ISSUE | EQUALITY

Signs of change

Sunday's article noting the imbalance of gender representation in Pennsylvania government ("Struggle for political equity persists") closely aligns with the work of the Women Donors Network's Reflective Democracy Campaign. In groundbreaking research on the race and gender of elected officials and candidates from the federal to the county level, we asked, "Who leads us?" and "Who runs (in) America?" The answer was: white men. With just 31 percent of the population, white men make up 65 percent of elected officials and 66 percent of candidates.

Still, we are optimistic. Our national poll revealed that a bipartisan majority of voters reject the "old boys' club" for the "best and the brightest" and want political leaders who reflect the full talents of the American people.

The Reflective Democracy Campaign is working to dismantle the barriers to equal representation, such as the gatekeeping role of political parties and the financial burden of seeking and holding office. Learn more at wholeads.us.

|Kimberly C. Oxholm, chair, Women Donors Network, Philadelphia

'Empowered'

We three women head a committee of Narberth residents who oppose the conversion of a neighborhood church to commercial use. Disappointed that several members of our Borough Council did not hear our concerns, we decided, 10 days before the election, to mount a write-in campaign in protest. We knew we could not win, not because of our sex, but because of our late start.

Nonetheless, we garnered more than 10 percent of the vote, a record for such a campaign. A month later, we continue to receive encouragement for our committee's efforts from men and women. We don't feel invisible; we feel empowered. And we can't wait for the next election.

|Terry Fox, Rosemary McDonough, and Susan Snow, chairs, Committee for a Residential Narberth

ISSUE | AIDS DAY

Check your status

Tuesday marked the 28th annual World AIDS Day. I'm still shocked when I hear about an AIDS death. Yes, people still die of AIDS - not in the numbers they used to, but I remain very concerned when young people tell me they never discuss sex in school until someone gets pregnant.

After three decades of this pandemic, it's difficult to believe there is an HIV/AIDS epicenter in the South that rivals sub-Saharan Africa's. The disease is spreading among people burdened by poverty, lack of information, and access to health care.

The first step in stopping the spread of HIV is knowing your status. Anyone can use the in-home version of OraQuick, the same test that doctors have been using for 10 years.

This holiday season, give yourself and your loved ones the best gift - knowing your status.

|Sheryl Lee Ralph, founding director, DIVA Foundation, West Philadelphia

ISSUE | GUN CONTROL

NRA rules

Ours is a nation of contradictions. We hesitate to take in needy refugees from a war in Syria, but the FBI has records that show we have sold at least 2,000 lethal weapons to people considered potential terrorists. It is clear that the National Rifle Association trumps human kindness.

|Martin H. Gingold, Warwick

ISSUE | CONSTRUCTION JOBS

Military vets are trained and ready to work

As I read about the lack of trained and qualified construction trades workers ("Construction jobs are a booming business," Nov. 25), I couldn't help but think: another story about an industry unable to find skilled and qualified workers, yet no mention of the highly skilled and experienced military veterans we have returning to this region every day, ready, eager, and qualified to begin work.

As a Navy officer (now retired), I often marveled at the skills I saw Seabees bring to the job. Those builders, electricians, utility workers, heavy-equipment operators, and civil engineers could be flown anywhere in the world at a moment's notice and build a functional city in a very short time, often facing deadlines and pressures the average civilian worker should hope to never face.

Navy welders fabricate and repair structural and high-pressure piping systems on a daily basis. The training these men and women receive matches and often exceeds that received in the civilian industry.

Our other military services also have highly qualified and experienced members reentering the work force.

Our returning military men and women have honorably served and excelled in the best-educated, best-trained, and most technically advanced military the world has seen. They bring with them a work ethic often not seen in civilian industry. To hear employers say they can't find qualified workers only says they may not be looking in the right place.

|Joe Eastman, Philadelphia, comservinit@yahoo.com

ISSUE | PRINCETON PROTESTS

Woodrow Wilson doesn't deserve honors

Nicolaus Mills misunderstands the protests against Princeton University's honoring of Woodrow Wilson, and so he misrepresents the demands being put forth ("Acknowledge our history, warts and all," Friday).

It is not that Wilson "comes up short by modern standards." Even by the standards of his time, Wilson's proud and unregenerate racism was particularly egregious. Wilson not only held reprehensible views; he imposed them on U.S. policy, causing the demotion or dismissal of thousands of African American civil servants and entrenching official racist policies for decades.

Is that the kind of morality and behavior that Princeton wants to honor in buildings and programs?

|Robert DuPlessis, Philadelphia

ISSUE | PHILLY SPORTS

Forget pro teams;

root for amateurs

To improve our city's mental health, I propose that the media simply stop covering professional sports.

Instead, cover our extensive college sports - the Big Five plus Drexel - high schools, and other amateur sports. Temple and Penn have decent football teams. Villanova is ranked No. 8 in basketball, and the St. Joe's Hawks are always entertaining.

After all, the best sports story of the past few years has been Mo'ne Davis and the Taney Dragons. Next year's Olympics will probably feature at least a couple of rowers from Philadelphia.

Think what a boost it would be to the college and amateur athletes and their institutions to receive all the attention we presently devote to the pros. The tone of sports-talk radio might even improve.

|Bill Ewing, Philadelphia, william.ewing@verizon.net

ISSUE | HEALTH INSURANCE

Choice only one goal in care coverage

Sunday's story "Case of vanishing PPOs" takes the position of brokers and their clientele, but it requires context.

Complaints about the decline of preferred provider organizations, or PPOs, which offer more choices than health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, need to be viewed in the context of three health-policy goals: access (of which choice is a factor), cost, and quality. These goals tend to require trade-offs, because resources are limited by other demands (food, clothing, shelter, protection by military/police/firefighters). To achieve more of one goal (access or choice), other goals must be sacrificed.

In the case of Sunday's story, the element being sacrificed is cost. Either the cost will skyrocket, as it did in the 1970s and '80s, or the products (PPOs) will be deemed so expensive that they're not worth being put on the market. Why? Increased cost means plans or insurers have less control of prices they have to pay providers for the care given to covered individuals.

|Sanford M. Barth, adjunct professor, Jefferson College of Population Health, sanford.barth@jefferson.edu