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    Letters to the Editors

    Integration efforts must continue

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 6, 2002

    Re: Desegregation in reverse, by Jon East, Sept. 29.

    Jon East explained very well the trend toward resegregation of the schools and the legal cases that have promoted that resegregation. In a sense, the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower courts have declared segregation in the schools to be a problem that must be addressed by the local communities rather than by the courts.

    In negotiating the release by the court, we worked long and hard to try to minimize the amount of resegregation and provide some structure to promote integration in Pinellas County. We have negotiated a diversity preference that will allow students to make a choice that will promote integration and have their choice of school ahead of those who would choose in a manner that would promote segregation. We have also negotiated a diversity improvement process that requires each school to promote integration and, if it fails to have an integrated student population, describe and implement a plan to better integrate that student population. How well these work depends upon our community and its leaders (including the Times) in promoting continued integration of our schools.

    At the same time, we negotiated an effort at improving the quality of education which East also discussed in his column. The day after this column, the Times ran a news article showing that there had been great improvement in the median income and the educational achievement of African-Americans.

    However, despite those tremendous gains, it showed that African-Americans still lag significantly behind whites and others in income and educational achievement. It points out how important it is for us to continue our efforts and not rest simply because the courts are getting out of the business. In fact, it makes it more important for the entire community to become involved in promoting integration of the schools and equality in the classroom.

    It has been my observation that the greatest barrier in this whole process is the failure of so many people to truly feel that we are all in this together, and that success for all children is necessary for the betterment of our country and our community. Integration of our schools has produced tremendously greater tolerance and understanding of the richly diverse segments of our population. It has helped to lessen the economic and educational gaps that existed before. Continued integration and emphasis on efforts to improve the quality of education are essential to any future gains in educational and income balance. East is absolutely right that the nagging question is whether we are moving public education forward or backward. Only by continuing to make the effort can we continue to hope to move public education forward.
    -- Enrique Escarraz, III, attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, St. Petersburg

    Fight for our veterans

    Re: VA's medical system flooded, Sept. 29.

    It is indeed strange that with all our renewed patriotism since 9/11, we the people and our elected representatives place little or no emphasis on the value of the attention to American military veterans.

    I am rated as 100 percent disabled by the VA, and I am more than satisfied by the care and attention I receive. My attention is directed to the fact that benefits that are earned, sometimes by blood and pain, are ignored by our representatives in the capital and not even considered by the average citizen. Ask any one of the 58,000 servicemen that died in Vietnam if he or she enjoys the results of their sacrifice. Ask the ones that returned to America to be spit on for their service. Ask the ones who stepped on land mines and had to wait for a year for help with medical care because we don't have funds for the VA because we must send money to other countries for wasted foreign aid. Ask any of us who has paid for our own disabilities out of our military retirement while other government retirees have better pay and all benefits automatically.

    A government-employed garbage man who mashed his finger has better benefits than a soldier who has his legs blown off while serving the United States in a real battle. We are bogged down with political issues for schools and welfare, but neither the politician nor the average citizen gives any thought to the people that have made our country the free country we are all so proud of.

    We have so many protests today -- so why don't the masses protest for the rewards due to the men and women who made all this possible?

    Maybe we should send the politicians to war next time.
    -- W. Larry Herring, U.S. Coast Guard (retired), Spring Hill

    A serious description

    Re: It's time for the president to apologize, by Bill Maxwell, Sept. 29.

    As a World War II veteran of Guadalcanal and other islands, I was delighted to read Bill Maxwell's well thought-out Sunday spanking of the would-be John Wayne in the White House. By contrast, Charles Krauthammer's Sept. 30 column, Gore's remarks profoundly unserious, was a sorry rehash of the theme, "Us Bushies are scared of Al."

    They should be. Gore, also a veteran (as Dubya is not), has stepped forward when other timid Democrats would not, to state clearly the dangers of Bush's "Wag the Dog" policy on Iraq. Krauthammer tries to plunk all of the weaknesses of the Clinton administration on Gore's shoulders. But during the Clinton administrations, unlike the current one, the vice president wasn't the real power behind the facade.

    I hope other readers will take seriously Maxwell's description of Bush as "a man of reckless words and blatantly crass politics."
    -- Charles L. Fontenay, St. Petersburg

    Let history guide us

    Re: It's time for the president to apologize, by Bill Maxwell.

    As usual, Mr. Maxwell's column offers one side of the issue and does not examine it from a historical point of view. This is about positioning and politics. The issue? The security of American interests and people. Some Democrats want to avoid making a stand on this issue of the Iraq invasion prior to the November elections. It is a few members of the Democratic Party who should apologize to the American people, not the president, for their "stonewalling" of this important issue.

    Members of the House and Senate have asked some tough questions these past several weeks. Tough questions should always be asked any time there is consideration of sending young men and women into harm's way.

    The issue with Iraq is not if we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction; we are not operating in the U.S. judicial system. This is about Hussein's history of mass murder of his own people and his refusal to cooperate and abide by the cease-fire conditions the United Nations drafted and Iraq agreed to. More important, it is Iraq's defiance of the U.N. agreement and its future "intent" to use weapons of mass destruction. The evidence I have read clearly indicates that Iraq has an ongoing weapons program. Given the opportunity, Iraq could and would deliver these weapons to its neighbors.

    Let history be our guide. If the United States had been a little more pre-emptive along with our European allies in World War II, Adolf Hitler may have never been in a position to make the attempt at world domination.

    Republicans and Democrats need to be completely united with the president on this issue. Let's not play politics when it comes to our security.
    -- Donald White, Belleair

    False sense of security

    Re: It's time for the president to apologize.

    Has Bill Maxwell forgotten just what precipitated the conflict in which Sen. Daniel Inouye lost his right arm and the former President George Bush, a naval fighter pilot, was shot down in the Pacific? It was the dastardly deed perpetrated by the Japanese, who attacked the naval station at Pearl Harbor without warning and without first declaring war on the United States.

    This Iraqi regime and the other members of the Axis of Evil know that we will not tolerate being threatened by another sneaky attack, like Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center, on our country.

    It is my opinion that Sens. Tom Daschle and John Kerry and those congressmen who visited Iraq should apologize to President Bush and then make a public statement backing our resolve, not be led into a false sense of security by a dictator who professes he is not making or has no stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

    Saddam Hussein has lied before, is lying now, and will do so in the future.
    -- Gene Krygowski, Brooksville

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