- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Article a pretty picture of gallery director

I am honored to have been the subject of your tribute in the Arts and Entertainment section ("The face of change," Feb. 26), and I am delighted that your writer so accurately caught the sense of what I have attempted during my 18 years at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.

However, she gives me too much individual credit for some of the achievements of my term as director. I could not possible have done everything myself. Most of the great acquisitions we have made and exhibitions we have mounted during my tenure are the work of our talented curators and historians and our Exhibitions Office; I conceived the form of our simple and innovative Calendar of Events, but the execution was entirely the work of our brilliant Department of Design and Production.

My role most often has been to give guidance, encouragement and direction to the exceptional group of professionals who constitute the gallery staff. They have been a major force in making the National Portrait Gallery the vibrant and fascinating place it has become, and I wanted the readers of your article to know how much is owed to these remarkable people. They will always have my gratitude and admiration.

ALAN FERN

Director

National Portrait Gallery

Washington

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Thank you for your excellent article about the outstanding role the National Portrait Gallery's outgoing director, Alan Fern, had on making the Smithsonian Institution museum the premier museum of its kind.

As a volunteer docent of 11 years, I have had the pleasure of conducting tours of both its permanent collection and special exhibits, as well as giving outreach slide talks in schools and to other organizations. Mr. Fern's leadership in ensuring the collection and special exhibits, the latter dedicated to both individuals and eras and facets of our national history, were of the best quality gave us all the positive opportunity to both entertain and educate visitors to the National Portrait Gallery. He will be sorely missed.

It is unfortunate that as a farewell gift the Smithsonian Institution has chosen to denigrate the fine institution he has built by not only reducing the museum's share of the space in the old Patent Office Building, but also by inexplicably making the assigned exhibition space noncontiguous. It is hoped the Board of Regents and public interest will generate a careful review of the rational of this decision and see that it is fully justified.

EUGENE J. BUEHLER

Washington

Reader judges judicial litmus tests

It was wrong for some conservatives to use a litmus test to exclude prospective judges who held pro-choice views. That approach infringes upon judicial independence. Similarly, it is wrong to use a litmus test to exclude people from judicial consideration just because they are pro-life. The whole record of judicial nominees should be considered. As a Yale Law School graduate and prominent attorney, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton should know that, but she said she would employ such a litmus test.

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani correctly rejects the litmus test. Now comes a report that an employee of the Democratic polling firm, Global Strategy Group, told a resident of Westchester County, N.Y., "If elected, Rudy Giuliani said he would vote for Supreme Court judges who are against abortion." And Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton's communications director said: "Giuliani has said that he might vote for an anti-Roe [vs. Wade] Supreme Court nominee" ("RFK campaign chief slams Hillary," Feb. 23). So the Clinton campaign, instead of taking the opportunity to correct Mrs. Clinton's mistake, is compounding her erroneous litmus test by distorting and attacking Mr. Giuliani's principled stand for judicial independence.

The principle involved is more important than a single issue. I'm pro-choice (but have doubts about partial-birth abortion) and a lifelong registered Democrat (but I vote according to the merit of a particular candidate).

NATHAN DODELL

Rockville

The Concord Coalition clarifies 'odd characterizations' about group

I'm writing in response to Donald Lambro's odd characterization of the Concord Coalition in two recent articles, "Party stays in hands of conservatives" (News Analysis, Feb. 20) and "A strange and angry campaign" (Commentary, Feb. 24).

Mr. Lambro seems to imply that we are part of the "anti-establishment wing" of the Republican Party. For the record, the Concord Coalition is not a "wing" of either political party. We are a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse, support or oppose candidates for public office or political parties. Founded in 1992 by former Sen. Warren Rudman, New Hampshire Republican, and Paul Tsongas, Massachusetts Democrat, the organization is now co-chaired by Mr. Rudman and former Sen. Sam Nunn, with former Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson serving as president.

Mr. Lambro also characterizes the organization as "hostile to pro-life issues" and a supporter of "stringent new government regulations on campaign contributions and issue-advocacy ads." Again, for the record, the Concord Coalition does not take positions on such issues.

The organization advocates the need for fiscal discipline, balanced budgets, real Social Security and Medicare reform and paying down the national debt. As a leading advocate of fiscal vigilance, the Concord Coalition concerns itself only with budgetary and economic issues. The organization certainly does not take a stand on such matters as abortion and campaign finance reform.

ROBERT L. BIXBY

Executive director

The Concord Coalition

Washington

Father of our country deserves his own holiday

Feb. 22 used to be special. It was a national holiday that called for celebrations all over the United States, especially in the city of Washington. Flags would fly, bands would play, politicians would orate, newspapers would cover all the special events, and schools would hold commemorative exercises. Does anyone remember why we did it? This year Feb. 22 was a workday, and the preceding day was Presidents Day, whatever that means. When I was a Boy Scout, our troop made a trip to Mount Vernon on Feb. 22, 1933, where our bugler played taps at George Washington's tomb.

Feb. 22 used to be a special day when we commemorated the life of George Washington. He deserved all the honor we could give him because he was, as much as any one man could be, the father of his country. He put together an army of men from 13 Colonies that had different ideas about their destiny; he defeated a superior British army; and he served as president for eight tumultuous years. Without him the United States as we know it might not have been born. If ever there was an American who deserved a holiday of his own, it is George Washington.

Neither on Presidents Day nor on George Washington's birthday did I hear Washington's name mentioned on radio or television. I missed seeing it in the press. Do schoolchildren know who he is? I urge that we dump Presidents Day and bring back Washington's Birthday as a national holiday. Presidents Day is an empty name. Are we honoring President Clinton on that day? Do we include Presidents Nixon and Fillmore? Let's get back to the basics and celebrate Washington's birthday with the honor that is due him.

WILLIAM C. BANNING

Silver Spring

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