In light of recent national
and international events, REED magazine invited alumni, faculty
members, and students to share their thoughts about the future.
Giving up on irony
By Carter Wood 82
On my first day as a speechwriter
for the Department of Health and Human Services, I took an oath of office.
The event lacked any ceremonial trappings, and I considered it just part
of the routine of orientation. Fill out paperwork, have an I.D. photo
made, get fingerprinted, and take an oath.
In thinking about the terrorist attacks that took the lives of some 3,000
of my fellow countrymen, I looked up the text of that oath again:
I, Carter Wood, do solemnly swear that
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against
all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance
to the same. . . .
You often hear that the orchestrated
evil of September 11 and the war that followed have led many people in
and out of government service to return to first principles. I know its
true in my caseand I find my first principles in the oath above.
Sure, I came to Washington to serve President Bush, a man whose principles,
politics, and person I admire. I hoped for professional advancement. I
had a hunger for Ethiopian food. I wanted to go see a rock n roll
show without having to drive 200 miles to Fargo.
All those desires remain, but now, above all, I see my reason for being
in Washington as supporting and defending the Constitution against all
enemies, foreign and domestic. Its my fundamental duty.
You think about first principles more once you have:
- Watched from your office as smoke billowed
from the Pentagon.
- Walked by the Battalion 9 firehouse on West
47th Street in Manhattan, looking at the photos of 15 men who died at
the World Trade Center.
- Worked with the dedicated members of the departments
disaster management teams, who manned the FEMA emergency head- quarters
at Pier 90 in New York.
- Talked to taxi drivers and hotel workers whose
livelihoods are threatened by the loss of business.
- Debated America haters to whom a terrorist
attack on our country ranks on the same moral plain as Radio Pacificas
problems, the imprisonment of cop killer Mumia, or some WTO summit.
- And considered, every single day since September
11, the people who were murdered just because they were Americans.
As a speechwriter, I have given up
irony. I relish finding a new bit of wisdom
from Winston Churchill, stirring words from President Bush, or a patriotic
quote that I would normally groan over.
Like this one, from James Cagneys portrayal of George M. Cohan:
It seems it always happens. Whenever we get too high-hat and too
sophisticated for flag-waving, some thug nation decides were a push-over
all ready to be blackjacked. And it isnt long before were
looking up, mighty anxiously, to be sure the flags still waving
Im not groaning one bit.
|Carter Wood 82, former speechwriter
for Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, is special assistant
to the chairman of the Federal Housing Board. A native of Hillsboro, Oregon,
he has been a newspaper reporter and policy adviser to the governor of
Focusing on damage control
By Carl Stevens 42
At this writing, the future configuration
of the war is far from clear. President Bushs State of the
Union address dramatically expanded the scope and focus of the war
with his comments about targeting of the axis of evil. It
will be some time before we learn what this will mean in operational terms.
Nevertheless, I believe it safe to expect that a much larger part of the
Bush domestic agenda will become law than would otherwise have been the
In my view, this will be a strongly negative outcome from the point of
view of the welfare of we the people. There are many important, substantive
differences between the Bush agenda and that of the Democrats on matters
such as tax policy, disposition of funds recruited for social security,
funding for social programs, and military spending.
It is important now to focus on damage control, but several features of
the contemporary political milieu complicate this task. There is a sentiment
in the land that a time of war calls for a bipartisan approach
to policy making. I am unsure just what the proponents of this view have
in mind with this term. It should not, however, as now frequently seems
to be the case, be interpreted to preclude serious debate of important
policy issues. Indeed, it must be made clear to our legislators that our
system of repre-sentative democracy owes us just such debate. A failure
to pursue such discussion, far from being a laudatory exercise of bipartisanship,
would be a breach of fiduciary duty owed the people by their representatives.
There are additional features of the contem-porary political milieu that
may impede vigorous attempts at damage control. The war provides a formidable
fig leaf to cover the untoward consequences of some Bush policies. Attempts
to achieve more progressive financing of government are met by the administration
with charges of class warfare. And there is the problem of
not wanting to be charged with a lack of patriotism.
These obstacles to serious debate of the issue have promoted an unseemly
timidity among Democratic legislators. However, these obstacles should
be brushed aside in favor of serious engagement with the issues, in favor
of plain talk about the issues, in favor of vigorous pursuit of those
outcomes we regard as right. This will take some courage. But without
it, we wont achieve the damage control we so sorely need at this
point in our history.
|Carl Stevens 42 is emeritus professor
of economics at Reed, where his research focused on labor economics and
public health. He has served on technical advisory groups for the U.S.
Agency for International Development, and he and his wife, Janice Stevens
44, have been co-directors of family welfare programs in India.
Creating a population
By Hugh Tilson 63
The events of the past year have
sounded a wake-up call for America. We must be better prepared on many
fronts, including public health. Preparedness in an era in which we now
have a very real demonstration of a major and imminent danger from weaponized
infectious agents will require us to review our personal responsibility
in the nations public health infrastructure. Every citizen plays
a critical role in public health. What we do and dont do for ourselves,
what we are willing to take the time to learn and practice, can make all
the difference in our nations epidemics of heart disease, obesity,
diabetes, cancer, accidental and intentional injury, and yes, even preventable
injury and illness from bioterrorism. Learning how to listen to science
and medicine, and differentiate the evidence from the quackery (and the
growing group of anti-science demagogues on the internet and talk shows)
is key to this. And having credible, reliable, accessible sources of good
and timely information and tools for self-protection, as well as all the
population level interventions we need, will require a substantial investment
of time and money into our nations languishing network of professional
public health agencies.
Today I am working with an exciting emerging set of initiatives to strengthen
that public health infrastructure. From developing testimony for Congress,
to working on educational and technical assistance, I find myself constantly
inspired by the energy and dedication of those working in public health.
But I also find myself discouraged by those who seem not to want to know.
And so, among the most rewarding of my current activities at the University
of North Carolina School of Public Health are leadership training efforts.
Maybe leaders are born, not made. But the skills of a leader need building,
shaping, and sharpening. And in the face of our urgent need to re-commit
our nation to public health and re-build and strengthen and support the
official agencies that assure it, leadership is needed as never before.
|Hugh Tilson 63 is doctor of epidemiology
and senior adviser to the dean of the school of public health at the University
of North Carolina. His career in preventive medicine spans more than 25
years and includes posts as state public health director for North Carolina
and public health officer for the city of Portland, Oregon.
Steady progress, mostly
By Joseph F. Bunnett 42
What effect have the terrorism of September 11,
2001 and war in Afghanistan had on national and international programs
to destroy chemical weapons?
Not much. Some nations (Britain, Canada, Poland) have already completed
destruction of relatively small stocks of chemical weapons in their possession,
several European countries continue destruction of munitions lingering
from World War I that occasionally show up, and the United States and
Germany are progressing methodically in weapons destruction programs of
a rather different sort. Russia is making little progress in destruction
of its huge stockpiles; it can't pay the cost. Routine inspections of
chemical production facilities by the Organization for the Prohibition
of Chemical Weapons are being carried out, as called for by the Chemical
Weapons Convention Treaty.
I doubt that the evil group responsible for the September 11 terrorism
will try to strike again via airplane hijacking, but I think they will
attempt another strike, and conceivably it might involve the release of
chemical warfare agents. I can visualize a scenario whereby they might
attempt a terrorist attack using chemical warfare agents, but I don't
want to publish it for fear of putting ideas in their heads.
I recommend that all Americans think about how the terrorist gang might
try to strike again and take precautions to thwart an attack.
|Joe Bunnett 42 is an emeritus professor
of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz.