In Response to: In Memoriam [6]

The Sept. 19 issue is another remarkable edition of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, rife with fascinating and engaging content compelling one to consume it, like so many others, cover to cover. I was saddened to read about the death of professor emeritus Richard Burgi (Campus Notebook), who in the course of his remarkable life had mastered at least five various European languages, plus of course English (“Greeks thought he was Greek, Russians thought he was Russian”). The note brought to mind the old bromide that “those who have mastered three languages are called trilingual, those who have mastered two languages are called bilingual, and those who have mastered one are called American.”

This is meant humorously, of course, but it could be mocked as part and parcel of our American exceptionalism so popularly embraced right now. I hope that Princeton does not plan funding cuts – like so many other universities – to those departments (like the languages) that are deemed “nonessential” for the curriculum, because to trumpet this particular American exceptionalism probably would not serve any useful purpose toward our respectful standing among others.