Schools still welcome guest speakers | April 11
Board speaks out against bigotry
I was touched by the unity and resolve displayed by our Tampa community at last week's Hillsborough County School Board meeting, when many diverse community leaders spoke out against bigotry and censorship and in support of an inclusive guest speaker policy.
For the past few months, protesters representing only a small segment of public opinion used the School Board meetings to promote conspiracy theories and false allegations against Islam and Muslims.
Their fear of Muslims and serious misinformation about Islam led them to push for a policy censoring all advocacy groups from visiting our public schools to speak on relevant topics the students are studying. When asked on camera, protesters like Terry Kemple claimed that their problem was only with America's largest Muslim civil rights group, not with all Muslims.
However, at least half of the statements made by Kemple and his supporters were attacks on the entire Muslim faith and people, not any particular Muslim group. Even worse, I felt they were really attacking the American principles of pluralism and freedom of religion. These are the principles I have taken an oath to protect and are the reasons why my family chose to immigrate to America from Syria.
But on Tuesday we saw an outpouring of diverse supporters who asked the School Board not to give in to anti-Muslim prejudices. The supporters represented many faiths, organizations and ethnicities.
The Hillsborough County School Board refused to give in to fearmongering. Our success sends a strong message that we in Tampa will not allow ignorance, fear and misunderstanding to divide us.
My only wish now is that those who fear us would come and get to know us. We are one community, and we must stand united despite our differences to foster an environment where all people can live free without fear, prejudice and hatred.
Hassan Shibly, CAIR Florida, Tampa
Health Care Decision Day
Make your wishes known
If you were to experience a medical emergency and were unable to speak for yourself, would your loved ones know what type of care you wanted? You can make certain that your health care wishes are fulfilled by completing your advance directives — a living will and health care surrogate forms.
Today, April 16, is National Health Care Decisions Day, set aside to encourage people to express their wishes regarding their health care and for providers and facilities to respect those choices, whatever they might be.
It's much easier to think about this subject when people are in good health. For the month of April, you can pick up copies of advance directives at any LifePath Hospice facility in Hillsborough County or visit the website, www.caringinfo.org, to download the forms. After you fill out the forms, tell your loved ones and health care providers about the care you want — or don't want — when facing a medical crisis.
Please take a few minutes today to think about your loved ones and then complete your advance directives.
Roxanne Riley, executive director, LifePath Hospice, Tampa
GOP seizes on its own 'war on women' attack April 13
Let women choose roles
Who is Hilary Rosen to sit in judgment of other women and the life choices they've made? Doesn't she realize that the rights she enjoys — to equal education, equal job opportunities, and even the chance to have an equal voice on the national stage — are things that just a generation ago very few women could even dream of? Doesn't she realize that what she takes for granted as her due, women of my generation fought long and hard to achieve? Doesn't she realize that the struggle was not just for equal opportunities in education and career, but for the right to make those choices ourselves?
My generation of women blazed a trail without the legal protections against discrimination that Rosen takes for granted. Yet isn't her criticism of Ann Romney and stay-at-home moms just another form of discrimination? Would she really take us back to that place when women sit in judgment of other women for the choices they make?
One of the greatest freedoms American women enjoy today is the freedom to choose. Inherent in that freedom is the opportunity to choose without bringing down the wrath of other women for those choices. We should focus on supporting each other as we try to juggle the extraordinary opportunities we have, not scratch each others' eyes out for making different choices.
Ann Whelan, Dunedin
'Stand your ground'
Law violates rights
In 2008 and 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on cases that affirmed the right of people to own guns and to use them for self-defense without any reference to the free-for-all that the "stand your ground" laws imply.
The Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution did not give anyone the right to stalk individuals and kill them just because they think they might look suspicious.
If private citizens in some states are allowed to be judge, jury and executioner, what has become of the right to a jury by peers? Doesn't this make "stand your ground" unconstitutional? Seems to me it violates the Constitution.
Richard Mayer, Palm Harbor
Learn the benefits of health care reform April 11, commentary
Reforms already working
I appreciate the information in this column and couldn't agree more with the statement, "Be an informed voter." Hats off to the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
My family has already benefited from what has been put in place. Our 19-year-old autistic granddaughter with Crohn's disease is allowed to remain on a parental insurance plan. My senior siblings have saved hundreds of dollars on their medications because the health care law closes the doughnut hole gap in coverage for prescriptions.
Heck yes, I'm for Obamacare!
Kay Dickson, Spring Hill
Parking scam hooks Rays fans | April 12
Low cost, big return
If St. Petersburg is willing to spend $1,400 — it's petty cash in the city's coffers — for goodwill that will improve its image in the eyes of its citizens, it should consider refunding the $100 it cost each driver (presumably Rays fans) to recover his or her car towed on opening day from the legitimately permitted parking lot near Tropicana Field.
It's a simple gesture that would pay dividends far greater than the cost.
Bruce Lowitt, Oldsmar