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Did Krauthammer listen to Obama's speech?

Did syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer ("Our New President Delivers an Odd, Undistinguished Speech," Jan. 24) listen to the same inaugural address that I did?

I heard a challenge to the American people, an attempt to reawaken our spirit. I found the speech inspiring and passionately delivered. It reminded me of another inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you ... ." Maybe this speech will not be quoted 50 years from now, but "flat rhetoric"? "Mediocrity"? Really?

I often disagree with Mr. Krauthammer's views, but I often read his columns because they are persuasive statements that raise legitimate arguments. It's healthy to consider well-stated opposing views. But this time I'm left wondering if the planet he listened to the inaugural address from had poor reception.

MICHAEL McGRATH SR.
Shaler


Bold action needed

This nation is in serious trouble but it seems some members of our Congress on the opposite side of the aisle don't seem to get it. We have elected a president based on his perceived ability to get us out of this mess but he is meeting the same old, self-serving partisan resistance to his plans that have plagued our government for years.

These times require a lot more. Ask the growing number of Americans who are out of work, out of their homes and out of hope. Where were the well-fed, sun-tanned bean counters when the past administration was blowing billions of dollars in Iraq?

Economic experts such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman are saying that time is of the essence and a big stimulus is needed. I question not only the motives but also the economic qualifications of these opponents to the new administration's efforts. This is a time for bold and unified action to get our house in order and help our citizens who are hurting before this mess spreads much farther.

Wake up, Congress! This is not business as usual.

DAVID M. TURNER
Mt. Lebanon


Michelle's style

I am very amazed over the comments about Michelle Obama's couture selections for the inauguration ("First Lady's Fashion Receives Mixed Reviews," Jan. 22). Seems the fashion experts just don't get it.

President Obama's campaign was all about change and Mrs. Obama certainly upheld his slogan by changing the way the first lady makes her fashion selections. She gave little-known designers an opportunity to increase their notability and their future in the fashion industry, as opposed to selecting one of the well-known, powerhouse designers who have enjoyed years of control, wealth and success.

For me, Mrs. Obama could have presented herself in an orange sackcloth designed by an unknown American designer because the message I got is "America is a land of opportunity; those who want to be successful can, and those who are looking for an opportunity through change will certainly be able to do so through this president's administration."

Well done, Mrs. Obama. We need more leaders like you who are well respected and are not afraid of changing the customary way of doing things -- and who are willing to help all Americans aspire to succeed in reaching their goals when doing what they do best.

DARLENE WILLIAMS
Penn Hills


Car quality

Rose McGuirk's letter ("Top This Quality," Jan. 14), touting her string of Buick LaSabres as a sign of solid American carmaking, made me wonder if I should respond to her challenge that foreign cars might not measure up.

Her current LaSabre with close to 100,000 miles in its first 10 years and going strong without major repairs is commendable, but that's just modest yearly driving. Still, it's a sign that Detroit has abandoned its "planned obsolence" strategy of the 1960s to 1980s that encouraged American car owners to trade in and buy more often before those big repairs set in.

So how do my last four cars since 1980 stack up? My first Honda Civic Wagon was traded in at nearly 180,000 without a major repair. Our 1990 replacement just decided to give up the ghost this new year with its first, but too major, repair for its almost 20 years. Our first Toyota Camry (1983) got traded in at 165,000 when finally showing some transmission wear, and our current 2000 Camry (made in the United States and bought used) is up to 145,000 miles without a major repair. Now most of these are economy or mid-size cars, not in the LaSabre class. Also, I am a tough driver, and I'm not handy and sometimes forget maintenance checks.

So, Ms. McGuirk, sorry to burst your bubble, but I promise you that there are legions of folks who will give you the same report on their "foreign" cars -- that's why they score so high on customer satisfaction and frequency of repair reports. But feel better: A lot of these "foreign" cars are being made in America, too.

TRACY SOSKA
Pleasant Hills


Learning success

I am an otherwise liberal Democrat; I believe firmly that No Child Left Behind must stay in place to ensure we have high expectations for all; and I know this makes me somewhat of a rarity in my political party and in the world of urban education.

With that said, I was deeply disappointed in the Jan. 15 editorial ("Real Success: 'No Child' Should Help Students, Not Bend the Rules"). Using a growth model is one of the greatest things we can do to inspire and motivate those incredible teachers who are willing and able to successfully reach some of our most vulnerable children. Additionally, it values the work of a child who may be significantly behind but manages to make more than the expected growth in a year.

Imagine the third-grader who reads at a kindergarden level. Should we not praise the teacher and child if that student is on a high second-grade reading level only one year later? However, without a growth model, they are still deemed a "failing child" and a "failing teacher." Should we then be surprised further when that teacher grows frustrated and wants to later work with children who are "easier" to reach and move in a one- year period or wants to leave teaching altogether?

Should we be rewarding a school that already has in it children that are all above grade level and only maintain the children at that level?

Criticizing the hard work and genuine success of children who have been "Left Behind" by factors outside of their control -- when they are on the clear pathway to real proficiency in a reasonable time frame -- is to impose a highly damaging philosophy and shows a very limited understanding of educational pedagogy.

CATE REED
East Liberty


Israel's rationale

How dare Post-Gazette Associate Editor Dan Simpson state that Israel's effort to stop Hamas rockets is primarily to stop "the insult they represent and how they reflect on the ability of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government"("Losing Ground," Jan. 14 column).

If Mr. Simpson's neighborhood in Pittsburgh had been on the receiving end of hundreds of rocket attacks, perhaps Mr. Simpson would think differently about Israel's rationale for this operation. Even if only a few garages and streets were damaged and there were only a few deaths, I would think Mr. Simpson would want to defend not only his neighborhood and family, but his ability to live his life. Over the last eight years, more than 10,000 rockets have been fired into Southern Israel.

To be a balanced "newsman," perhaps Mr. Simpson should not only travel through Egypt to speak with people, but also to Israel to visit with the civilian residents of Sederot, Ashkelon and Ashdod.

DANIEL SHAPIRA
Chair, United Jewish Federation
Oakland


Parents, please take action to maintain free lunches

This school year, the Pittsburgh Public Schools began offering free lunch to all students in select schools. But as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Parents must do their part. They have to send in their child's lunch application so the program can continue in their child's school.

Last month, two of my co-workers and I stood out in the cold in front of four schools (Pittsburgh Peabody, Pittsburgh Oliver, Pittsburgh Morrow and University Prep) to urge parents to return their child's lunch applications. Only one school out of the four got enough applications in to take it off the list for possibly losing the free lunch program. That school was Pittsburgh Morrow. The other three schools still need more applications to keep their free lunch for all students program going.

With the economic crisis worsening, we can all use a little help stretching our dollar. If you can save $270 a school year, wouldn't you do it? So why is it so hard for Oliver, Peabody and University Prep's parents to get their applications in?

There's still time, but time is short. Parents, please get your child's lunch applications to their school immediately. You only have to do one application per family.

SHAUNA PONTON
Child Nutrition Advocate
Just Harvest
South Side




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