Your Letters: Sotomayor, Benny Goodman

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Host Scott Simon reads a few letters from Weekend Edition listeners.


Time now for your letters.

(Soundbite of typewriter and music)

SIMON: Many comments about our discussion last week with NPR News analyst Juan Williams on the controversy over a 2001 speech by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who said, quote, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

We read the sentence with wise Latina woman and white male reversed and asked Juan Williams, who's a scholar of the American Civil Rights Movement, to reflect.

Sarah Wahls(ph) of Durham, North Carolina wrote: Of course out of context and in reverse, the sentence is outrageous. What Simon and Williams did not do was address what Sotomayor's speech had been about. In that speech she wrestled with the ways in which identity can influence one's judgment. And she was also citing specific sex discrimination cases and how the gender of the judge impacted his or her rulings. I expect more nuance, thoughtfulness, and context out of NPR, and Scott Simon in particular.

Our remembrance of Benny Goodman on the centennial of his birth by reporter Tom Vitale struck a chord with our listeners.

Peter Ward of Melrose, Massachusetts, writes: Thanks for remembering the music and life of Benny Goodman. But if you're going to recall his achievements regarding the hiring of African-American jazz musicians Teddy Wilson and Charlie Christian, you mustn't ignore the jazz impresario John Hammond.

Hammond had discovered Wilson and Christian and other musicians already performing with great African-American bands in Kansas City and elsewhere. And it was Hammond who helped arrange and urge Goodman to break the racial barrier and feature these great artists.

It's not clear if Goodman would have made the move without pressure from Hammond, but Hammond's role cannot be overstated.

Listeners also alerted us to a couple of errors in last week's show. NPR's Anthony Kuhn named the wrong former South Korean president who had taken his life. He was of course referring to the recent suicide of former President Roh Moo-hyun.

We also misstated the posthumous home of Bushman, the late beloved simian from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. We said Bushman had been stuffed and was still on display at the zoo. Bushman indeed was stuffed, but since 1951 he's been on exhibit in the Field Museum. It's merely a Bushman exhibit at the zoo, in addition to a whole lot of modern simians, primates and great apes.

I beg forgiveness from my fellow Chicagoans and fellow simians.

We welcome your letters and your comments, even the ones that make a monkey out of me. Go to and click on Contact Us. Please tell us where you live and how to pronounce your name. And you can also reach me on Twitter. My user name, nprscottsimon, all one word. Our editors and producers are at nprweekend, all one word.

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