Sunday, September 27, 2009

How to call out a President

The blog Letters of Note posts a 1958 letter from Jackie Robinson to President Eisenhower, calling him out for suggesting for the umpteenth time that negroes be "patient" in the face of discrimination and oppression (h/t Andrew Sullivan).

Whose impulsive reaction to a President's speech does the letter's opening call to mind -- by way of contrast?
My dear Mr. President:

I was sitting in the audience at the Summit Meeting of Negro Leaders yesterday when you said we must have patience. On hearing you say this, I felt like standing up and saying, "Oh no! Not again."
No, Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier by dint of superhuman self-restraint, did not leap up on the spot to impugn the President's honor. After the fact, "respectfully," he simply made clear in no uncertain terms (dangling modifier notwithstanding) the pusillanimity, hypocrisy, disingenuity and untenability of Eisenhower's patronizing position:
As the chief executive of our nation, I respectfully suggest that you unwittingly crush the spirit of freedom in Negroes by constantly urging forbrearance and give hope to those pro-segregation leaders like Governor Faubus who would take from us even those freedoms we now enjoy. Your own experience with Governor Faubus is proof enough that forbearance and not eventual integration is the goal that the pro-segregation leaders seek.

How generous that "unwittingly." How incontrovertible the logic. Here's to you, Mr. Robinson.


  1. i'm not so sure that's a true dangling modifier...

  2. Neb: "As the chief executive of our nation, I..." suggests that "I" am the chief executive.