On Thursday, a great Minnesotan will be laid to rest in the State Veterans Cemetery at Camp Ripley. In ways and for service that could never be fully recounted in his epitaph, John W. “Jack” Vessey was perhaps the greatest Minnesotan from the Greatest Generation. And he would have been the first to disclaim that distinction. A citizen soldier of the highest rank, far above the four stars he earned as a military officer. Brilliant, decisive, well-read, insightful, humble, generous, gracious. He spent much of his adult life away from Minnesota, but returned here in retirement to enjoy the North Woods, the lakes and the people as one of us.
Following his military career, he served ably on corporate boards, often chairing the audit committees, a duty that normally would not be associated with someone who had mastered artillery and combat readiness as a profession. He and his wife enjoyed the Minnesota Orchestra and often purchased four tickets to their annual music series in order to host students from his alma mater, Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis.
In retirement, he was a frequent guest speaker in front of civic or business groups. Once, when encouraged to speak on any underserved topic that he thought was critical to national security, Jack stunned the audience into rapt attention with a thorough discussion of the importance of mobility fuels, including biofuels, to future military strategies and effectiveness. On another occasion, when asked for a reading list that might enlighten people on the foreign policy and national-security issues surrounding the turmoil in the Middle East, he quickly rattled off three useful books and observed, “Oh that anyone in the White House had read just one of those.”
Candid, informed advice from any citizen — let alone a four-star general — is a treasure. We thank all Minnesotans who served our nation, but we especially thank Jack Vessey as he goes to his last post.
Gregg Peterson, Wayzata
Kaepernick aside, consider these routine flag transgressions
The Aug. 30 editorial and lead letter spoke of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s disrespect for our flag when he did not stand for the national anthem. Yes, this may show disrespect. However, before we criticize others for disrespecting our flag, we should read our flag code. If we did so, we would see that the NFL and many college sports teams decorate their uniforms or helmets with our flag. A violation of the flag code. Often our flag flies from a car window, off the back of a motor cycle and, yes, from the back of a fire truck. The flag code says the flag should be flown from the right front fender of a moving vehicle. Take a look at a presidential motorcade to see it done correctly.
I suggest that if we are to criticize one’s respect or lack thereof for our flag, we look at the disrespect all around us. A first step may be to remove our flag as a decoration on athletic uniforms. To me, this disrespect is a “kick in the gut,” to quote the editorial, every time I see it.
Varick Olson, Roseville
RACE AND AWARENESS
Don’t ‘know much’ about black people? At least start here
Osamudia James (“How black people really live in America,” Aug. 30) says it is likely that Donald Trump “doesn’t know much about black people.” Unfortunately, as James notes, that is true of many (if not most) white people — which leads to misconception and bias, especially when mainline news media focus mostly on dysfunction that reinforces negative stereotypes. How can those of us who live in white communities, associate with white organizations and have primarily white friends ever get to “know … about black people”? The best way is to get know people person to person. But if you are unable to do that, you can at least begin to get a wider and more balanced knowledge about black people’s lives from online sources. Here are a few:
• Good Black News — goodblacknews.org, facebook.com/goodblacknews
• Black America Web — blackamericaweb.com/tag/good-news
• News One — newsone.com
• Black Positive News — blackpositivenews.com
• BlackNews.com — blacknews.com
Tom Ehlinger, Bloomington
Another shot for incivility in the presidential campaign
I wonder why the fact that Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin is leaving her husband due to a repeat of his sleazy, sick behavior should be a reflection on Clinton’s campaign or character (“Breakup is cloud on Clinton campaign,” Aug. 30)? Would it be better if Abedin had stayed with him? Trump has cast shadows on Hillary for staying with Bill Clinton after bad behavior. Of course, he would probably blame her if a second cousin once removed misbehaved, even if it were an untrue allegation, like most of what Trump spouts.
Meanwhile, I read in an Aug. 30 letter to the editor that the Republican booth at the State Fair is displaying a figure of Hillary Clinton in a black-and-white prison jumpsuit. This is a few steps below tacky. Trump, the ultimate huckster, has burned the brand “Crooked Hillary” into the minds of the gullible.
I may go to the fair this year just to get a Hillary button at the DFL booth, and maybe stop by the GOP booth to tell them what I think of the display. I hope I don’t get beat up.
Jane Thomson, St. Paul
Letter twisted the facts offered by charity watchdogs
An Aug. 29 letter concerning the Clinton Foundation claimed that most of the foundation’s 2013 expenditures were for travel and salary of employees, and only $9 million of $140 million received was spent on direct aid.
According to factcheck.org, the foundation does not give most of its money in grants to other organizations to administer (the $9 million was a grant), but does most of its charitable work itself, passing contributions directly to recipients. Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch, states that only looking at the amount organizations dole out in grants shows a misunderstanding of how charitable organizations work. According to CharityWatch’s analysis, the foundation spends 89 percent of its budget on charitable programs, higher than the 75 percent industry standard.
The letter writer also mischaracterizes the reason Charity Navigator put the foundation on its watch list, claiming (falsely, as noted above) that it was because the foundation spends most of its money on employee travel and salary and only a small amount on charitable work.
Charity Navigator’s website refutes the writer’s claim: “[T]his charity’s atypical business model cannot be accurately captured in our current rating methodology. Our removal of the Clinton Foundation from our site is neither a condemnation nor an endorsement of this charity. We reserve the right to reinstate a rating for the Clinton Foundation as soon as we identify a methodology that appropriately captures its business model.”
Kathy Sevig, Eden Prairie