Forgiveness and peaceful change
While not unexpected, the death of Nelson Mandela leaves millions of people around the world with heavy hearts. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to reflect on the life of this extraordinary man.
As a graduate student, I spent time in Southern Africa prior to and after Mandela was released from prison after 27 years of incarceration. I witnessed the inhumanity of apartheid, its demise, and the great anticipation as South Africa moved toward democracy. At the time, many people believed that civil war would break out once the African National Congress took power. Yet this did not happen, and the political transition was mostly peaceful.
The main reason for this was because Mandela was willing to forgive his oppressors, sought conciliation, and envisioned a new South Africa where all people could be free. By doing these things, Mandela helped to remove the shackles of apartheid from all South Africans regardless of their skin color. In a world with still too much conflict and cynicism, we sorely need more leaders like Nelson Mandela. He will be missed, but we rejoice in what he taught us.
David Himmelgreen, Tampa
Marking the high ground
Nelson Mandela marked the high ground for those who would wrestle freedom from the grasp of racism and still save a redemptive space for everyone. His use of force was necessary, but his remarkable restraint was forged by the wisdom wrung from his experience of persecution and the character of a very special man who, while walking through fires of racism and 27 years of imprisonment, remained unbowed. He lit a candle in his victorious challenge to the apartheid culture and government of South Africa, and it grew to be a light seen around the world.
Mandela left behind a spirit of hope and lessons of forbearance, forgiveness, faithfulness and humility that still light the path to be traveled to a more caring and responsible civil order. For thousands of years we have known these lessons and, while reminded by his life, we are still not our brothers' keeper and, sadly, not our brothers' brother.
We have been offered a spiritual gift of markers for a path to a better world. The gift won't be realized with sounding brass or tinkling symbols of rhetoric without love, but with the sweat, sacrifices and positive community engagement of those willing to build more caring and respectful neighborhoods, communities and governments.
James Paul, Temple Terrace
The pope vs. Rush | Dec. 5
Once again, I find Leonard Pitts column to be on target and highly eloquent. Rush Limbaugh's expression of disdain for Pope Francis' advocacy for the poor seems to mirror the broader Republican mind-set, which equates compassion with Marxism. I suspect that, in another time, Limbaugh and his followers would have been outraged by the messages of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi or numerous other enlightened prophets. What I find most perplexing is how so many of those who hold Limbaugh's far-right views are able to claim to be "Christians."
Don Wright, Inglis
Ticket to the good life
Given the ink that has been recently devoted to Pope Francis and the free market economy, three points seem self-evident.
First, the good pope's view of the free market system is inevitably colored by his experience in South America, where many governments purposely oppress the desperately poor. That is a situation that is not even close to occurring in the United States.
Second, if one castigates the free market economic system, he or she needs to propose a better system — Cuba, Russia? What economy has offered its citizens more stability and opportunity for a good life?
Third, if we want to give poorer people in the United States a better opportunity, we need to focus on functioning families and education. Anyone in this country has a real opportunity for advancement if he is reasonably educated and is encouraged by his family.
Bill Stober, Clearwater
Start over on teacher ratings | Dec. 5, editorial
Look to family factors
I am inclined to agree with the Times that the evaluation system for Florida teachers is deeply flawed and needs to be replaced, but not for the same reasons. Currently, educators are rated on a composite score based on professional development, administrative review and student achievement. The student achievement portion (a.k.a. test scores) accounts for a hefty 50 percent of the appraisal. The Times suggests there ought to be a greater correlation between a teacher's ineffectiveness and low test scores, without considering other variables as to why students are underachieving.
Consider that 100 percent of the 2013 failing schools in Pinellas County are also Title I schools. Doesn't this suggest that factors other than teacher performance come into play? It's like holding a doctor accountable for a patient's recovery if the patient cannot afford the medication. For struggling families, education will not be high on the priority list when basic needs are unmet.
I concur that teachers, like other professionals, should be held accountable for the results they are hired to accomplish, but they also deserve a fair and meaningful assessment process.
Mark Wong, Safety Harbor
Fast food workers protest | Dec. 6
Fast food workers say they can't live on their wages and need to be paid $15 an hour.
I worked from the time I was 18 until around age 60, mostly in secretarial positions until the last 15 years of my career. My monthly Social Security check is less than $6 an hour based on a 40-hour week. If fast food restaurants start paying $15 an hour, I may be the one asking you if you want fries with that order.
Rosalyn Buchanan, San Antonio
Snow, ice snarl travel | Dec. 9
Cure for the winter blues
I'm in Ohio reading the Times online, wishing I was down there with you. I'm looking out the window at 8 inches of snow and ice and can feel the 20 degrees in my bones.
Thankfully, I can read the Times on the Internet and feel like I'm sitting on the beach every day. Thanks to all the employees at the Times who make it possible.
Thomas Stang, Hamilton, Ohio