Open letter to John Kerry, the new secretary of State

In the wake of your Senate confirmation as secretary of State, I write to offer my congratulations and wish you well on your tenure. Having followed your career for some years, I have no doubt you will serve our nation with dignity and honor.

As a 40-year veteran of the Foreign Service, I was encouraged to hear you praise the men and women who serve our nation overseas. I thank you for your passion, your words, and your recognition of the “sacrifices and commitment the men and women of the Foreign Service make every day on behalf of America.” I also thank you for condemning Iran for recently imprisoning an American citizen, Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who was sentenced this week to eight years in prison for evangelizing in the Islamic Republic.

Abedini, a 32-year-old father of two, denied evangelizing in Iran and claims he had only returned to his native land to help establish an orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, a prison many in our 53 came to know too well.

At your hearing, you said that you “condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and release him.” 

As one of the Americans held hostage in Tehran for 444 days from 1979-1981, I deeply respect those sentiments and we acutely understand the impact of the violation of human rights on people. I — along with 52 others — made a supreme sacrifice. We were physically abused and subjected to mock executions and unspeakable acts of violence and terror. Many in our 53, indeed, never made it home whole. There has been alcoholism, divorce and suicide among not only the hostages but their family members, who endured 444 days of abject intense fear where death came with every unlocked cell or knock on the door. Through it all, our commitment — to our nation, to our post, to our values, to each other — never wavered.

At your confirmation hearing, you said, “I wish everyone in the country could see and understand firsthand the devotion, loyalty and amazingly hard, often dangerous work that our diplomats on the front lines do. There is service which earns our country an enormous return on our investment. I will be proud and honored to represent them and I will work hard to augment our public diplomacy so that the story is told at home and abroad.”

For more than three long decades, my colleagues and I have sought justice for the extensive physical trauma and mental anguish we faced during our very difficult imprisonment. We seek accountability. We seek the rights granted to every other group of victims of state-sponsored terrorism. 

You wish all Americans could see and understand firsthand the devotion, loyalty and amazingly hard, often dangerous work of our nation’s diplomats. I implore you to give meaning to these words by supporting those who have endured — and continue to endure — so much. Tell our story. Recognize our sacrifice. Remember our commitment. 

From Lowell Bruce Laingen, former chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the senior American official held hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis, Washington, D.C.

Our forefathers got it right on electoral vote

I find the proposals to base Virginia’s electoral vote on individual congressional districts, and to reapportion them more along party lines, ironic given the GOP championship of the state. Our Founding Fathers chose THAT entity for representation — not too big, not too small — for a reason: to avoid mob rule. Valuing election choices by district, if visualized as just a bit larger than tiny towns, brings into focus just how easily distortion in the election process can occur, particularly in rural areas, due to local, face-to-face social pressure, real or imagined.

A nationwide popular vote would dilute the framers’ intent in the opposite direction, with the added modern concern of the reach of technology, which has substantially shrunk the world.

Perhaps our leaders should take a step back into time to acquaint themselves with history and appreciate, rather than make a farce of, our forefathers’ logic ... because they got it right.

From Karen Ann DeLuca, Alexandria, Va.

Birthright citizenship ought to be abolished

The Senate’s top-ranking Democratic leaders, Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinRepublicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown No. 2 Senate Democrat opposes Trump's Supreme Court pick The Hill’s Whip List: 32 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (Ill.) and Charles SchumerCharles SchumerGOP strategist: Trump's dealmaking mojo 'went over like a fart in a hurricane' McConnell: ObamaCare 'status quo' will stay in place moving forward NRA launches M Supreme Court ad MORE (N.Y.), and the Senate’s two leading Republican authorities on immigration reform, Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioRepublicans giving Univision the cold shoulder: report Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump's Labor pick Senators introduce new Iran sanctions MORE (Fla.) and John McCainJohn McCainSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Republicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown Nunes endures another rough day MORE (Ariz.), are talking about big immigration reform.

But the media is not asking this question: Is part of this immigration reform going to include doing away with birthright citizenship, and will it be a top priority? 

This has been a plague to this country since slavery was abolished, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. This is a question that many people would like an answer to. 

From Larry Hattis, Odenville, Ala.