Don't jeopardize community college system
For five straight years, Florida's community colleges have been the top producers of associate-degree graduates in the nation. Certainly our students should be credited for this accomplishment, but also credit the open access our community college system represents.
Recently the St. Petersburg Times ran a story on proposed legislation to create a state college system by converting Florida's 28 community colleges into state colleges (Community college taken to a higher level, March 31). Should this plan pass, it could potentially dismantle our nationally recognized community college system, which ensures that degrees and programs are available for individuals who may not have access to state colleges or universities, or may be intimidated by going to a college versus a community college setting.
Florida may need a state college system, and the Legislature and education community should discuss how to strategically accommodate our future growth and economic needs. The proposed legislation is a back-door method to create a state college system without a thoughtful analysis of its impact on an excellent system. Does Florida really need more college football teams?
Community colleges serve an important purpose in our state, and I hope our legislators evaluate the full impact of this proposed legislation. Through community colleges, Floridians have a bridge for GED graduates, graduates unsure of their next step, workers needing certificate programs, as well as those people returning to work.
The proposed state college system should not hastily be considered. Successfully training our work force for high-skill, high-wage jobs might be placed in jeopardy as a result. I hope the Legislature considers a more thoughtful approach to this big idea with lots of potential.
Kathleen Shanahan, member, state Board of Education, Tampa
Young should do more to bring troops home
April 24, letter
War's empty results
I served in the military during the Vietnam era. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I served stateside. However, I did see many of my friends go and return. When I read that there is less concern about the Iraq war because the casualties only number 4,000 vs. 50,000-plus in Vietnam, it makes my blood boil. One lost life is too much for this unjust war.
After I got out of the military, I became active in protesting our involvement in Vietnam. I feel that the greater involvement of my generation in opposing that war was due to the draft. With no draft now, there is no fear of one's having to go serve in a war zone. Thus, people are less likely to get involved.
Today, Vietnam is a tourist destination and a major manufacturing source for Nike shoes. If you had told me or any of my friends during the '60s that this would be the result of more than 50,000 dead Americans, we would have protested more radically. Just imagine a dead soldier and his family today who had lost a loved one in Vietnam, seeing what was accomplished. Nothing. What is going to be accomplished in Iraq? Nothing.
Peter Castelli, Tampa
Stand against terrorists
I am writing to ask all Americans to join together in our time of war and support our nation's foreign policy and military strategy. It has become obvious that we sometimes fail to recognize the fact that our primary enemies are the radical Islamists. They have been attacking American forces for nearly 30 years.
Let us remember that it was these terrorists who attacked our Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, killing 241 U.S. servicemen. Additionally, they blew up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 200. In 2001 they drove a boat full of explosives into the hull of the USS Cole, killing 17 Americans. Keep in mind that all these tragic attacks happened prior to 9/11.
Today our enemies continue to engage in a global war of terror. This "axis of evil" fights for nothing less than spreading death and suffering around the free world. I sincerely believe that Americans deserve the most powerful military in the world. They also deserve leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who ultimately challenged our enemies.
Joan Atkins, Palm Harbor
Voice of the past
The true value of recorded history is that it often helps to avoid the mistakes of previous generations. The policy established by the Bush administration and which appears to be the policy that would be followed by John McCain regarding Iraq is a prime example of the folly of the failure to understand this. It is the only conclusion one can draw unless the real intention of our government is something they feel we cannot be trusted to know.
In support of this, consider this excerpt from a chillingly prescient report to the London Sunday Times from Col. T.E. Lawrence, written in 1920:
"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. … Today, we are not far from disaster."
Further, he went on to explain the difficulty in trying to govern an ad-hoc nation of disparate peoples, especially by outsiders trying to impose Western democracy, explaining it was doomed to failure. He concluded:
"How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of troops and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administration."
It is fair to say in view of what has occurred over the past few years that "Lawrence of Arabia" knew that of which he spoke. Unfortunately, the current administration has turned a deaf ear to the message, choosing to neither listen nor learn.
Robert A. Shaw, Madeira Beach
With pick, policy endures | April 24, story
Making no waves
Gen. David Petraeus was not promoted as a result of outstanding performance. He has earned his new job the same way he earned his last job: He is willing to argue that the 2007 escalation of troop levels in Iraq was a good idea. This is in spite of the fact that no political reconciliation has actually occurred in Iraq, the Iraqi military is sill a mess after five years, and the situation on the ground is too dire to allow the previously planned U.S. troop withdrawals to continue.
A politician is a politician. Some just happen to be wearing uniforms.
Scott Cochran, Tampa
Where's the war czar?
I see that Gen. David Petraeus has been picked for a new job, which is to "oversee two wars and operations in 27 countries." But wasn't that the same assignment given to Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute back in May of last year, when he was appointed as "war czar" by President Bush?
What has Gen. Lute been doing since his appointment as czar? I haven't seen anything in the papers about him since his appointment.
Mortimer Brown, Lutz
Help for Haiti
There is much to be concerned about in this nation. But we have enough to eat. Ninety minutes from Florida, our neighbors in Haiti are hungry, starving and desperate for their lives. The worldwide food crisis has hit them especially hard as torrential rains have ruined crops resulting in scarcity and rising food prices. Living on an average annual family income of less than $500 means they can afford little, and little is available. Rice has gone up 60 percent in the past few weeks. The situation is approaching famine.
The Haitian Health Foundation started by Dr. Jeremiah Lowney of Norwich, Conn., in 1982 has done remarkable work for 26 years. He has built hospitals, schools and homes and has provided health care, as well as feeding the poorest of the poor.
Americans are a good people willing to help those in need. It is difficult to know how to help, and often we do nothing. Being familiar with the Haitian Health Foundation, having spent time helping them in Haiti, I can assure anyone that a contribution will be put to work in a matter of days. More than 95 percent goes directly to the poor in health care, housing and food. Because the situation is so desperate, Dr. Lowney has issued his first-ever emergency appeal. You can hear it at www.haitianhealthfoundation.org. Also click on the "how you can help" link. Or call them at (860) 886-4357.
Ms. Andree Giguere, Lakeland