The Life and Courage of Daniel Ellsberg, ‘a True American Hero’

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  • Setbacks in the Fight Against Maternal Mortality
  • A Trump Victory in 2024 Would Be ‘a Dark Day for Us All’
  • ‘A Small Slice of Hope’
  • Diversity in Orchestras

Daniel Ellsberg and his wife, Patricia. His disclosure in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers and its fallout left a stamp on history that defined the bulk of his life.Credit…Donal F. Holway/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Daniel Ellsberg, 1931-2023: Whistleblower Who Unveiled U.S. Deceit in Pentagon Papers” (obituary, front page, June 17):

Thank you for the excellent obituary recounting the life, career and legacy of Daniel Ellsberg.

I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Mr. Ellsberg in 2010 during one of the Portland, Ore., screenings of the documentary film about him, “The Most Dangerous Man in America.”

After the Q. and A., I approached him and began to thank him, but even as I was about to tell him that I was born in Saigon during the Tet offensive of 1968, I began to lose my composure and eventually broke down in front of the entire crowd.

Through my tears, gasps for air and apologies, I tried to convey my gratitude for a life that might have been drastically altered if it were not for his acts of courage, which I believe helped bring about the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. With a patient smile, one palm gently placed on my shoulder, and the other still engaged in our handshake, he whispered his response, “Thank you.”

It’s impossible to know where I would have ended up as the half-American child of a U.S. soldier if the U.S. had not gotten out of Vietnam a couple of years after the Pentagon Papers were released.

Where would my mother and I have found ourselves, as well as those thousands of U.S. service personnel and millions of refugees and noncombatants whose destinies were tethered to the clandestine decisions of bureaucrats, politicians and war planners?

It’s really hard to calculate, but fortunately in part because of Mr. Ellsberg, I’ll never have to do the math.

Mien Yockmann
Vancouver, Wash.

To the Editor:

The obituary of Daniel Ellsberg is a heroic story of courage, character and determination, when those virtues are sorely missing on the current American political scene. His efforts leaked the story of government deception and led to a Supreme Court decision in favor of a free, uncensored press, and to the Watergate crimes and the fall of President Richard Nixon.

What a difference between Mr. Ellsberg’s unauthorized possession of classified documents and that of our ex-president, who did not risk his freedom for the American people, but for his vulgar self-interest.

Robert S. April
New York

To the Editor:

Thanks for your excellent obituary of Daniel Ellsberg. His speaking truth to power has been a powerful gift to humanity!

I was a good friend of Dan’s and had the privilege of being arrested and going to jail with him for protesting nuclear weapons and the wars in Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan. He devoted his life to speaking out and acting to prevent and stop wars and the suicidal nuclear arms race.

Preparing for and threatening nuclear war is unconscionable. Inspired by Dan’s life, we need to step up to the plate and work to stop this crime against humanity before it is too late. Hopefully others will be inspired by Dan’s courage to become whistleblowers and speak truth in the face of the lies and half-truths by politicians and the mass media.

Thanks, Dan, for inspiring us to continue the good work you had been doing.

David Hartsough
San Francisco
The writer is a co-founder of World Beyond War and Nonviolent Peaceforce.

To the Editor:

As I read about Daniel Ellsberg, my first reaction was gratitude. A man willing to speak truth to power, whatever cost he might personally pay. A true American hero. One can only wish there were more like him today.

Lisa Dickieson

Setbacks in the Fight Against Maternal Mortality

Yeabu Kargbo, 19, rests post-delivery at a rural health center in northern Sierra Leone.Credit…Photographs by Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Sierra Leone Is Giving Me Hope,” by Nicholas Kristof (column, June 4):

Mr. Kristof is right to highlight the achievements in improving maternal and child health and reducing extreme poverty. Too much “doom and gloom” can mask all the good we have achieved and can drive donor fatigue and complacency.

Yet even as we celebrate those achievements, the combination of Covid-19, humanitarian crises, climate change and the rising cost of living have been rolling back progress. The decline in maternal deaths by an average of 2.7 percent per year between 2000 and 2015 has paused: Maternal mortality did not decline globally between 2016 and 2020.

Donor aid for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, which shot up by 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, has been on a downward trend, with a 2.3 percent decline between 2019 and 2021.

And still today, seven of every 10 maternal deaths are in Africa, and Black women in America are almost three times more likely to die in childbirth than non-Hispanic white women.

We can be proud of progress earlier this century, but a series of crises has shown us how fragile that was. We need new commitments, action and strong advocacy to reverse the recent negative trends.

Helen Clark
Auckland, New Zealand
The writer is a former prime minister of New Zealand and the chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

A Trump Victory in 2024 Would Be ‘a Dark Day for Us All’

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Allies Plan to Stifle Justice Dept.” (front page, June 16):

For me, the scariest thing about the former president’s candidacy is not Donald Trump himself — there have always been demagogues in American politics. Nor is it the craven politicians who enable his anti-American views for their own gain, or even the tens of millions of Americans who fervently support these views. The scariest thing is the quiet preparation in the Republican Party to take actions based on these views if Mr. Trump becomes president again.

Last time, Mr. Trump chose underlings like Jeff Sessions and William Barr — well-known figures who possessed at least a shred of honor, and who refused his most extreme demands. He won’t make that mistake if elected a second time.

Mr. Trump has always brought out the worst in people, and he has bent and twisted the Republican Party into something unrecognizable. A Trump victory in 2024 would allow him similarly to twist all of America into something nightmarish. It would be a dark day for us all.

Tim Shaw
Cambridge, Mass.

‘A Small Slice of Hope’

A photograph taken with a prism lens of a television image of Donald Trump after his federal court arraignment.Credit… Damon Winter/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “I Won’t Let Trump Invade My Brain,” by David Brooks (column, June 16):

It is difficult to retain a sense of optimism about the future these days when surrounded by the narcissism of our politicians, the angry voices of our fellow citizens and our decaying planet.

Mr. Brooks’s column brought me some comfort and a small slice of hope that maybe there are still enough of us who believe in ethical behavior and a real commitment to the common good that there is some hope for our planet and our collective future.

Chris Harrington
Portland, Ore.

Diversity in Orchestras

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Diversity Improves, but Not for All” (Arts, June 17):

So orchestras are now eager to find more Black players? For generations, while these orchestras were using cronyistic and outright discriminatory hiring practices, Black musicians found greater meaning and commercial success in their own traditions, from the blues and jazz to soul and hip-hop.

If orchestras are now truly intent on supporting Black Americans, rather than simply making their own enterprises appear more visibly inclusive, perhaps they could consider programming more Black music.

Ben Givan
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The writer is an associate professor of music at Skidmore College.

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