Additional Letters to the Editor, The University of Chicago Magazine (July-August, 2012, pages 9-10) in response to the article about George Anastaplo in the March-April 2012 issue and the related letters to the editor in the May-June 2012 issue of the Magazine. (The original article and the earlier letters have been previously posted here and here.)
Appreciation for the Anastaplos
As a former student of George Anastaplo, AB’48, JD’51, PhD’64, I am writing to say that “One Door Closes” (Mar–Apr/12) caught, exactly, the character of the man.
When Mr. Anastaplo says that “if [my supporters] had expressed their admiration publicly in the 1950s, the Character Committee would probably have backed away from demands that were being made only of me,” he is stating a sad fact. Once the danger is past, the crowd wants to always stand with the hero.
In his gracious letter to the Magazine in the May–June issue, Mr. Anastaplo wrote that, due to serious health conditions, his wife, Sara, is unable to appreciate his recognition in the Magazine. How unfortunate that “the crowd” arrived so late after the main event. However, Sara Anastaplo, AM’49, saw into the hearts of people, and the “nattering crowd” meant little to her.
Mary Young, CER’95
It was with great pleasure I read the excellent profile of George Anastaplo in the Mar–Apr/12 issue. Mr. Anastaplo has remained a hero of mine ever since I read about his case as a second-year law student in 1966. His self-sacrificing courage in defense of the principles of the Declaration of Independence has had significant reverberations in international politics and revolutionary political change. In 1991, partly as a tribute to Anastaplo, I produced a photographic exhibit in what was then still the Soviet Union (in the glasnost period) titled Positive Negatives: Portraits of Courageous Russian and American Political Figures. The photographs were portraits of individuals who had risked their lives, their liberty, or their careers to promote peace or in defense of civil rights. Not only was George Anastaplo’s portrait among them, but the highly publicized exhibit motto was the last sentence of Justice Black’s dissent in the Anastaplo case: “We must not be afraid to be free.”
Positive Negatives was the first time in the history of the Soviet Union that Russian dissidents were depicted as heroes rather than “hooligans and criminals.” Its opening at the Fortress of Peter and Paul in 1990 was sponsored by the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) newspaper Smena, which headlined the motto in the issue announcing the exhibit with a full back-page story. The opening was televised nationally and widely reported in the Russian press. In an extraordinary act of courage at the time, it inspired the founders of the first independent student radio station in the Soviet Union—who had hung the exhibit poster on their studio wall—to broadcast against the reactionary coup that had interned Mikhail Gorbachev until he was released by Yeltsin’s efforts.
It is sad and instructive to reflect on the fact that, at that moment of history, the Russian people evidently took more seriously than many Americans did the message of civil liberty and the right to dissent reflected in Anastaplo’s courageous defense of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.