Venus to the Hoop|
By Sara Corbett '92, Doubleday, New York, 1997. 342pp.
by Ali McDonald '98
Women's basketball is on the rise and strength can be found within women athletes. These two themes are evident in Sara Corbett's book Venus to the Hoop. This book captures the essence of women's basketball as it traces the 1996 United States Olympic team through tryouts in the spring of 1995 to the final gold medal con-test at the 1996 Summer Games. Corbett follows the players, led by coach Tara VanDerveer, through their rigorous training and publicity routines, from weight room lifting to early morning running, to autograph sessions and photo shoots.
Any basketball player or fan can relate and recognize the hard work and effort that these young women put forth as they fulfilled their goal of capturing an Olympic gold medal. Corbett explains to the reader how it happened through interviews with the players and her own experience of traveling with the team. The hours spent on buses and practicing, along with the pressures of sponsors, family and friends that these women endured, become vivid. With any team there is a certain amount of politics, and the Olympic team was no exception. Corbett shows the tension of hopefuls competing for spots, the disagreements between the players and coaches and the special political atmosphere stemming from the formation of the ABL and WNBA, rival professional leagues. This book uncovers the origins of both organizations, formed to promote women's basketball by offering a professional league in America. What is unknown to many Americans, however, is the role that the women on the Olympic team played in the development of the leagues and the conflicting loyalties that were formed.
Corbett skillfully weaves each of the 12 women's biographies into the book. Names such as Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoops are thrown around by the media and seen in advertisements, but Corbett goes a step further, talking with each of them about their frustrations and worries and past basketball experiences, personalizing the book even further.
A true celebration of the strength of women athletes, Venus to the Hoop sheds new light on the pro-gress of women's basketball and the time and effort that made the 1996 women's Olympic squad a "dream team" in its own right. While the Olympic men captured much of the media spotlight and enjoyed greater financial backing, the women found a way within themselves to win the gold medal. As a woman and an athlete, I felt Venus to the Hoop gave a new meaning and honor to both. Women's athletics has much to be proud of within the United States, and the 12 women who comprised the 1996 Olympic team exemplify this to the utmost.
Ali MacDonald is a four-year member of the women's basketball team and majors in political science.
Preventive Stress Management In Organizations
by Linden Summers, Jr.
In his forward, Dr. Paul Ross, president of the American Institute of Stress, identifies the extremely wide range of conditions in which stress has been implicated and goes on to observe that "this book thoroughly addresses them and every other conceivable component of organizational stress" (p. Xv). I agree. While the senior author (James Campbell Quick, Colgate '68) acknowledges the book's antecedent in a 1984 publication (Organizational Stress And Pre-ventive Management), this is not merely a revised edition of that widely acclaimed work, even though it does retain some of the basic principles stated so well back then. He does, indeed, "extend, elaborate and refine" that earlier work.
Over the intervening dozen or so years, the field has grown exponentially; these authors are, nonetheless, on top of it. Thirty-eight pages of references, ranging from 1910 to 1996, is evidence of their mastery of the field. Even more persuasive of that breadth and depth is the manner in which resources are woven so effectively into the text. His basic concept is drawn from public health principles (of prevention and intervention at primary, secondary and tertiary levels). To continue that medical orientation a bit further, there is an exo-skeleton, if you will, organizing the 15 chapters. Each chapter elaborates on one or two aspects from their basic outline and the sequence of chapters build consistently on each other. Consequently, the internal logic of the book flows and the individual chapters articulate quite effectively. One senses the clarity and logical progression of the text even on the first reading and the basic outline, re-introduced at the beginning of each chapter, with the specific contents of that chapter highlighted by shading, offers the reader a ready guide as to how the topics under consideration fit into the book's whole scheme.
Applying the basic concepts of primary, secondary and tertiary intervention (and/or prevention) to an organizational approach to stress management is a brilliant, clarifying application and is well-argued throughout the book. As the authors note, "the book sets forth a public health, psychological and preventive medicine framework for understanding the stress process and the responsible actions or interventions individuals, groups and organizations may employ in successfully adapting to stress and stressful events." Of the 15 chapters, two are devoted to organizational changes and modifications; three others "address strategies for changing and modifying individual perceptions, attitudes and behaviors to enhance individual health and well-being."
In their presentation of these matters, their coverage is well-nigh encyclopedic and elegantly referenced. This is a book that can well serve two functions and groups: (a) as a text for medical, public health or other graduate students, as well as advanced undergraduates; and (b) as a resource both general and specific for practitioners in psychology and organizational development or business executives. While a good bit of the content may be common knowledge among various professionals who deal with stress and stress management, the breadth and depth of the book makes it a useful compendium to have at one's elbow.
Dr. Summers recently retired after 36 years at Colgate, first as a professor in the education department and, since 1981, as director of the university's counseling and psychological services.
