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From the Editor

There’s a 1969 New Yorker cartoon by James Stevenson ’51 hanging on a wall in our offices. It depicts a late-middle-aged couple in an imposing living room. The man, in suit and tie, is standing very straight, with an expression on his face that conveys the grave satisfaction of a duty honorably discharged. His wife is holding a piece of paper and saying, deadpan: ”I think it’s unquestionably the finest letter you’ve ever written to the Yale Alumni Magazine.“

We want to encourage you to write, in every way we can.

Stevenson knows his Yalies. I believe I’ve written that letter—maybe several of those letters—in a state of agitation over the errors of modern society, and sent it off in a flush of rectitude (to any number of publications). Yale graduates, as Warren Goldstein '73, '83PhD, explicates in our cover story, are prone to moral zeal. But anyone who reads this magazine can testify that although our letter writers may be zealous—in causes great and small—they have a terrific way with words. Below are a few examples.

Robert Philo Shelton '19, 27 October 1939: “Classmate John Franklin Carter might yank himself . into the light and truth: (1) By forsaking his New Deal and other astrological proclivities … (2) By attending 1919 Reunions. (3) By observing Republican trends and by voting Republican.”

Gifford Pinchot '89, 7 November 1941: “Too many of us are betting our national safety against their guess that Hitler can’t win. Too many of us are gambling that, if he does win, it will make no difference. Too many openly deny what in their consciences they know, that in these days of savage conquest every Nation is in peril, including our own.”

Nancy C. Kirkham, January 1969: “There is nothing like a grandstand quarterback—but here goes: I am a wife, a daughter, and a sister of Yale men and I loved your team this year. But, why did you all lose your heads there in those 42 seconds at Soldier’s Field? Why, oh why, didn’t you put your best men in there when you could smell the Harvard drive and momentum?”

Robert Cruise McManus '26, November 1990: “I am sorrowfully convinced that my beloved alma mater, 75 years older than the Republic itself, and once bone-deep in Yankee dignity and integrity, has been replaced by a slimy, strident, shallow successor.”

Being blessed with readers who are such cogent writers, we want to encourage you to write, in every way we can. So, for those who have asked how we choose letters for print, here are our priorities:

First, we only print responses to items that have appeared in the magazine. Unfortunately, we don’t have world enough or time (or pages) to provide a forum for general discussion of Yale. Second, brevity helps. We’ve published some outstanding long disquisitions over the years and are sure to do so occasionally in future. But a letter that fits into a tight spot has a better chance of claiming that spot. (Probably our shortest-ever letter was written by Randy Alfred '67 after coeducation was approved: “Gentlemen: HALLELUJAH!”)

Third, we look for variety. If a subject is controversial and elicits numerous letters, we’ll publish many of them to show the temperature of the debate. But we can’t publish many that make essentially the same points. Finally, bear in mind that letters will be edited—mostly for space, sometimes for clarity.

We’re grateful to everyone who’s written and everyone who might write one day. Keep in touch.  the end


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