I was inspired recently by a speech delivered during the commencement exercises of my university's colleges of Musical Arts and Education and Human Development. The speaker, Henry Fogel, president and CEO of the American Symphony Orchestra League, spoke with candor and passion on the state of, and vital need for, the arts in our society.
The increasing disregard for the arts in America "is a sure sign of a decaying society," Mr. Fogel noted. Today's culture, he said, is moving away from an appreciation of "the worth of intellectual achievement and of human expression," focused instead on new paradigms that put speed, profit, and numerical results ahead of the intangibles of civilization.
This must change, Mr. Fogel explained, for art helps us learn about and connect with societies the world over in a way that isn't, as he says, "quantifiable." The arts, he stated, "mirror the human soul - and define it."
Mr. Fogel is right about the arts' centrality to, in his words, civilized society. He is also right that it is the purpose of art to endure and to teach. For all ages, art speaks to us from within as well as without, anchoring our culture.
Youth of all cultures, Mr. Fogel noted, need exposure to their native arts to grasp, and succeed in, their own time and place, to be grounded in the essence of their geography and way of life.
These enduring qualities of culture must receive increasing focus. This is the ultimate aim and outcome of a good liberal arts education. The arts are nothing if not the beating heart of knowledge. It is our business, as educators and institutions of higher learning, to tend this heart, and ensure it is beating for perpetuity. In our global world, we must not neglect it.
Sidney A. Ribeau
Bowling Green State University
Calming the storm around Gonzales
Regarding the storm surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, I offer President Bush these suggestions:
1. Accept Mr. Gonzales' resignation.
2. Appoint Sen. George Voinovich as his successor. No question about his integrity, his competence, or his Senate approval.
3. Make a deal with Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland regarding Mr. Voinovich's replacement.
John A. Galbraith
Old Westgate had character, charm
Westgate neighbors, I am so very sorry. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. There, I've said it. No one else in this city is saying it, so I have taken it upon myself to do so.
They had such high expectations. They had been led to believe that the new Westgate would be an improvement. What did they get? Three more boxes in a city already full of them.
The old Westgate at least had some charm and character, even if it was outdated. And it had a promenade to walk under in bad weather! The new Westgate could have been so much more! If only the owner or architects had visited such places as Frankenmuth, Dayton, Tarpon Springs or Ft. Myers, Fla., or Palm Springs, Calif.
There they would have seen what a modern shopping "village" should look like. Quaint storefronts, all different. Facades that look like little stores on a European street. A blend of brick, stone, stucco and fake windows. Differing roof lines with fake chimneys and dormers. Even the larger stores have three or four "store fronts" making up their facade.
But at Westgate, I'm afraid that no amount of flowers or trees is going to disguise those three boxes. Apparently chain stores today only have one architectural design and heaven forbid they should ever deviate and add some visual excitement to their surroundings.
So again, I am sorry. Not only for Westgate's neighbors but for all of us in Toledo. We are now stuck with this "new" Westgate for the next 30 years until maybe someone with a little more vision comes along.
Thomas K. Blochowski
Payday lenders target the most vulnerable
Generally, predatory lending is deceptively convincing the most vulnerable of society into agreeing to borrow money at unfair and abusive lending terms. This amply describes payday lenders. Many studies support this conclusion, but I will cite reports by the U.S. military to Congress and by the Center For Responsible Lending.
Payday lending is a $28 billion a year industry, $5.6 billion of which comes from excessive and predatory lending fees. More than 90 percent of the revenue comes from borrowers who can't pay off the loan on time, renewing it from three to 13 times. Each time renewed, fees increase, so that annual interest rates range from 350 to 1,000 percent.
The military study tracked an enlisted man who had four loans at one time for a total of $1,600. By the time he was able to pay the lump sums after six months, he had repaid $4,480. The CRL study found that a typical loan for $325 costs $793 by the time the borrower can pay back the lump sum.
These lenders conduct no credit check, but only require a checking account and employment. In return for a two-week post-dated check for $375, the borrower receives $300. If the check bounces, there can be criminal charges used as leverage to recover the money, not to mention charges by the lender and the bank. This lures borrowers into obtaining more loans from several payday lenders to keep the money floating. Many payday lenders are in poor neighborhoods and near military bases.
A staggering 26 percent of military households have payday loans. The military ranks payday loans in the top 10 percent of military household problems. If the above examples happen, it puts security clearances at risk as well as the possibility of court martial.
Elliot H. Feit
Endangering lives is endangering lives
A person who enters more than one room full of people who cannot leave, and then causes them grave danger raises a question that will only be answered some months in the future: Who's worse: mass murderer Hui Cho or a sick lawyer?
Sympathy for lives needlessly lost
Like a June 2 letter writer, I sympathize with people who have lost friends and relatives in tragic circumstances, and as long as our brave military men and women are being killed in King George's war in Iraq, I have chosen to fly my flag at half staff.
A break for those who wish to serve
I read with great interest your recent articles about companies going out of their way to make life easier for our troops called upon to serve. I just wish my company was so understanding. I am the vice president of U.S. Steel Workers Local 9 at a major manufacturing plant in Rossford. Although the circumstances are not exactly alike, they still concern service to our country.
A young gentleman asked if I would check to see if he could get two days excused absence to take his physical and test to join the military. Keep in mind he was not asking to get paid, just excused. I was informed that he would not be excused because it was like applying for another job.
So as you can see some companies take the "human" out of human resources. It's certainly a shame that a young man willing to defend his country can't get this courtesy from someone who will be doing nothing but sitting behind a desk.
East Lake Street
With so many players and managers being tossed out of baseball games recently for temper tantrums, I am reminded of an incident years ago when Bill Klem, a much revered umpire, tossed a player for throwing his bat into the air after being called out on strikes.
"If that bat hits the ground," Bill said, "you're outta the game."
John J. Burkhart