Explanation needed of plans to build black history...

Letters to the Editor

February 04, 1999

Explanation needed of plans to build black history museum

The article "Museum of black history gets boost" (Jan. 31), detailing plans for the new black history museum in Baltimore was, I believe, a shock to some of Maryland's taxpayers. I wholeheartedly support the arts and humanities efforts in our great state and, especially, in Baltimore. But I question the decision to allot $15 million to another effort at a historical museum downtown when the city government was so quick to admit defeat with the former City Life Museums.

How can the legislature support a new project less than a block away from the Blaustein building and Carroll Mansion, which sit uninhabited?

I cannot support the decision to proceed with this endeavor unless a logical explanation is provided by our state legislature. I challenge our representatives in Annapolis to visit the site and offer the people a sound premise for such an outpouring of financial goodwill.

Scott Donnelly, Baltimore

As much as I support the creation of a new African-American Museum at the harbor and applaud the tireless efforts of the Glendening administration's Rodney Little to make it happen, I don't think it serves this new venture and especially him well for him to have told your readers that Columbus Center's Hall of Exploration opened with "wildly optimistic projections for visitorship."

This is simply not true, and it is especially puzzling to hear, given that Mr. Little was one of the eight founding board members of Columbus Center and served on its board for most of a decade. So if any "wildness" occurred (and I, of course, don't think it did), it took place under his direct oversight and approval.

In point of fact, Columbus Center's attendance projections (original and revisited) were by the nationally known Economic Research Associates and were reviewed by the board, the project manager (Rouse Co.), the exhibition designer (the vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering) and all its major funders and contributors, including loan officers from a consortium of the six largest banks in the region.

Finger-pointing will continue as to why the Hall of Exploration opened with a too-slowly building audience and then closed even as Columbus Center's principal missions of research and science education continue and, we are told, grow. But if the state is going to selectively treat Baltimore projects, it should do so without doses of "spin" on Columbus Center.

Stanley Heuisler, Baltimore

The letter writer was board chairman and, later, president and CEO of the Columbus Center.

Giving WWII generation the credit it deserves

Theo Lippman Jr.'s book review, "Any `greatest generation' is rank ancestor worship" (Jan. 31), comes close to the "bad judgment and bad balance" he sees in new books on World War II by Tom Brokaw and Stephen Ambrose.

Mr. Brokaw's book may be guilty of some well-intentioned overambition, but neither does it claim to be serious scholarship: It is a selective, personal tribute whose greatest crime is daring to posit a thesis with which Mr. Lippman doesn't agree. That's fine, but to denigrate it for not being a well-researched history book, something it was never intended to be, is sloppy criticism. A writer of Mr. Lippman's caliber should know better.

His desultory attack on the book by Mr. Ambrose, a serious historian who also happens to believe that there was something special about the fighting generation of World War II, is even more mystifying. Of "The Victors" he writes: ". . . overly praising them and their accomplishments runs the risk of insulting by implication today's so-called X generation and baby boomers." And this is a bad thing?

It's the first time I've ever heard of a book being panned for making us take a closer look at ourselves. Is Mr. Ambrose to blame if we don't like what we see?

I only hope that Mr. Lippman is right, and that "in the future . . . American youth will measure up to grim challenges, no less reluctantly than their ancestors, but no less successfully." But frankly, I don't see how, if we fail to celebrate in print the achievements of our ancestors.

Michael R. Smith, Bel Air

Politics, the Clinton trial and the nation's future

Essentially the impeachment trial is over, and the votes for conviction are not there. It's difficult to understand what it is about "enough" that congressional Republicans and the religious right fail to comprehend.

After five years of relentless investigation by Ken Starr and months of partisan bickering in the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate has finally made it clear the president will not be removed from office. A majority of citizens, who twice elected Bill Clinton president, consistently express dismay and disgust at highly politicized motives and endless process, and they want all branches of their government to get back to the people's business.

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