The July 30 editorial "Missed Opportunity" said that Sen. John F. Kerry failed to demonstrate real leadership on building democracy in Iraq and protecting Social Security's fiscal integrity. It also criticized as unrealistic his plans to discourage outsourcing and foster energy independence.

I disagree with the assumption that leadership requires the acknowledgment of certain challenges followed by a presentation of the specific means for surmounting them. Perhaps the greatest leaders reframe the way in which they perceive events and get others to join them in a new way of thinking. Mohandas Gandhi, Albert Einstein and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind as leaders who changed the way people think and, by extension, the way society functioned.

The greatest danger to democracy is not terrorism, energy dependency or globalization. It is conformity of thought. The biggest danger facing the United States is the belief that we are the brightest and most powerful nation and will remain so because that is our wish.

Mr. Kerry's job is to get elected. Only then can he halt our drift toward self-absorbed egocentrism and paranoia, a certain path to stagnation and decline.

Einstein said that the scientist's role is not to make life simple but to make it simpler. The next man to lead the United Sates must do the same thing.

JERRY SPIEGLER

Nitro, W. Va.

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The July 30 lead editorial calls Sen. John Kerry's acceptance speech "a disappointment," citing the fact that he did not "celebrate" the liberation of Afghanistan.

The British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Select Committee just released a report indicating that Afghanistan is on the verge of "imploding."

Because of the danger there, Doctors Without Borders has withdrawn from that country for the first time in more than two decades. Parliamentary elections have been postponed, and people are being killed at voter registration sites. Perhaps that is why Mr. Kerry found nothing to celebrate.

STACY PAULEY

Faber, Va.

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The "Missed Opportunity" editorial said, "The next 95 days will bring debates and other chances for voters to assess the two candidates," adding that Mr. Kerry's speech "may have been politically effective, [but] he fell short of demonstrating the kind of leadership the nation needs."

To quote Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road -- take it."

Mr. Kerry came to his fork in the road Thursday night and chose to play it safe rather than pick the leadership path. President Bush doesn't have that problem and therein lies his strength and the decisive qualities Americans respect.

PAUL SCHOENBAUM

Williamsburg