Class Correspondent

Not many of you sent me personal news 
for this issue of the magazine, so I sent 
out a question that I thought would be provoking in these turbulent political times and asked for the favor of a reply. Here’s the way I posed the question: The public intellectual Irving Kristol, who died at the age of 89 in 2009, was dubbed “the godfather of neoconservatism” — the movement that began in the 1960s (and that is being carried on today by his son, William Kristol). In a now-famous quip, the elder Kristol described himself as a liberal who had been “mugged by reality.” My question was: “Do you now consider yourself more liberal, less liberal, or about the same as you were in the 1950s?” I received a number of replies.

Roz Spielman answered, “I believe that 
I am just as liberal in my thinking now 
as I was in the ’50s. I fondly remember attending a rally for Adlai Stevenson (not the last presidential candidate for whom I voted who did not win).” Roz adds that she and her husband, Bernie, just celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. Joan Gurgold writes from Florida that she had hoped to attend the ’50s Reunion but was not able to do so. She asked me to send her regards to anyone I may be in touch with. I take that to mean whoever in the Class of 1953 reads this column! Joan, however, gave no indication of her current political persuasion.

Marshall Sterman replied, “I am as liberal as I was at Brandeis — the inoculation is still working, but my definition really only has to do with equal rights for all, not equal benefits. I am not proud of (former Brandeis professor) Robert Reich and am relieved that he is working out of a smaller, less well-known university in California. The reason for my feeling this way is that I’m all for the working stiff, whether he be a day laborer, a union member, or the head of Citicorp. I am also for supplying safety nets for the less fortunate, but (and this is where they separate the men from the boys) I am not a fan of Robin Hood.” As for his present activities, Marshall tells us, “Right now I’m into “green.” The company I’m working with is TerraSphere and, of course, I believe we will set the standard for many others.”

Richard Hirshberg identified himself politically as conservative and told us that he retired in the 1990s after practicing neurosurgery in Houston for 40 years. In 2009 he wrote the preface to a text, “Bio-behavioral Approaches to Pain,” as well as a forthcoming article for a journal of medicine and law, “Reflections on the Syndrome of the Shaken Baby.” Elliot Morrison reported, “I consider myself about as liberal socially as I was then. However, I’m considerably less liberal about fiscal issues and much more inclined to consider the fiscal effect of liberal legislation. Having said that, while I consider myself independent (I’m a registered Democrat but am considering changing that), I have no patience for the nonsense that goes on on Capitol Hill that is more about running for office and less about governance.”

From Ruth Shiller Banks we heard, “When I was younger, in college and thereabouts, I had no real understanding of the world. As I grew up and observed the world around me, I saw that things were no longer black and white, not easily defined by names or titles, etc. Policies need to be understood in context, and who presents the context and how it is written or described will define the policy. The bottom line is usually, for me, who benefits, who gets hurt, who comes out ahead, why is this happening? Also, in the current climate of polarization, it’s hard to be moderate anything. Where is the morality when the ‘Masters of the Universe’ are pocketing salaries in the millions and walking away from the wreckage? Labels don’t work anymore, they never did, and they don’t mean anything. Over time people’s ideas change as the times change.” Ruth also informed us that Edna Ann Katz had passed away.

The penultimate response came from Anita Kamoroff Kantor, who offered the words of a wise Brandeis woman: “Despite being ‘mugged by reality,’ I am still a Max Lerner liberal! All that has become more liberal through the years has been my tummy, waistline, hips, etc.!” As for the ultimate words — my own — I guess I’m a conservative progressive. How about that label, Ruth Shiller Banks?

Submit a Class Note