Ron Cunningham: Two Sams
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.
It's a few days early, but I wanted to say Happy Birthday to the two Sams.
Uncle Sam of course. Whose craggy visage will be much in evidence Wednesday on America's 236th birthday.
And his much younger brother — a kid really — Samuel I. Greenberg.
Born on the Fourth of July.
One hundred years ago.
If you are a regular Sun reader, his name will ring a bell. It's appeared just about every month in our Voice of the People section for as long as I can remember.
Sam being one of our most faithful letter writers.
Some of his "greatest hits":
On health care: "Money spent for good medical and dental care for children brings good dividends. We need a healthy next generation."
On Wall Street greed: "What has happened to old-fashioned virtues like prudence, thrift, caution, and common-sense?"
On elections: "Don't be afraid to ask questions. Think for yourself (which is hard)."
In the Internet age, his letters still arrive via snail mail. Pecked out on an honest-to-goodness typewriter. Final revisions inked in.
As an editor I appreciate that he writes with an admirable economy of words. That he gets in, gets out and gets on with his life.
The other day I dropped in to visit with Dr. Greenberg at his Village apartment, where he still lives independently.
He was easy to find once I spotted the "Amnesty International" and Greenpeace" stickers on his door.
"I see politicians on TV and get impatient when they go on and on. What did they say?" he told me. "I appreciate people who say what they have to say clearly and unambiguously."
His has been an eventful century.
When Uncle Sam called, during World War II, Greenberg, a newly minted physician, joined the Army Medical Corps and went to Europe with the troops.
Back home again he became a psychiatrist, raised a family, began his practice, wrote a couple of books, and eventually landed here in Gainesville, where for many years he held dual appointments at Shands and the VA Medical Center.
And always he wrote letters to the editor.
"When I lived in New York I wrote to The New York Times," he said. "When I lived in Miami, I wrote to the Miami Herald. In Gainesville, I write to The Sun."
"There are things that get my attention," he said. "And I get angry."
Angry about an unnecessary war in Iraq and a wasteful war on drugs.
Angry about the lack of integrity in politics.
Angry about big banks running amok.
"A reputation used to be a banker's most valuable asset," he mused. "Now there is so much greed."
He gets angry and he writes a letter.
Retired now. Widowed twice. His children grown up and moved on. Dr. Greenberg still sits down once a month and writes to The Sun.
On my way out, I glanced at the typewriter on his table and chided "You know, Dr. Greenberg, people do use email now."
To which Sam the younger chuckled, reflected, and then slowly replied.
"I guess I'm not very comfortable with the 21st century."
Welcome to the club, pal.
And Happy Birthday.
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