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April 28, 1910

Sirs: I do not need to tell you that the reports of my recent address in Pittsburgh have, by piecemeal quotation, conveyed an entirely false impression. You yourself have made allowance for this distortion in your kind editorial of this week. I can only assure you, therefore, that I entirely agree with the views of your editorial. It would be inexcusable for any man responsible for the administration of a university to overlook the value of culture and of all that quiet and deeper development of the mind which displays itself in personal poise, in quiet insight, in the finer forms of intellectual power, rather than in public service and material achievement.

I beg that you will not believe that because I seem incapable of stating more than one side of a question in any one speech, I do not know and appreciate the other side.

Woodrow Wilson
princeton university

August 24, 1921

My Dear Mr. Shaw:
I understand a number of friends are writing to you and urging you to come to the United States. May I say how gratified we of The Nation would be should you come to us?
Yours very sincerely,
Oswald Garrison Villard

Dear Mr. Villard:

This conspiracy has been going on for years; but in vain is the net spread in sight of the bird. I have no intention either of going to prison with Debs or taking my wife to Texas, where the Ku Klux Klan snatches white women out of hotel verandas and tars and feathers them. If I were dependent on martyrdom for a reputation, which happily I am not, I could go to Ireland. It is a less dangerous place; but then the voyage is shorter and much cheaper.

You are right in your impression that a number of persons are urging me to come to the United States. But why on earth do you call them my friends?

G. Bernard Shaw

March 2, 1932

Sir: I have been a subscriber to The Nation most of the time from its beginning until now. I read its very first issue, and was so delighted with its fine spirit, its splendid forward look, its scholarship, its daring, and the brilliant pen of Mr. Godkin, its editor, that I subscribed at once. I was then a student at the University of Chicago, and I conceived the idea of organizing a Nation club. We met every Thursday evening to discuss the last number of The Nation, all the members being pledged to read it before the meeting. We soon became enthusiastic. To spend an evening each week, with a company of alert and eager minds, thinking about, digging into, criticizing, weighing, trying to form intelligent judgments on such living, vital matters was a new and amazingly stimulating kind of education.

Mr. Editor, I venture to inquire whether there ought not to be such clubs all over the land. Ten thousand would in ten years revolutionize the country’s thinking and give us a new America.

J.T. Sunderland
ann arbor, mich.

April 4, 1959

Dear Sirs: [Nelson] Algren would have been a lot more sympathetic to our work in Chicago if he’d attended our reading and not taken his information from expurgated radio tapes, local newspaper crap and Time. None of us lisps. What fairy he been talking to?
Gregory Corso, in respect to Shelley
Allen Ginsberg, in the name of Myakovsky
Peter Orlovsky, heart felt with the beauty of Sergei Esenin

July 9, 1960

Dear Sirs: It is difficult to comment on Robert Spivack’s article, “How Modern Is Republicanism?,” because Mr. Spivack obviously doesn’t understand the basic tenets of the Republican Party. I think Republicanism today is modern. It has provided civil rights, the greatest armed might in the history of the country, a return to fiscal responsibility, and a recognition that centralized government, with its attendant power, is the ultimate evil to all freedoms. That power is the one thing that the Spivacks of the country fail to take into consideration as they proclaim themselves for more and more government spending and control.

Barry Goldwater
US Senator (Ariz.)

January 1, 1968

Dear Sirs: Professor Toch asks: What have the hippies contributed to society? The answer is that they have at least contributed a little color, a little gaiety and humor, a little greater sense of freedom, to our dreary, ugly and murderous industrial culture. Have professors of psychology, with their salaries of $10,000 or $15,000 a year, contributed as much? Half as much? Anything at all?
Edward Abbey
tucson, ariz.

August 5, 1978

If I was doing my act I would say that I deserve all those marvelous things you said about me in your editorial [“Muhammad Ali for Congress”]. But seriously I am extremely flattered by your appraisal of me. You sure done your homework and covered all the bases. It ain’t often that I am quoted so accurately. But to get down to the nubbin, I ain’t interested in politics. I mean like running for office. I’m a world man. My fellow man is not just an American and my race is the human race. I’m shook up when I see a child that is going hungry or a mother who is without medical attention. These are the things I’m interested in. And of course peace. Peace for all men and all nations at all times.
Muhammad Ali
new york city

February 13, 1989

It’s right to recommend Mississippi Burning [“Films,” Stuart Klawans]. It is a thoroughly engrossing, well-acted drama that reminds us that legal segregation (apartheid) existed in our country in the not-so-distant past. Also, it correctly informs us that in the 1960s, as it had been since Reconstruction, the Klan’s reign of terror was supported and often joined by local law enforcement officials and politicians. But Mississippi Burning has numerous and at times baffling distortions.

Blacks are only background material. There is only the barest suggestion that a movement is going on throughout the state to tear down segregation. Movement songs, the beautiful spiritual armor of that nonviolent struggle, are badly short-changed. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were serious civil rights organizers; but what they did, what the movement was about, are completely neglected.

For anyone who lived through the period (I was in Mississippi and Georgia then), the idea that the F.B.I. brought an end to a segregated South is about as ludicrous as saying that noble elements inside the Joint Chiefs of Staff were responsible for ending the war in Vietnam.

Somehow Hollywood finds a way to use even controversial history to prove “the system works.” The excuse that “we’re only making a movie” is hardly enough to account for all this.

Abbie Hoffman
solebury, penn.

September 30, 1991

My girlfriend just told me to leave. I’m sitting outside on our kitchen roof (the doghouse) here in Louisville. And it’s hot as hell up here. I’ve thought about this letter for a long time now.

My dad started getting The Nation in 1988. That was the year I went to college, and many times he sent me Xeroxed articles, mostly from your newspaper. I knew nothing of The Nation, and up to then my father had had no connections with any news sources other than the usual media. I don’t know what prompted him to start exploring. He can write you all a letter about that. I am here to tell you about the impact The Nation has had on our lives.

My dad has changed from a man somewhat imprisoned by himself and his sphere of relations and responsibilities into a man of the world, shackled to history but with an overview and a position. And like most things in my dad’s life, it has not come easy. A gift bearing the burden of responsibility. He has passed the burden down to me.

Not to say that your newspaper has been solely responsible for this growth in his or my life, but it has been an important attribute. When running against the tide of fear, indifference and loss, knowing you have comrades is especially good. And once one can look beyond self out into the world, he or she would be wise to take along a subscription to The Nation. In your pages, as in my heart, there is faith, belief in good and bad, and a desire for betterment.

Also, if where I am now becomes my regular resting place, old issues might be crumpled up and used for padding.

J. Britt Walford
louisville, ky.