We love letters. Maybe it’s because our grandmas always used to tape a quarter to our birthday cards when we were little and we now have this Pavlovian thing going on. Regardless, we want to hear from you. Sing our praises, bust our chops, or just tell us what’s on your mind. Send your thoughts to editor@americanwaymag.com.

THE AMERICAN WAY
So, new editor, no more Jim Shahin humor, the disappearance of the regular wine article … I have to admit, I was a bit bummed. All that said, you have been slowly but surely getting me over the hump. And I think your August 1 issue got me all the way there!

I started with a dog-ear on your editorial, “Love All, Serve All.” Couldn’t help but wonder how many folks on my seven a.m. Monday-morning flight felt a tinge of envy as you described your multiple dream jobs. Then it occurred to me that the very hope of a dream job is, while not solely American, certainly a cornerstone of the American way.

I read on and was deeply moved by the story of a new American hero, Gary Sinise [“Passion Project”]. I have long been a fan of his acting, but it is truly inspiring to learn about his passion for and commitment to serving others. With a nephew currently in the Navy, I appreciated the recognition that our troops are, first and foremost, humanitarians. We forget that our military serves not only to protect us but also those who cannot protect themselves, including helpless children of impoverished nations. Hasn’t that always been the American way?

Finally, Carlton Stowers’s “The Perfect Day” brought a perfect close to this outstanding issue. I am a sucker for anything baseball, but am I the only one who could see the grandfather and grandson sitting on those sparsely populated wooden bleachers, feel the warm spring breeze, and smell Price’s best-ever chili dog? I relished the marvel of an eight-year-old taking in all the details that we grown-ups overlook and the wisdom of a man who recognized the perfection of the moment. Perhaps this is why baseball is America’s pastime. It isn’t so much about what happens on the field -- it is what happens in the stands that is the American way.

BRYAN FUNKHOUSER, GENEVA, ILLINOIS

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS: You really get what we’re trying to do here, Bryan. Jim Shahin was outstanding, but the three columnists we have back there now -- especially Carlton Stowers, who could make the treatment of a Campbell’s Soup can interesting -- are a trifecta of literary excellence. I, too, really enjoyed the Sinise story, especially because he’s so down-to-earth. Baseball is my favorite pastime as well. Thank you for your kind words and for sticking with me as I work out the kinks. All the moves I make from this chair are done with the passenger -- not myself -- in mind.

CORRECTION

My name is Holly Robinson Peete. I am an actress, philanthropist, and the daughter of the late Matt Robinson, who portrayed the original Gordon Robinson on Sesame Street from the [show’s debut] in 1969 until 1971.

The article “Street Smarts” written by Michael Davis in [your] August 15, 2009, issue had a photo of “the original 1969 Sesame Street cast.” That is false. My father is not pictured, but several others who were not on the show until much later are.

I am sure you may think this is a minor oversight and that I am only bothered because of my obvious personal connection. But any authentic Sesame Street aficionado can tell you what you can find out with a simple Google search, which is that the original cast had only four human cast members: Gordon, Susan, Bob, and Mr. Hooper. (I was six at the time and spent much time on the set.) The role of Gordon was first played by my dad, Matt Robinson -- also one of the show’s producers -- (from 1969–1971), then by Hal Miller (1971–1973), and finally by Roscoe Orman (the Gordon in your photo), who joined the cast in 1973 and has been there since.

HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS: We apologize for this error making it into American Way. Please see the cast photo below, from 1970, which features your dad as Gordon (center).


BONUS LETTERS NOT IN THE MAGAZINE


PERSPECTIVES

I scribbled this note on my return flight to Dallas from Ft. Lauderdale, where I spent a long weekend celebrating the combination of my sister’s 50th wedding anniversary and her husband’s 75th birthday. I mention this only to bracket the time line between reading the outbound and inbound columns of Eric Celeste [“Just Back From: Cape Cod,” May 15, 2009] and Cathy Booth Thomas [“If You Had Just $15,500 to Change the World,” June 1, 2009]. While as stylistically different as daylight and dark (Eric’s relaxed, familiar narrative compared with Cathy’s formal, journalistic composition), both provided very similar insights into places of the heart. Whether it’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane, an inspirational tour through the slums of India, or holding hands with your wife of 40 years at 30,000 feet, home is definitely where the heart is.
STEVE HOFFNER, DALLAS, TEXAS

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS: I couldn’t have said it any better myself. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with our three revolving columnists: give a little divergence of style while still advocating a compelling story and a narrative arc. Thank you so much for this note.

