In today's paper I wrote about Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense who publishes his memoir "Duty" tomorrow. It's rare to receive a positive e-mail from a reader, and even rarer to get one that recognizes exactly what I was trying to do with a specific piece (the Gates piece hinges on the sentence about a glacier). So pardon this indulgence, but I want to submit for the record a lovely e-mail from a reader named John:
I read your article about Robert Gates online. Didn't intend to read the whole thing but I found there something that we all have been missing for a long time. There was an expression of civility, of honesty, of an understanding that we see footprints made long ago, now part of the rock, or cement, that forms our nation's capitol [sic]. Memories float on the cold wind reminding us of dreams other people left to us to fulfill. There is a vacuum there now. We need to talk. We need as a nation to quit screaming and shouting at each other and sit down and talk about our problems. Your article is a start in that direction. Thank you. I will remember it.
And just as meaningful, but in a different way, from a reader named Joseph:
I read your article on Robert Gates in today's Washington Post and am very glad you wrote it. Robert Gates was an enigma to me during his years as Secretary of Defense, and now I see him as a thoughtful, feeling person who led our Defense Department well. I am a retired military officer and defense engineer a few years older than Mr. Gates, and I share his anguish over the human cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also believe we have not been served well by our elected leaders since the 9/11 attack. I don't expect everyone to agree with Mr. Gates, but I think I understand his thinking since I'm doing something similar in examining my own life. Its a very personal process.