This week’s “Free for All” letters.

Don't stoke college madness

The April 18 front-page article “Accepted or rejected? Sharing college decisions with the world” fueled the Ivy League’s absurd game by informing us of one senior’s acceptance to Carleton College and the University of California at Los Angeles, two fine schools, by placing the information in parentheses, as if these were consolation prizes. A sane student would be thrilled to receive an acceptance from either of those schools or many, many other wonderful colleges and universities. Stop the madness.

Carol A. Joffe, Rockville

The U.S. still imports oil

The April 13 news article “Chevron’s $33 billion deal for Anadarko may mean more oil consolidations” observed that “the United States now exports oil and gas, which was unthinkable a decade ago.” While the strides the U.S. oil industry has made in this period are indeed nothing short of remarkable, the statement could give readers the impression that the United States is now more than self-sufficient in oil. But we still import just under 10 million barrels of crude oil per day on a “gross” basis, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

It is true legal restrictions against the export of oil were lifted several years ago, and we export significant amounts of oil and refined products, bringing down “net” imports substantially. But we remain a net importer, requiring foreign oil to meet our total daily consumption, which averages about 20 million barrels a day, while our growing domestic crude oil production stands at just over 12 million barrels per day.

Kenneth A. Barry, Vienna

Female athletes are snubbed again

Missing from the April 15 paper was any mention of the U.S. women’s hockey team winning its fifth straight gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship.

What’s up with that? All Americans should know about and be proud of these young women and their accomplishment. There was plenty of time between the April 14 win and the publication of the paper, so a late ending is not an excuse.

R.S. Beeman, North Beach


The April 18 “Big Nate.” (Lincoln Peirce/Andrews McMeel Syndication for UFS)
A 'Big' disappointment

The April 18 “Big Nate” comic strip has me outraged and saddened. That the cartoonist chose to make fun of Nate in a “young [Adolf] Hitler” haircut at any time, and even worse on the day before the Passover holiday, had me in tears. Surely, he could have found so many others with funny haircuts. This is not acceptable in an era in which racism is growing.

Melanie Gross Greenfield, Kensington

A clown Cabinet would be better

The April 13 “Drawing Board” cartoon by Kal badly mischaracterized the real situation in Washington. There is nothing funny about Trump appointees “who are already total disasters.”  They are not, as was depicted, “clowns”; they are simply “disasters.”  

As a first cousin once removed of “the King of Clowns,” Felix Adler, I found this depiction offensive. Adler was known as “the White House Clown.” That is probably marketing hyperbole, but I do have a photograph of him with the grandchildren of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Clowns bring joy and laughter. The disasters in the White House, starting at the top, bring nothing of the sort. I couldn’t agree more with Kal’s depiction of President Trump. If anything, Trump could improve things in the White House by bringing on some real clowns. Please, next time, depict one of the president’s daily disasters in a more accurate and less “Trump-like” way. The real clowns among us deserve it.

Richard L. Sheffield, Hummelstown, Pa.

Put the majority first

The April 13 news article “Divided Supreme Court says execution can proceed” highlighted Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissent (in paragraph four) long before it quoted from the majority opinion (in paragraph 12). A reader is left to wonder whether this prioritization was because of a bias toward one opinion over the other. Post articles about Supreme Court decisions should highlight the majority opinion first. It is, after all, the decision of the court.

Stephen Gold, McLean

Better sources of enlightenment

We found Carolyn Hax’s advice in her April 13 Style column, “How to find your life-driven purpose,” to do no harm, but provide little help, to a reader struggling with one of the Big Questions of Life: “What on earth am I here for?” Her nostrum of “There are days I get out of bed only — only — because I really want coffee” would not strike most readers as a satisfying answer.

Entire philosophies and religions have been founded on substantive answers to such questions. Therefore, it was surprising that these substantive answers were not even alluded to in the column. Of course, ignoring millennia of human thought and divine insight is certainly Hax’s privilege. 

Perhaps the next time a reader asks one of the Big Questions of Life, it would be useful to run a parallel column with a response from a member of the faith community. The goal would be to enlighten readers, not to set up a debate to inflame them.

Donald and Karen Barnes, Alexandria


Eddie Adams participates in a music performance class at George Mason University in Fairfax. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
A student's saving grace

The April 14 Metro article “In music, a saving grace” detailed how music and, specifically, the cello helped Eddie Adams, a very talented young man, find meaning in his life and deal with personal difficulties. I had tears in my eyes when I finished reading the article. It was warm, touching, realistic, candid and a brutal awakening about the dangers of society losing such human potential because of a lack of basic support for living expenses. It was touching to see how his teacher lent him her cello and paid some of his expenses.

I also felt sad and had many questions. Every year, I make significant contributions to charity. I now doubt whether these contributions would not be more effective if directed to help Adams or other promising talented people in difficulty. Wouldn’t humanity be poorer if these promising young minds got in similar trouble because of a lack of money? Thank you again for bringing us such rich and touching journalism. It makes us all more human and ready to act. I’ve faced times of living with tight budgets, although nothing comparable to Adams’s case. It saps energy, creates resentment and makes it difficult to concentrate, much less dream.  

M.E. Freire, Bethesda

Was the Weedon family’s decision about where their child will attend high school really front-page news [“A D.C. family grapples with the politics of choosing a school,” April 14]?