DUBUQUE THANKS YOU
A very belated thank-you for the wonderful editorial on Dubuque in your April 15 issue [“Green Grow the Rushes”]. It was a very inspiring article and has created a lot of conversation locally. At our City Expo held on April 15, where we have literally thousands of citizens come through, American Airlines/American Eagle had a display booth, and we featured the American Way magazine and article on our live broadcast that is watched by literally thousands more. We rebroadcast the program several times throughout the month of April. In addition, we also highlighted your feature editorial at our Earth Day Community Conversation on April 22, which was attended by about 140 people. So, lots of mileage (and incredible local pride) that we were featured this month. Thank you!
CINDY STEINHAUSER, ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER, DUBUQUE, IOWA

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS: From Cedar Rapids to Dubuque to Iowa City, I encourage everyone to do a turn in the heartland at some point. Beautiful country and friendly folks in Iowa.

HE’S ALL HEART
I have been a fan of Rafael Nadal since I first saw him run onto the court five years ago. He is charismatic, humble, and an extremely hard worker. I liked his clothing (such a refreshing change) and his never-say-die approach to playing each point. In every match I have watched since I “discovered” Rafa, it is obvious that the announcers have great respect for him, and they repeatedly mention his devotion to his family.

The [“bad boy” reference] on the cover of your June 1 issue does a tremendous injustice to Rafa, and I can only assume that you were hard-pressed to find something catchy for those readers who were not familiar with Rafa, his work ethic, his generous spirit, and his kindness to and respect for fellow players on the tour. Whoever wrote the “bad-boy” reference should find another line of work. Obviously, it was a lazy ploy to suggest that he is a person of contradictions -- not so. Hard worker, hard player, good guy all around.
BARBARA ROGERS, STANFORD, CALIFORNIA

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS: Thank you for your feedback, Barbara. I wrote that cover line, and I stand by it. He is known by his bad-boy “appearance” on the court and has been for years. The TV commentators used to always talk about his tough, sleeveless exterior. However, all of the points you raised I not only agree with, they are all mentioned in the story. Rafa looks tough, but he’s all heart.

YOU GOTTA HAVE FRIENDS
This was written from France. We are here visiting a college fraternity brother and his wife who are in residence in Paris for several months. When they said they would be here, we said, “We’re in!” En route, we stopped in the Bahamas for another fraternity brother’s daughter’s wedding.

Your May 1 editorial, “Friends in the Stratosphere,” recognized the value of updating one’s contacts. I subscribe to the idea that as we go along in life, contacts and friendships should be addictive. Regarding your stated separation from baseline friends, my choice is to battle to keep those friendships. Perhaps my cohort group -- a generation ahead of yours -- sees the world differently, but somehow, some of us have been fortunate enough to forge some very deep and strong long-term friendships. In my case, several times a year I hang out with friends who date back to third grade!

Every summer now for 28 years, a gathering of the same “fraternity crew,” with wives and lady friends, at a Wisconsin lakeside summer house of one of the brothers. Two years ago, a cast of 40 of the same suspects went on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. This November, eternal University of Wisconsin Badgers will be in attendance as usual for the Northwestern-Wisconsin football game and massive postgame party in Evanston, Illinois.

The party keeps going.

It’s fun to maintain these 50-year friendships. It’s not for everyone, I know. But for those who cherish and value it, it is a very special part of life and a source of great comfort, satisfaction, and enjoyment, particularly as our lives are increasingly visited by the inevitable less-pleasant experiences.

American Way is a terrific magazine; a huge bonus for American Airlines passengers.
ROBERT KOTLER, MD, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA

ADAM PITLUK RESPONDS: You know, you’re absolutely right. Good advice, doc. Greg Grains can expect a call from me shortly.