>Veterans should wear their medals with pride
America's veterans are the face of America, coming from all walks of life, all ages and all backgrounds. They served our nation valiantly and we honor that service. But how do we honor the veteran -- the individual who put on the uniform and gave his or her all for our country? I am asking all veterans to wear their medals today as part of what we at the VA call the Veterans Pride Initiative. I'm proposing we take an extra step in honoring each individual veteran and the role he or she played in preserving our freedom.
We began this initiative last Veterans Day. It focuses public pride and gratitude on our veterans as individuals with often untold histories of patriotism and honor. Each American veteran has his or her own story of service. That is why I am calling on America's veterans to wear their military medals each July 4th. Wearing their medals demonstrates the deep pride our veterans have in their military service and reminds all American citizens of who they are and the sacrifices our veterans have made.
It is our hope that families and communities will engage in greater dialogue with a veteran in their midst and learn their unique story of service.
R. James Nicholson
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
>Crack down on people using illegal fireworks
Talk to any police officer about traffic tickets and someone trying to explain the "legality" of the "rolling stop." Likewise try to explain to others of the same ilk that fireworks are illegal and offensive. I have nerve deafness and tinnitus, commonly called ringing in the ears. Fireworks to me are explosions that exacerbate and magnify the ringing for days. As for your pets, observe the stress they are put under when the noise starts.
On the front page of the July 2 News we have someone "proudly" defending a tradition of lawlessness and ignorance. Ignorance of the harm they cause celebrating their country's birth while not keeping the rule of law that other citizens like myself have a right to be protected by. The fire hazard is real and is alsoignored. Are we, the law-abiding citizens, going to have to realize a tragedy before these outlaws are shut down? Say a prayer for law enforcement today, when the freedom to respond to legitimate emergencies is thwarted by someone who feels his "tradition" trumps enforcement.
Leonard W. Jaworski
>Merit pay for teachers ignores harsh realities
In his June 24 opinion piece, Murray Light supports merit pay for teachers. Setting aside concerns about administration politics and favoritism, there are undoubtedly some fair criteria for judging teachers' individual skills, such as initiative and creativity. However, comparing the success of the merit-reward system of Light's former newsroom disregards some obvious challenges faced by teachers over which they have no control.
Upon reporting to work in the morning, Light's employees could realistically expect to find computers equipped with updated software and hardware, chairs that don't collapse and a photocopier that copies. Anything outside of an employee's control would not be considered in his performance evaluation.
Compare that with a room full of students, some of whom have never seen a printed word at home, or who have eaten nothing for breakfast, or who have been exposed to constant television messages of violence, incivility, consumption and sex since leaving school the day before.
There are parents of troubled children who don't return telephone calls and are never seen at school. Other children come to school healthy, loved and prepared to learn. Yet the superhuman teacher is expected to inspire them all equally in valuing scholastic achievement, exhibiting civil behavior and performing outstanding work on standardized tests. How unfair it is to ignore the myriad problems children bring to school when suggesting that teachers can be fairly evaluated by the success of their product.
Janet M. Goodsell
>Farm Bill still needs significant reforms
I agree with the June 22 News editorial, "Latest farm bill keeps federal supports that help big agriculture, hurt others," which is up for renewal in Congress this year. This bill covers a range of topics, including agricultural subsidies, conservation, the Food Stamp Program and renewable energy.
Currently, U.S. farm subsidies mostly support large-scale farmers, encouraging overproduction of commodity crops like cotton, rice and corn. In New York, the largest 10 percent of subsidized farms in 2003-2004 got more than half of all the state's payments. However, the smallest 80 percent of subsidized farms got less than 30 percent of these payments.
This summer, I am working on a local organic farm that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to a small number of families. A reformed farm bill could make it easier for farmers to produce healthy foods that would be more readily available to more people.
It is crucial that the farm bill is passed only after seeing significant reform. This bill should reduce excessive support of large industrial farms and increase funding for programs encouraging improved nutrition and access to food, conservation, rural development and renewable energy research. If reformed well, this bill could substantially improve nutrition and reduce hunger in the United States and abroad.
>Green's contributions should not be forgotten
It is satisfying to Buffalo residents and history buffs to hear someone as prominent and influential as Richard Moe, president of the Washington, D.C.- based National Trust for Historic Preservation, gush over Buffalo's lush and rich plethora of architectural gems. No question Frank Lloyd Wright, Frederick Law Olmsted, Eero Saarinen, Louis Sullivan, H.H. Richardson and others are a better lineup than the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees. But please do not forget E.B. Green.
From 1900 to 1950, E.B. Green accomplished an impressive body of work throughout Western New York. His lasting legacy includes the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Genesee Building (now the Hyatt Hotel), the Bishop's Mansion, the master plan for the University at Buffalo South Campus, plus six buildings for which he was recognized in 1938 with the Chancellor's Medallion, the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse and over 20 buildings at Chautauqua Institution, including the historic Miller Bell Tower, the Colonnade Administration Building and the post office building proclaimed in 2000 by the Smithsonian Institution as "The Great American Post Office."
Buffalo and Western New York are an architectural treasure chest, and we are pleased that someone of Moe's stature recognizes it. However, please do not forget E.B. Green -- the architect, not the steak house.