied a somewhat rarefied space on air, and on campus, but he always invited his audience, his “pals,” into his amiable conversation and knew how to cede the conversation to another to amplify and enhance the experience for all of us. Play-by-play or color, he was always entertaining, informative and funny. Always funny.

Stanford and the Pac-12 lost a loquacious and lighthearted legend, whom we just happened to know as Dad, and we wanted to impart just a little more of that guy to your readers than your nice article devoted to him.
K.C. Murphy Thompson, ’79
Santa Ynez, California
Victoria Murphy Vixie, ’80
Woodside, California


A Plea for Print
In the December editor’s column, Kevin Cool announced that Stanford was reducing the frequency of its print publication.

It is sad to learn that in 2018 Stanford will go from six issues a year to five. 

Stanford is one of the best gifts that our son William, MS ’14, PhD ’16, shares with us. I work full time during the week. Weekend is my time to curl up in bed to enjoy the magazine—article by article, page by page, back and forth. We understand the strategic decision Stanford made to accommodate the (millennial) alumni but to us, the baby boomer parents, nothing beats the magazine on our coffee table, as the one on the smartphone will be just too tiny for our aging eyesight.

Nevertheless, we just want to say thank you for the excellent magazine. It is truly world class.
Thuthuy C. Nguyen
Walnut, California


Head Injuries, Then and Now
When Rugby Ruled” (December) recounted the years when rugby supplanted football at Stanford.

I learned something new about Stanford’s football and rugby history, and note certain parallels with the current state of football. With more research on CTE emerging almost daily, one has to wonder whether football on the Farm is nearing another inflection point.
Phil Mosakowski, ’89
Superior, Colorado


Battling BRCA
An article in the December issue discussed how doctors and patients could be making better use of genetic testing for breast cancer.

I was very happy to read the story “Personalizing Breast Cancer Treatment.” It is a topic that has seen much attention recently, and I think the more press, the better. It is much bigger than Angelina Jolie. After losing my father to stomach cancer caused by his BRCA2 mutation in 2013, I discovered I have the mutation as well. Armed with this knowledge and a team of amazing physicians, I had prophylactic surgeries to drastically reduce my risk of breast and ovarian cancer. As a physician myself, I knew I had to pay it forward. Through Bright Pink, a national organization, I help educate women’s health care providers on exactly what this article talks about. Teaching providers how to risk-stratify patients to aid in early detection and prevention of breast and ovarian cancers is key. My hope is that with the combination of an empowered patient and a knowledgeable health care provider, many more women will be able to make these decisions thoughtfully and carefully. Thank you, Stanford, for bringing this issue to light for so many readers. Knowledge is indeed powerful. 
Laura Schwab, ’94
Chicago, Illinois


The Next Generation
In December’s End Note, Vanessa Hua, ’97, MA ’97, wrote about the legacy of a Wii she bought for her dad, who had Parkinson’s disease.

Reading “Watching from the Stands” struck so many chords that even now, writing this email, I am tearing up. My father died two years ago after 13 years of Parkinson’s disease. To watch your parent slowly disintegrate, to have the roles reversed, may be the natural order of life these days, but it’s an order I, for one, was ill prepared for. I did my research, went to doctors’ appointments, found specialists and caretakers, but still didn’t know how to say goodbye when the time came. Instead of a Wii, trying to fight the decline, I had given him several years before a sketch pad and the best set of colored pencils I could find, hoping to re-engage his fine motor skills and see the sketches emerge that he had done when I was younger. I found all of that under the guest bed when we moved my mother there after hospice took over the master bedroom. My niece gave my mother a sketch of Dad for his funeral Mass, so the sketch pad and the pencils have found a new home and his memory lives on.
Charlotte Christman, ’77
Houston, Texas


Parity Parody
A letter in the December issue began, “Can the Left ever get past its obsession with color, particularly if that color is black?”

Can the (alt-)Right ever get past its false claim that skin color is irrelevant in today’s America, especially if that color is black? If color or race really didn’t matter (as some Americans like to claim), how do you
explain the fact that minorities are so under-represented in boardrooms, white-shoe law firms, top executive positions and the U.S. Congress (to name a very few categories)? The fact of the matter is, if you are fortunate enough to be white, your odds of attending and graduating from a good school (even if you horse around) are disproportionately high. For the most part (or, more likely, across the board), this holds true for all age groups. Even in this land of opportunity, the best opportunities are reserved for the relatively few, the vast majority of whom are white. Some people choose to ignore this obvious reality, and their denial creates problems for all of us. Blaming drugs for the discrepancy is beyond specious, and veiled threats of violence do nothing to contradict this basic fact, much less contribute to a solution. Let’s start giving all people a truly fair shake, instead of pretending that the playing field is level, which it most definitely is not.
David Rearwin, PhD ’73
La Jolla, California


About That Ad

The SPDRs ad promoting investment in big oil polluters like Exxon, Valero and Chevron on the back page of the December issue compromises the integrity and neutrality of Stanford as an academic institution. Stanford should not in any way support the fossil fuel industry, and if Stanford’s endowment funds hold investments in fossil fuel, they should be divested. 
Jacqueline Widmar Stewart, JD ’76
Blair Stewart, JD ’75 
Palo Alto, California

The December issue has Senator Feinstein—a person who has had an excellent career, but who needs to retire and make way for modernity—on the front, and an invitation to invest in Exxon, Occidental and Halliburton on the back. Are you sure you’re in 2017 and not 1987? 
Daniel Dobkin, MS ’79, PhD ’85
Sunnyvale, California

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


MORE ON FEINSTEIN

I learned so much about Dianne Feinstein that I didn’t know, especially how her experience at Stanford was life-changing for her.

Although I was 50 when I spent three summers at Stanford for an MA in Health Sciences, that degree was life-changing for me. I am so grateful that I was admitted so “late” in life.

Reading about “Dianne” made me aware of how important Stanford is in my life.
Good for you for a well-written and important article.
Audrey F. Lippman, MA ’68
Davis, California

Forty-eight and 46 years ago, I volunteered for Dianne Feinstein’s first campaigns for supervisor and mayor, respectively. 

Now, after her quarter of a century in the Senate, I’m wondering what her legacy will be. Senator Feinstein’s cited accomplishment, the ban on assault weapons, is no longer law. Romesh Ratnesar’s story cites her bipartisanship style, but that produced surprisingly few accomplishments considering her long tenure in office and commensurate seniority.

What is enduring, unfortunately, is her ongoing work to remove protections for wildlife under the Endangered Species Act. Senator Feinstein voted to amend the ESA so more river water will bypass the Delta despite the harm to fish. She voted to remove wolves from the ESA. She voted with Republicans to confirm Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior. Zinke wants to remove protections for national monuments and allow trophy hunters to import elephant parts. But Senator Feinstein is silent on Zinke.

Feinstein’s genteel style seems dated in today’s Washington, and her recent boast that she “did five events in a week” suggests that she’s become remote over the years.
Bill Collins
Pacifica, California


STILL LIFE

In “What Bikini Atoll Looks Like Today” (December), a Stanford marine biologist journeyed to Bikini Atoll to see why its coral reefs appear to be thriving.

The article about Stephen Palumbi was very informative. I participated in the 1962 Pacific test series on Christmas Island. I was amazed at the variety of marine life around the island and I have often wondered how the 30 atomic detonations changed the evolution of the various species. The human species that were on the island have not done well, as many of the participants have developed many health ailments, including cancer.
James Y. Eckland, ’60
Manteca, California

 


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