Research shows that Malia Weedon will be fine whether she attends Eastern High School or, more likely, the School Without Walls. Attending her local high school will not sap her intelligence nor diminish her college opportunities.

The more interesting story within the article was that of Christian Johnson, a current Eastern student (who didn’t even merit a photograph in print), and how gentrification has affected his opportunities.

Surely his family had more to say. Surely, there were other Eastern students to interview.

In music, a saving grace” [Metro], about Eddie Adams, a gifted musician at George Mason University, would have made an inspiring front-page article that day as a story of how college can be challenging for students without means, regardless of their talents.

Best of luck to the Weedon family. But, please, stop focusing on the gentrifiers.

Kathleen Byrne Heidecker, Gettysburg, Pa.

It's no myth: Talking can help

Talk about confirmation bias. To support his bizarre inclusion of “talking about your problems helps” as a “myth” in his April 14 Outlook essay “Five myths: Psychology,” Stephen Ilardi quoted a meta-analysis of one group-debriefing program as evidence that the “talking cure” doesn’t work. Has Ilardi not seen any of the hundreds of meta-studies — covering far more than the infinitesimal sample of psychotherapy outcome research Ilardi cited — that consistently show psychotherapy to be at least as effective as medication for mild to moderate presentations of many different mental disorders?

Psychotherapy takes longer to work, the research shows, but its benefits last longer and there are many fewer side effects and complications. As far as Ilardi’s claim for the superiority of “evidenced-based” procedures, research consistently shows that comparisons between different psychotherapies usually end in tie scores; no technique emerges as better.

Bennett Pologe, New York

The writer is a clinical psychologist.

Stephen Ilardi’s second myth perpetuated its own insidious myth by implying that “talking about your problems” does not help. In fact, ample irrefutable empirical evidence demonstrates that psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are efficacious.

The benefits of psychodynamic therapy continue to increase beyond the course of treatment, and the effect size is much greater than medications. It was irresponsible and reckless of Ilardi to dissuade anyone from seeking help from a licensed, reputable professional.

Georgia Royalty, Ellicott City

The writer is a licensed psychologist and psychoanalyst.


From left: Peggy Carter Jones, Clayton Powell, Brenda Cox, Charles Carpenter, Noni Dabney and Sharon Cochraham on April 10 outside Hoffman-Boston, their former all-black school in Arlington. (Dayna Smith/For the Washington Post)
Thank you to the pioneers

I really appreciated the April 13 Metro article “ ‘It was sink or swim,’ ” which gave a snapshot of Arlington County’s school desegregation era. As a Wakefield High School alum from several years later (Class of 1973), I remember a diverse student population and faculty, but I never paused to think about how we got that way. Thanks for sharing the stories of the pioneers from Hoffman-Boston and other schools who paved the way.

David C. McCord, Bel Air, Md.

Think nationally, map locally

I read with interest the April 14 news article “A snapshot of where migrants go after they’re released into the U.S.” However, the map that ran with the article was not helpful in understanding what is happening in the Washington area.

Immigration is a local and national issue. It would have been helpful if The Post, our local paper, had unbundled the one big blob on the map for the D.C. area with its various jurisdictions. How the District, Maryland and Virginia are affected by immigration is of interest to this reader.

Barbara Kaufmann, Washington


Tiger Woods reacts after winning the Masters in Augusta, Ga., on April 14. (David J. Phillip/AP)
'A comeback for the ages'

Thanks for putting Tiger Woods’s winning the 2019 Masters golf tournament on the April 15 front page [“For Woods, a comeback for the ages”]. 

I was beginning to think The Post was turning into nothing more than a crime report, but my faith was restored.

Inez W. Wehrli, Montgomery Village

An offensive critique

Reading “Valerie Jarrett’s winding path to the Obamas’ inner circle,” Randall Kennedy’s April 14 Book World review of Valerie Jarrett’s memoir, “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward,” was disappointing. Kennedy’s critique rested on standards that were not germane to the substance of Jarrett’s book or to her role as senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

Jarrett is the longest-serving senior presidential adviser in history. In her new memoir, she detailed her remarkable life and her role in the lives of the Obamas, from personal and professional friendship to ultimate professional adviser. Her memoir is highly relatable, reminiscent of former first lady Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” Jarrett inspires through example and makes accessible the leadership traits she intentionally cultivated.

The most offensive point of Kennedy’s review was his criticism of Jarrett for not describing in sufficient detail her romantic interests. I cannot locate any other memoirs by presidential advisers that addressed their intimate partnerships or whether the author felt ready to date given their status as a single father.

Kennedy also seemed to challenge Jarrett’s commitment to racial equality and questioned whether she, a woman of color, has struggled enough with questions of how to give back to the black community. Jarrett offered an instructive account of how the Obama administration approached these struggles head-on, engaging with everyone to dig more deeply into systemic inequalities to overcome them. Kennedy asserted that Jarrett’s accounts of her White House activities are “wan.” It is true: She does not toot her own horn. Jarrett’s humility should be admired, not admonished. It’s her voice. It’s also a book that tells, in her own authentic way, about this particular woman’s extraordinary journey.

Jarrett deserves credit for her path-breaking work promoting the rights of women and girls. She chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls and co-created the United State of Women, which she still chairs. That Kennedy failed to recognize her work for all women and girls, and instead was disappointed that Jarrett didn’t include more information about her love life, spoke volumes about his critique.

Diane L. Rosenfeld, Cambridge, Mass.