The 19-year-old student who led a protest over cuts in language majors at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. (“Liberal arts tiff ensues over cuts,” Feb. 8) may need a history lesson. We were quite influential in the affairs of the world long before we recognized the “need” to speak other languages to do so, not to mention that while the “entire world” may not speak English today, it soon may.

While traveling to 86 countries and working and living in nine, I have found it quite easy to get around using English with a smidgen of Russian, German, French, Spanish and Swahili thrown in. The Peace Corps made me learn Polish, but I found that nobody in Poland sought out an English-speaking friend with whom they could speak Polish.

The bigger point is that the arcane knowledge and related costs of providing a language major is more than just speaking it (we can get a Google app for that); it is simply unaffordable to have centers of excellence for specialties in everything, everywhere. I wish Concordia could be that center of excellence for language, but it’s easy to understand the difficult economics of hiring a Chinese staff so that one or two students can have it as a major.

Steve Dahl, Hopkins

THE 2016 CAMPAIGN

Some thoughts about anger and the electoral decisions we face

As one with a heart and mind leaning left, it is always an “open-minded” treat to read a conservative David Brooks column (“There are some qualities we’ll miss about President Obama,” Feb. 10). He gives a thoughtful report card of sorts of our current president for readers to agree and disagree with, up and down the lines.

He adds a gift for all of us, regardless of our right, center or left leanings: “People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair.” Brooks has thus given us a useful yardstick to measure the degree of wisdom contained within our decisions. Let’s all be careful before we buy the product being offered to us based on the seller or the seller’s perception of our feelings of “fear, cynicism, hatred and despair.” Let’s strive to make wise decisions (votes). It’s not easy to take the time to be self-critical in sorting through our hopes, fears and hatreds. I admit to being fearful of those who spew and therefore justify hatred and fear. I believe that means I won’t support a candidate who endorses hatred, and I will be careful of a candidate who panders to my fears.

Linda Ferrell, Crystal

• • •

November 2015: Voters frustrated.

January 2016: Voters angry!

February 2016: Voters ANGRY!!

May 2016: Voters surly.

July 2016: Voters truly upset, and angry.

September 2016: Voters unhappy, frustrated.

October 2016: Voters deeply angry and dissatisfied.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016: 90-percent-plus re-election rate for Congress.

Hmmmmmmmph!!!

Jason Wirtz, St. Paul

 

BERNIE SANDERS

Will he do well in Minnesota? Let me just say this …

Only in America can a 74-year-old guy like Sen. Bernie Sanders take on the Clinton machine and end up posting an impressive win, as he did in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary last week. Not bad for a self-described democratic socialist, living in a strong capitalistic society.

His sales pitch has seemed to resonate well thus far: The other guy is more successful and has more money than you, and that’s not right; the other guy has better health care coverage than you, and that’s not right; the other party has always cheated and rigged the elections with its money, and that’s not right; Wall Street is just flat-out crooked, and that’s not right, and we are ignoring the tremendous threat posed by climate change, and that’s not right …

Also part of his pitch to the younger crowd: Vote for me and go to college for free; it is just not right that you have to pay for college.

At least Sanders’ views and beliefs have been sincere and consistent throughout his 33 years as a government employee, unlike Hillary Clinton’s constantly evolving and ever-changing viewpoints.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Sanders’ sales pitch will play well here in Hennepin County come March 1.

Neil F. Anderson, Richfield

• • •

As I listen to Sanders shouting from the stump that we’re all helpless victims of the greed of Wall Street billionaires, I can’t help wondering: Why would an “establishment politician” who served in Congress for 25 years — mind you, on a salary three to four times the national average, with lifetime guaranteed federal health care and a substantial federal retirement plan, also guaranteed — suddenly wake from his Washington slumber and switch party affiliation, presumably to share his 74 years of withheld wealth of ideas, in order to provide leadership for a promised revolution against inequality? Should I recheck my arithmetic? Or did I just get a cinder in my eye from this supposedly seasoned Vermont firewood?

Judith Monson, St. Paul

• • •

I’ve been grateful to volunteer for Hillary for America by making phone calls to voters in Minnesota this election season. Through this opportunity, I have spoken with many supporters of Hillary Clinton.

One recurring conversation I encounter is this: “I support Hillary, but I don’t plan to caucus. If she makes it to the general election, I’ll vote for her in November.” The problem with that? If you don’t caucus, you won’t be supporting her in November.

Caucusing in Minnesota is easy. Voters arrive at the precinct by 6:30 that night. The straw poll takes place at 7, and if voters don’t want to stay for anything after that, they are welcome to leave. The straw poll is the part that matters. I believe less than an hour of our time is a small price to pay for an investment in our collective future.

I recently heard a friend say if young people didn’t turn out to vote, our future would be determined by our older generations. I have a different take on that: Those who have gone before our youngest voters have lived a lot of life and have valuable insights to which we should be listening.

Please, if you support Hillary Clinton, plan to caucus on Tuesday, March 1. As we saw in Iowa, every voice does make a difference. Yes, politics is a part of our culture that can be annoying and frustrating, but complacency and indifference will result in failure every time. It is more progressive to protect our progress than to gamble with it.

Justin DePaolis-Metz, Moorhead, Minn.

 

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

The thing is, we’re really not getting what we’re paying for

Regarding the exorbitant prices U.S. citizens pay for their prescription drugs, prices roughly one-third higher than found in other industrial countries, a Feb. 8 letter writer described how the drug company his father used to lead found it necessary to pay extremely high salaries to its research chemists in order to develop the complex drugs they needed to prosper. This well may have been the case, but it brought to mind a discussion I listened to on public radio several years ago featuring a top pharmaceutical company executive and a former head of the New England Journal of Medicine. When the company executive suggested that high costs related to research and development, necessary to ensure the efficacy of our prescription drugs, were the primary reason for this country’s high drug prices, the woman from the Journal properly pointed out that the vast majority of R&D in the U.S.is done by government agencies and thus paid for by the American taxpayer. Drug companies then use this research to develop the drugs they later overcharge us for by way of higher pricing.

It brings to mind a very telling quote from former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty regarding the many seniors then traveling to Canada to purchase their drugs at far lower prices. When U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman pointed to higher drug costs being necessary in order to ensure the efficacy of our prescription drug supply, Pawlenty’s rather pithy comment was: “Show me the dead Canadians.” Meaning, if much-lower-priced drugs work well for 36 million Canadians, they should be quite adequate for us as well. Though I was not a Pawlenty supporter (even as a relatively moderate Republican before he went to the dark side of the party), it remains one of my favorite quotes ever by an elected official.

James Eilers, Burnsville