SATURDAY MAILBOX

The Baltimore Sun

New day dawning for the NAACP

I was disappointed to read NAACP board member Amos C. Brown's comments criticizing the board's decision to elect Benjamin Todd Jealous as the organization's 17th president ("NAACP head hopes to mobilize voters," May 18).

The statement by Mr. Brown that the NAACP is moving into an era of "anti-preacher sentiment" is the type of irrelevancy that has caused the decline in the organization's membership and its failure to sustain the political power needed to change African-American communities significantly.

Mr. Brown and other dissenting board members and supporters of the old regime of the NAACP must realize the need for the organization to be relevant in these vulnerable times of high gas prices, rising utility costs, foreclosures, immigration challenges, war and other crises.

The organization needs a new agenda that will capture the attention of the 20-to-50 age group of African-Americans by addressing the societal pressures that are affecting our communities directly - e.g., the rising tide of discrimination, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, drug addiction and HIV/AIDS.

Now is the time for the elders of the movement and organization to get behind and support Mr. Jealous with the wisdom and counsel and, yes, even prayer that will be needed to advance the new agenda that Mr. Jealous and the NAACP have set forth to revitalize the organization.

The preacher and his or her pulpit is still a mighty instrument to use to speak to or challenge public policy of any sort that is morally wrong, that disenfranchises a segment of our citizenry and that goes against Christ's teaching to "love thy neighbor as thyself."

But a preacher does not need to be at the helm of the NAACP to do his or her work for God.

Passion, commitment and vision to better the lot of our people have always been what are needed to lead the NAACP, and age has never been a requirement to determine if a person possesses these qualities.

Let us all support Mr. Jealous and the NAACP in moving forward to a new day.

Verinda M. Birdsong, Baltimore

Harris' record a threat to bay

I'm from Rep. Chris Van Hollen's district in Montgomery County, and I was proud to read that my congressman was at the center of the recent battle to secure hundreds of millions of dollars for Chesapeake Bay restoration in the recently passed federal farm bill ("Congress doubles funds for bay," May 16).

Mr. Van Hollen's district isn't on the bay, yet he went to bat for the conservation of our great estuary and its vital resources that mean so much to Marylanders.

I'm also a volunteer at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is in the 1st Congressional District. And I couldn't help but wonder if Republican state Sen. Andy Harris would have voted for this bill.

Mr. Harris is the Republican congressional candidate in District 1, which includes much of the bay.

Mr. Harris' friends at the Club for Growth would have hated this type of federal spending. So would Mr. Harris have voted against the farm bill to make them happy?

I think all the farmers and conservationists in District 1 should think long and hard about what they would get if Mr. Harris is elected to Congress.

His environmental record is certainly nothing to brag about - in fact, it's one of the worst in Annapolis.

And with the Club for Growth pressuring him to cut spending, Mr. Harris could end up being the one Maryland politician who acts like he hates the bay.

Lisa Mayo, Germantown

Act to rehabilitate juvenile offenders

With due respect to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore, I must question some of the comments in their letter "Working to keep all teachers safe" (May 17).

I believe the citizens of the community are entitled to know exactly what steps will be taken against the students who are involved in incidents of inappropriate behavior in the schools run by the DJS.

These student offenders should be placed in a rehabilitation facility staffed by highly qualified educators and security agents.

There, these students could be educated in self-discipline and respect and be able to pursue a high school diploma and perhaps further education for the more able students.

Society has an obligation and responsibility to salvage the lives of these troubled youths.

Quinton D. Thompson, Towson

Talks can block war and terror

What is "appeasement"?

Dictionary.com says it is "to yield or concede to the belligerent demands of (a nation, group, person, etc.) in a conciliatory effort, sometimes at the expense of justice or other principles."

To those who claim that what Sen. Barack Obama would do as president or the overtures former President Jimmy Carter has made to Hamas are appeasement, I say the facts do not support that allegation ("Bush was right on appeasement," letters, May 21).

Talking with your adversary is not appeasement.

We talked with the Soviet Union, and President Richard Nixon went to China. But these actions weren't appeasement, just as having discussions with various governments around the world today would not be appeasement.

Those who throw around the word appeasement in referring to talks don't understand the term and seem to just want war.

We have seen what war gets us - just more war.

It's time to take a different approach - one that involves not appeasing our enemies but holding discussions and building relationships that prevent terrorism or war.

Jack Stout, Baltimore

Everyone deserves the right to marry

I think Americans should be reminded at this time that not long ago, interracial couples suffered the same bias that gay couples do today ("Calif. court OKs gay marriage," May 16).

Then, in 1967, a case concerning interracial marriage, Loving vs. Virginia, reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Lovings had been convicted of interracial marriage and sentenced to a year in state prison.

Overturning their conviction, the Supreme Court ruled, "Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man. ... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis ... so directly subversive to the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the state's citizens of liberty without due process of law.

"Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, resides with the individual and cannot be infringed upon by the state."

In 2007, Mildred Loving, a plaintiff in the case, stated, "Surrounded as I am with wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by I don't think of Richard and my love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have the freedom to marry that person who is most precious to me, even if others thought it to be the 'wrong kind of person' for me to marry.

"I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry."

George Lucien Gregoire, Baltimore

Sister Mulkerrin aided the victims

If ever a U.S. religious woman of the 21st century deserves to be honored in a very visible and public way by the Catholic Church on her passing, it is Sister Catherine Mulkerrin ("Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, 73; handled abuse allegations," May 21).

In her short tenure as assistant director of the Boston Archdiocesan Office for Victims of Abuse from 1992 to 1994, she was in the forefront of protecting children and doing the right thing for adult survivors of sexual abuse by clerics in the Archdiocese of Boston.

She gave strength and resolve to those of us who came after her.

May she rest in the peace of God's love, which she so richly deserves.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, New Castle, Del.

The writer is an advocate for abuse victims.

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