A young man making his dreams come true; the death of Daryl Gates; Virginia’s Confederate History Month

Making the grade

Re “A salute to a striver,” April 9

Thank you for the beautiful article about Tyki Nelworth.

I’m a 66-year-old, white, retired schoolteacher who was born and raised in Southern California. I got drafted during the Vietnam fiasco and joined the Air Force -- so, against my will, I’m a veteran also. Everything was made pretty easy for me by wonderful parents, brothers and sisters.

For a kid to do what Nelworth has done with his life so far -- to overcome adversity and earn admittance and a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point -- boggles my mind. Reading his reaction to all the love he’s getting now brought tears to my eyes. It’s no wonder people adore him. It looks as though he’d be hard not to love.

I hope the rest of his life is as good as he deserves. I wish I could read something like this every day.

Steve Jorgensen
Dana Point

It is nice to read some good news about a young black man.

I hope The Times runs a follow-up article. West Point is a great school, but Nelworth is going to be 3,000 miles away from family and friends. It can be lonely and there is a lot of pressure.

I wish him luck. Congratulations to his teachers and family.

Frank Martinez
The writer is a first lieutenant in the Army.

Remembering Daryl Gates

Re “Daryl F. Gates dies at 83; innovative but controversial chief of the LAPD,” Web-only, April 16

Longtime Los Angeles Chief of Police Daryl F. Gates, who passed away Friday, was effective in reducing crime, but at a heavy cost.

By alienating minorities, who were becoming the new majority in Los Angeles, he created political and social unrest and discontent, which negated a lot of the good that he accomplished.

Kenneth Zimmerman
Huntington Beach

It was the greatest honor of my professional life to have worked for Chief Gates. He was a man, and like all of us he had his flaws and his shortcomings. He was the first to acknowledge this.

But I observed firsthand his caring and compassion, and his complete devotion to the citizens of Los Angeles. He was always willing to hear a contrary or critical point of view, and he always put the thoughts and feelings of others before his own.

On the night before the Police Commission relieved him from duty during the Rodney King era -- an action later overturned in court -- I was the last of his staff to conduct business with him. He saw how tightly wound I was, and his first thought was to put me at ease. By rights he ought to have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He was a leader, an innovator and a role model.

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying: “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

One of those rough men has left us. We are less for his passing. But we are the greater for the time he was with us.

Rest in peace, Chief.

Paul R. Coble
The writer is a retired LAPD captain.

Virginia, past and present

Re “Confederate history lesson,” Editorial, April 10

As a Southerner born in Virginia, whose ancestors lived through those tragic years, I am surprised at Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s failure to acknowledge slavery’s relationship to the Civil War.

That said, for Virginians who were raised on stories of that valiant struggle, it is the story of the Southern soldier that takes center stage. It is thrilling to walk those Virginia battlefields, to stand behind the stone wall at Fredericksburg where Ambrose Burnside was repulsed, or to walk Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, where thousands of Confederate dead are buried.

At each of those places, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the rebel yell and the sound of the guns.

There is no intention to ignore the issues of slavery. For us it is important to acknowledge the commitment and sacrifice of soldiers, most of whom did not own slaves and were simply defending their homeland.

Daniel Witman

The Confederacy represents slavery itself.

Americans are angered by the fact that McDonnell did not mention slavery, but we should be angry that he deemed it appropriate to glorify Confederate America at all.

Regardless of the individual motives of the soldiers, the Confederacy fought to keep slavery in the United States.

We should be remembering the Union soldiers who fought for a free and emancipated America, not the other way around.

James Bachmayer
Coto de Caza

Wouldn’t most people find it amusing that the Republican governor and attorney general of Virginia are pressing for the glorification of a Confederacy that fought against the United States led by the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln?

Richard Cole

Now that Virginia has declared Confederate History Month, let’s have all the Southwestern states that were once part of Mexico have their own history month.

They could study how the U.S. stole much of Mexico.

Arturo Adame
Redondo Beach

A sinking feeling for boat owners

Re “Marina plan doesn’t float critics’ boats,” April 10

Marina del Rey had 5,895 slips in 1995. Now there are 4,731. Over 800 more small slips may be doomed under redevelopment schemes, yet the county plans to build only 271 dry storage spaces.

Do the math. Small-boat owners are getting short shrift.

They can’t just hang their boats on a hoist until dry storage becomes available. A few find slips at other harbors, but many of those are gentrifying too. Boaters are being permanently displaced -- not only from the harbor but from boating altogether.

The Coastal Commission found that L.A. County is not acting in conformity with the Coastal Act, and one of its key recommendations is that there be no further reduction in the overall number of slips and no further reduction in the number of slips under 35 feet.

We concur. Objection to county redevelopment plans is not anti-development; it is anti-bad-redevelopment. There are viable alternatives.

Nancy Vernon Marino
Marina del Rey
The writer is co-director of We ARE Marina del Rey.

Keeping prayer in its place

Re “Prayer vote polarizes Lancaster,” April 11

Prayerful people who desire to publicly vocalize their religious beliefs are constitutionally free to do so in a multitude of venues. But whether visiting the DMV or attending City Council meetings, I am constitutionally protected from being subjected to government-sanctioned religious ceremony.

Lancaster voters are better served by focused, hardworking elected officials than by council chamber prayers.

Donn Umber
Santa Monica

Helping others

Re “An exodus out of addiction,” Column One, April 10

Thank you for your story on Beit T’Shuvah, which is more than a synagogue and rehab center.

I teach Hebrew school, and every year I lead our high schoolers on a field trip to Beit T’Shuvah. It’s easily the highlight of the year; the people from Beit T’Shuvah talk to -- and get through to -- my students as no one else could. I firmly believe that more than a few kids didn’t go down a dangerous path thanks to the folks at Beit T’Shuvah. They should be proud of themselves not only for kicking their habits and rebuilding their lives but for positively affecting the hundreds of Jewish kids I and others have brought there.

Joey Gold
Redondo Beach

The Holocaust

Re “Counting the memories,” April 12

Sometime in the 1960s, I was shopping at my local department store in Northern California and standing patiently behind a woman being a bit rude to the salesclerk.

I was getting upset with her, and then I noticed the number tattooed on her arm and thought to myself, “That’s OK, honey, you’ve been through hell and can be rude.”

I’ve never forgotten that moment, and I still get chills when I remember that incident.

Jo Ann Michetti
Rancho Palos Verdes