If ever there was a portrait of a hardworking, talented, gracious human being, you just painted one when you published the article on Tom Hanks. All I can say is, "Wow!" If only the rest of Hollywood could be as charismatic and humble....
Mary Rathman, Land O' Lakes, Fla.
Ever since I saw Tom Hanks in 1984's Splash I have enjoyed every one of his movies—including his "megaflops." I can't remember ever hearing a negative thing about him. Rita Wilson is truly a very lucky woman.
Michelle Wilson, Germantown, Md.
You're right. Tom Hanks is really, really nice. My daughter met him on the ski slopes in Park City, Utah, last year while on a spiritual retreat with our church youth group. He introduced himself to the young girls and chatted with them. The next day, he made a point to say hello. They didn't need a written autograph to remember him by; instead, he made a lasting impression in their hearts.
Susan A. Winstead, Orlando
Hollywood's "Mr. Nice Guy" is an understatement. Tom Hanks is so caring and unselfish it's hard not to fall in love with him.
Emily Viola, Fairport, N.Y.
David Van Blarigan
Dragging your teenage son into the bathroom and forcibly washing his mouth out with soap for the minor sin of calling a kid brother a "butt" is overreacting. Having him "kidnapped" and sent against his will to a "boot camp" for committing ordinary teen acts of rebellion is outrageous! Poor David Van Blarigan. His so-called Christian parents showed little tolerance or common sense. It is Sue and Jim Van Blarigan who need the behavior-modification training, not their son!
E. Boquer, Montreal
We are proud of Jim and Sue Van Blarigan for protecting their son David by sending him to a camp that could help him. Instead of waiting for David to hurt himself or someone else, they were responsible parents who cared enough to pay attention to his cries for help. As the leaders of a parenting class, we admire them for making this very difficult decision.
Larry and Sally McNabb, San Lorenzo, Calif.
Children are not property, they are people and citizens of this country and should have rights. If any citizen over the age of 18 were taken from their bed, transported to a foreign country and held against their will, the person or persons responsible would be on trial for kidnapping. As long as we continue to treat children of any age as though their rights depend on what their parents state is good for them, it sends a mixed message about child abuse and underlines the fact that in this country children still have very few rights.
Melanie Running, Portland, Ore.
Having been a teenager myself and having raised three of my own, I am well aware of the conflicts between parents and adolescents. However, reading about David Van Blarigan and the other youths' "mind alteration" at Tranquility Bay sent chills up my spine. Psychological professionals are almost unanimous that it is a natural phase of development to rebel against authority. The stricter and more "fundamentalist" the parent, the more resistant the child. Some do it by piercing their tongues; for others the passage requires more dramatic acting out.
Phillip Grace, Washington, D.C.
I am a father who chose to send my 16-year-old daughter to Tranquility Bay. In my opinion, your article has done a great injustice to this facility and the parents who have sent their children there. For a parent to simply sit back and let a teen do his or her own thing or wait till they grow out of it is not an appropriate solution when self-destructive behavior is involved. For me, Tranquility Bay was a well-researched and thought-out decision but the most painful one of my life. However, after eight months I am happy to say it has been the best thing I could have ever done for my daughter.
J. Garth Swartley, Douglassville, Pa.
Your article inferred that it was typical teenage behavior such as calling his brother names that caused us to send our son David to Tranquility Bay. We have met many families with children in this program, and none of them, including ourselves, would endure the trauma and expense of this "last resort" type of action if their children were not headed in a self-destructive direction. Your information came from people who did not know what was occurring in our home. Your focus on us as extremists distracted from the positive research you conveyed regarding the many youths whose lives are completely turned around by such programs. When we visited David last month for one week, we were very impressed with his progress and saw no evidence of fear. In fact, the graduates are so self-confident and such strong leaders that maybe you should retitle your article "Camp No-Fear."
Jim and Sue Van Blarigan, Oakland
First I would like to say that no one is making me write this and no one is telling me what to write. I am writing this out of my own free will and accord. I love my parents very much, and I am not angry at them or upset with them for sending me here. I have always been told that your parents always know what is best for you. I still believe that is true. I know that my parents made the right decision when they sent me to Tranquility Bay. I was not behaving at home, and I definitely needed something to get me back on track.
David Van Blarigan, Tranquility Bay, Jamaica
I had the opportunity to meet and appear onstage with Douglas Kennedy in Chicago during my term as international president of a collegiate academic honor society in the spring of 1995. The phrase I feel best describes him is "first-class." Thank you, PEOPLE, for showing the public that a family that usually receives media attention of a negative nature does indeed have bright sides, and one of the shining lights illuminating that bright side is Douglas Kennedy.
Kevin R. Braden, Malta, Ill.
Picks & Pans
As a soldier, the wife of a soldier and the daughter of a soldier, I would like to thank Steven Spielberg and everyone associated with Saving Private Ryan. Too often, Hollywood has portrayed soldiers as megalomaniacs in love with killing and blindly following orders. Mr. Spielberg shows soldiers for what they are—average men, caught by history, who are doing what they have to do in order to end the war and get back to their families. Duty does not mean blindly following orders, but rather choosing to commit yourself and your life to some larger ideal. This movie touched me at the core of my being. When it was over, all I could do was turn to my father, a veteran of two wars, and wordlessly put my arms around him in gratitude. Gratitude for his willingness to put his life on the line and gratitude for his survival.
Capt. Sharon T. Moore, via e-mail
In your review of the CD from Broadway's revival of Cabaret, the recording was unjustly compared to the 1972 movie. The revival appeals to a younger generation that may be experiencing Cabaret for the first time. Natasha Richardson, Ron Rifkin and Alan Cumming all received Tonys for their work in the show. Please give these actors and this beautifully renovated show the credit they justly deserve.
Jenny Lindsay, Kalamazoo, Mich.
On Newsstands Now
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