See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


The Minneapolis school board announced this week that it will be changing the name of Patrick Henry High School ("Patrick Henry High School to be renamed," Aug. 17). Yeah, that Patrick Henry — one of the Founding Fathers of the nation whose strong voice helped propel the Revolution.

The board said a new name will be found that better represents the values of the North Side community where the school has stood since 1937.

It's the slavery issue that once again pushed this decision. Henry owned slaves throughout his lifetime, as did much of the gentry in Virginia. Minneapolis recently renamed Jefferson Elementary because the writer of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. In fact, 10 of our first 12 U.S. presidents owned slaves. It's an ugly mark in our history.

Perhaps it's disingenuous to say that we must look beyond slavery to see what else these men and women of the slavery era did that warrants their name being on a building 250 years later. Perhaps that sin was enough to forever taint their character, no matter what else they did.

In Henry's case, he was part of the great dynamic of the founding of the nation. He favored strong Christian values. He opposed strong central government. He fought to end slave importation into the country, and he was considered by many to be the father of the Bill of Rights. Most of all, his oratorical greatness rallied the people to the cause of independence. He was a spellbinding speaker who used his gift to help create a new nation.

You can't excuse Henry's slaveholding. Other peers, such as John Adams, vehemently opposed slavery. There was a decision to be made, and Henry opted, along with many of his contemporaries, to profit from slave labor.

But as we say goodbye to Patrick Henry High School, we can still admire and praise the accomplishments of this founding father. His oratory put the fire and the soul into the American Revolution. He made freedom not just an ideal, but a visceral truth central to independence.

Give me liberty, or give me death.

Al Zdon, Mounds View


The first question to ask is why is it necessary to change the name of a high school that has been in existence nearly 100 years. What compelling reason is there for spending a lot of time and money to discuss and then implement a name change? Second, it should be asked what the benefits and drawbacks are for making that name change.

A name change is warranted because Patrick Henry was a slave owner? In an era when owning slaves was considered commonplace and nothing unusual throughout most of the world, is it necessary to now change the name of a high school that was named for the "good" deeds of a person who assisted in the creation of our nation? If so, we will need to change the names of a lot of things because many of the founders were slave owners.

Will changing the name away from Patrick Henry change history to mean that Patrick Henry did not own slaves? If we erase Henry from our history, does that change the history? Can we erase slavery from our history by hiding it? If history does not change, even by making name changes now, why do it? Are we celebrating the good achievements and contributions to history or is it our duty to hide the bad things of history? In which case do we learn more?

Slavery is still very much active throughout many parts of the world today. It is still active in America if you consider sex trafficking by the cartels as slave trading and slavery.

Personally, I am against the name change. I am against erasing/changing/hiding our history. I'll accept the truth of real history, the bad along with the good. I'll live with it.

Bruce A. Bastien, San Diego


The purge of the GOP

There was no surprise in learning U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney lost her primary in Wyoming ("Cheney loses to Trump backer," Aug. 17). At least her backbone is still strong and intact. That's more than you can say about many of her MAGA-loving Republican colleagues.

Tom Intihar, Brooklyn Park


Gary Abernathy from the Washington Post ("What is it about 'get lost' Cheney & Co. don't understand?" Opinion Exchange, Aug. 18) notes that Democrats are naive to think that Democratic leadership is offended and alarmed by today's Republican Party and its adherence to Trump and his gang of deplorables. Instead, he argues, that's just spin. Democrats' alarm is really just a strategy used to expand their power.

I appreciate his informing me of my naivete. He showed me that two opposing thoughts can't be held at the same time. One can't be shocked and horrified while also having a strategy to do what it takes to overpower the boogeyman. Based on his persuasive argument, I hope Abernathy never finds himself alone in a cabin in the woods with an axe-wielding murderer at his door.

Mary Alice Divine, White Bear Lake


'Elective,' my foot

The entire debate around over-the-counter hearing aids ("FDA clears way for OTC hearing aids," Aug. 17) skirts the real fundamental issue: Why is this significant medical problem of hearing loss not covered in part by insurance? Serious hearing loss is more debilitating in work and everyday life than many medical procedures covered by insurance. Now over-the-counter hearing aids (without professional help) will be available for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. Yet what about those of us with a profound hearing loss, especially as it progresses as we age? We cannot function in human interactions without properly fitted, expensive hearing aids. The assistance of a professional audiologist is indispensable.

Insurance covers bunion surgery but not something as vitally life-affirming as being able to adequately hear. As Helen Keller supposedly said: "Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people."

Deborah Talen, Minneapolis


Siding with Rushdie and freedom

There seems to be continuing confusion about what it means to live in a free and democratic society. Jonathan Zimmerman captures this problem in his analysis of why the banning of hate speech is anathema to those who believe the First Amendment is the cornerstone of democracy ("Our sacred right to offend," Opinion Exchange, Aug. 17).

Zimmerman mentions the campus speech codes that proliferated in the late 1980s and early 1990s, misguided attempts to silence offensive speech, akin to today's cancel culture that leaves no room for the dissenting, albeit offensive to some, opinion. The St. Paul hate speech ordinance that was struck down unanimously by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1992 (R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul) shared such well-meaning but constitutionally defective language. Hate speech (unlike hate crime) remains constitutionally protected in our country, despite repeated attempts to censor that which we don't want to hear.

One week after R.A.V. was argued before the Supreme Court, Salman Rushdie wrote, "Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ballgame. Free speech is life itself." It is tragic beyond measure that Rushdie was brutally assaulted and almost lost "life itself" because he refused to be silenced.

Zimmerman is correct in his conclusion. If you support attempts to censor offensive speech, whether those attempts originate from the left or the right, don't pretend you believe in free expression and Rushdie's cause. You don't.

But you might want to consider the legacy of freedom and free expression you inherited, that our ancestors fought and died to protect, the next time you want to silence someone who has offended you.

Edward J. Cleary, St. Paul

The writer is retired chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals.