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Letters: Paying for College, Orrin Hatch, Alzheimer's

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Letters: Paying for College, Orrin Hatch, Alzheimer's

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Letters: Paying for College, Orrin Hatch, Alzheimer's

Letters: Paying for College, Orrin Hatch, Alzheimer's

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Melissa Block reads from our listener's letters from the last week. She reads from letters written in response to our series on paying for college, the interview with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and our interviews with Tom and Joyce DeBaggio. Block also reads from letters in response to Robert Siegel's interview with truck driver, bounty hunter and opera singer Carl Tanner.


On Thursday, we read from your e-mails. And this week, we've received quite a few comments about our series on paying for college. Kimberly Romer(ph) writes, `I was shocked by the self-absorbed families featured in your first story. Nobody is entitled to anything. You have to work for what you want.' She continues, `Nowhere in the story did I hear about any of the students, A, working to contribute to tuition; B, opting to live at home and commute to school; or C, opting for community college. Life is full of brutally difficult choices, and students need to learn this lesson well before college.'

Rebecca Perez, the student featured in our second story, received a lot of praise. She's the daughter of a Mexican farm worker who's now at Stanford University.

Ms. REBECCA PEREZ (College Student): Everyday, like, I get up in the morning and I just look at the campus, and I say, man, I worked this hard for this luxury--fountains all over the place; I don't hear traffic. I'm just in this little bubble.

BLOCK: `Congratulations to Rebecca,' writes listener Leticia Bruce of Brandon, Mississippi. `I too grew up in a poor family. My father was an immigrant from Mexico. He worked the graveyard shift as a machinist for 25 years to support a family of six. My dream was to go to UCLA, and I knew my family could never afford it. So I worked hard, participated in every academic activity, and searched high and low for every scholarship I could remotely get my hands on.'

Turning to politics now and our interview with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch about the debate over judicial filibusters. Greg Limb(ph) of Austin, Texas, writes, `I was so furious with the cooing softballs that I ripped the headphones from my ears and nearly fell off the ladder I was painting from. We're you that oblivious to the fact that you were speaking to one of the Senate's chief perpetrators of petty partisanship during the Clinton era? Ask tough questions in your interviews. Have some guts.'

My conversations with Tom and Joyce DeBaggio brought in a number of letters. Many of you remember the DeBaggios from a series aired on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED five years ago. They spoke with Noah Adams shortly after Tom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.

`Thank you for this report,' writes listener Carol Zanalotti(ph). `I've often wondered about how Tom was progressing. Then as I was coming home from work, there he was, still alive, a mere shadow of the man I had first heard, but still here and doing the best he could to keep a grasp on reality. My tears came, but I also felt hope for him.'

Electra Greer(ph) had a different reaction. `I found the latest installment to be disturbing for reasons far beyond its content. As important as it is to give insight into the tragedy of Alzheimer's, your approach is beginning to feel exploitative and manipulative. Forgive the imperfect analogy, but your listeners are not callow adolescents in need of a modern-day "Flowers for Algernon." We and the DeBaggio family deserve more respect than that.'

Finally, comments on our colleague Robert Siegel's interview with truck driver and bounty hunter-turned opera singer Carl Tanner. Listener Art Spears of Farmington Hills, Michigan, writes, `I'm surprised nobody mentioned or played the folk song by Harry Chapin called "Mr. Tanner." It's about a simple man from a small town who yearns to be an opera singer.'

Mary Eisenfeld(ph) ads, `The Mr. Tanner of Harry Chapin's song was shattered by the reviews of the critics, and never sang again. How perfect is it that the real-life Mr. Tanner pays them no mind and sings for his audience and himself.'

Well, we usually don't do requests, but here's a little taste of Harry Chapin's "Mr. Tanner."

(Soundbite of "Mr. Tanner")

Mr. HARRY CHAPIN: (Singing) And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang; it just made him whole.

BLOCK: We want to hear from you. Write to us at And when you do, please remember to tell us where you live and how you pronounce your name.

(Soundbite of "Mr. Tanner")

Mr. CHAPIN: (Singing) His friends kept working on him to try music out full time...

BLOCK: One final note: There's been some disagreement and confusion about the hometown of one of our commentators, Carol Wasserman. One of her essays aired on Tuesday. The town in spelled W-A-R-E-H-A-M. And if you go to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, you can click and hear this pronunciation for the town in southeast Massachusetts.

Unidentified Man #1: Wareham (pronounced Wear-um)

BLOCK: Wareham (pronounced Wear-um). No audible H. But our fearless producer Franklin Cater wasn't satisfied, so he started working the phones.

(Soundbite of ringing telephone)

Unidentified Woman #1: Thank you for calling the Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham) Free Library. Please listen carefully...

(Soundbite of ringing telephone)

Unidentified Man #2: Hello, you have reached the Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham) Town Hall. Our office hours are...

(Soundbite of ringing telephone)

Sergeant JACINTO (Wareham Police): Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham) police.

FRANKLIN CATER: My name is Franklin Cater. I'm with NPR in Washington. And who do I have here on the phone?

Sgt. JACINTO: Sergeant Jacinto.

CATER: OK, Sergeant. And you're with the Police Department there. And tell me the name of the town.

Sgt. JACINTO: Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham).

CATER: Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham).


CATER: Terrific. Thank you very much.

What's the name of the store that you work for?

Unidentified Woman #2: Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham) Country Market.

CATER: How long have you lived in the town there?

Unidentified Woman #2: Fifteen years.

CATER: Fifteen years.

Unidentified Woman #2: Yeah.

CATER: Does pretty much everybody in town say the name of the town the same way?

Unidentified Woman #2: Basically, yes.

CATER: Are there some newcomers who get it wrong?

Unidentified Woman #2: Yes.

CATER: But you're telling me it's--the H is definitely not silent, right?

Unidentified Woman #2: Right.

CATER: So, once again, if you wouldn't mind just telling me the name of the town.

Unidentified Woman #2: Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham).

CATER: Well, thanks very much.

Unidentified Woman #2: You're welcome.

CATER: Carol, why don't you just tell me, since in the never-ending search for truth as journalists we are constantly questioning the name of your town and it seems to run counter to somehow our intuition here at NPR, if you could just tell me your name and the name of the town that you live in.

CAROL WASSERMAN: My name is Carol Wasserman, and I live in the completely counterintuitive town of Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham), Massachusetts. Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham).

BLOCK: So until we can master Wareham (pronounced Weah-ham), we'll be going with Wareham (pronounced Wear-ham), not Wareham (pronounced Wear-um).

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