June 17, 2013

Regarding Thomas P. O’Connor’s June 15 letter, “The Senate floor is for English”:

The United States has no official language. While English may be the de facto language of government and business in this country, it has no legal status as such. In fact, many Americans do not speak English, and they are no less American than those of us who do.

By speaking Spanish on the Senate floor, Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.) was not “obviously pandering to one group of Americans” while “he insulted the rest of us”; he was recognizing the multiculturalism that makes this country great. Such diversity is the result of our history as a nation of immigrants and therefore must be present in any conversation about immigration.

Jeremy Steinberg, Bethesda

Thomas P. O’Connor complained about Sen. Timothy M. Kaine’s speech in Spanish, calling it rude since not everybody could understand what Mr. Kaine was saying. That wasn’t my reaction; it made me want to improve my Spanish so I could understand more of the nuance of the speech without waiting for a translation.

Mr. O’Connor added that Mr. Kaine “was obviously pandering to one group of Americans.” Quite the opposite. If he were pandering, he would have sprinkled in a few words in Spanish as ear candy. By delivering the speech completely in Spanish, Mr. Kaine not only eschewed superficialities but he also did a service to the Spanish language.

John Guernsey, Takoma Park

I agreed with almost every sentiment of Thomas P. O’Connor’s letter, including that many of Timothy M. Kaine’s Senate colleagues likely could not understand his speech, that Mr. Kaine was likely pandering to one group of Americans, and that companions behave rudely when they communicate among themselves in a language other than one we all understand.

However, Mr. O’Connor lost me when he said, “The Senate floor should be a place for discourse that all Americans can understand.”

What language would that involve?

Gerald E. Sheldon, Rockville