The Reagan Reversal
by Charles Naef
This succinct, lucid book explains why, when and how the Reagan administration abruptly changed its confrontational policy towards the Soviet Union and initiated a rapprochement that led to the ending of the cold war. It makes an important contribution to our understanding of Reagan's personality, presidential leadership and superpower relations in the nuclear age. This is a landmark academic study of American politics and international relations. Its well-written and suspenseful presentation of a compelling scholarly analysis should appeal to anyone interested in public affairs.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Reagan reversal occurred already at the beginning of 1984. The last quarter of 1983 was a time when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union had deteriorated to their lowest level since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Accusations and counter-charges over the tragic downing of KAL flight 007, which strayed into Russian airspace, the Soviet walkout from all arms control negotiations in protest over the U.S. deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles, the American invasion of Grenada, the terrorist attack on the U.S. Marine Corps compound in Beirut -all had compounded to heighten tensions and inflame public opinion. Yet it was precisely within this time frame that President Reagan personally initiated a more conciliatory policy towards the Soviet Union -15 months prior to Gorbachev's accession to the Kremlin leadership.
The reversal was clearly not in response to a more forthcoming Soviet posture. Fischer examines three competing explanations. First, that it was caused by adverse public opinion in the face of the approaching 1984 presidential election. Although the admin-istration's belligerent Soviet policy and largest peacetime arms buildup in American history had encountered congressional resistance and energized a grassroots nuclear freeze movement, the timing of the reversal coincided with increased public support for the administration's hard-line stance. While political considerations are always a factor, they are not sufficient and cannot explain the timing of the reversal.
A second explanation asserts that Reagan was a passive, hands-off president and that secretary of state George Shultz and the new national security adviser "Bud" McFarlane, who favored a more conciliatory approach, had won the bureaucratic struggle over the direction of Soviet policy. But the phalanx of hard-liners and long time personal friends of the president, which included defense secretary Caspar Weinberger, presidential counselor Edwin Meese III and CIA chief William Casey, were then still the dominant players in the national security establishment. They had prevailed upon the president to rescind his original choice of national security adviser, James Baker -the man who later helped end the cold war as secretary of state under President Bush. The presence of Shultz and McFarlane merely reinforced Reagan's determination to engage the Kremlin in a constructive dialogue, while he continued battling communism in the western hemisphere and the Third World.
Reagan, like Eisenhower before him, could be a "hands-on president" who acted on his own insight and judgment when he felt deeply about an issue. He demonstrated this when he insisted on trading arms for hostages and funneling aid to the Nicaraguan insurgents in violation of a congressional ban that led to the Iran-Contra Affair. His inability to accept the logicand morality of mutual assured destruction caused him to push the strategic defense initiative that had been initially resisted by the Pentagon. In advancing a third explanation, Fischer concludes that it was Reagan's fear of nuclear war that caused the reversal.
Reagan had a wake-up call when he stood at the brink of inadvertent nuclear war in November 1983. The new Soviet leader Yuri Andro-pov, a former KGB chief, had an obsessive fear that the Reagan administration's belligerent rhetoric and provocative actions, including the deployment of the Pershing II, portended a nuclear first strike. With Soviet intelligence-gathering focused on preparations for a nuclear missile attack, a large-scale NATO exercise, with code name Able Archer, and that simulating an American nuclear response to a Soviet invasion, triggered a panicked Soviet reaction. Fortunately the NATO exercise ended just as Soviet nuclear-capable aircraft were being alerted for a possible preemptive strike.
In his memoirs, An American Life (1990), Reagan recounts his surprise to have learned after three years in office that "many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans." Unlike the Cuban missile crisis that exposed the public to the danger of nuclear war, this near-miss of a nuclear exchange was kept from public view. But it did shake the president and commander-in-chief. Fischer explains that Reagan was known to entertain a haunting vision of a nuclear Armageddon and that he had been primed by the downing of KAL 007, a preview screening of the The Day After -a television special that depicted in graphic human terms the consequences of a nuclear strike on Omaha -and a Pentagon briefing with a hypothetical scenario that included the destruction of Washington. The Soviet response to Able Archer was the catalyst that caused Reagan to focus his personal attention on the amelioration of Soviet-American relations, arms control negotiations and confidence-building measures, with the goal of nuclear disarmament.
Although Reagan had declared his wish to make "nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete" when he publicly launched his strategic defense initiative, neither the Russians nor most commentators in the West discerned at the time that Reagan was at heart a nuclear abolitionist. Even though he rejected a nuclear freeze as insufficient, his deeply held personal convictions were more closely aligned with its supporters than with the views of the nuclear establishment. Not long after having denounced the "evil empire," Reagan assured the Soviet leadership in a watershed speech of January 16, 1984 -and in several private communications -that while they had ideological differences, the United States and the Soviet Union faced a common enemy -the threat of nuclear war. He established the agenda that would guide the Soviet-American dialogue for the rest of his presidency and laid down principles on which the cold war would end. Two years later, following his encounter with Reagan at the Geneva summit, Gorbachev presented to the Supreme Soviet a timetable for nuclear disarmament and conventional arms reductions. The New York Times discounted the speech as propaganda, but the next few years convinced skeptics that Reagan and Gorbachev really meant to end the arms race and the cold war.
In conclusion the author addresses theoretical and methodological issues. She cautions against the attempt to derive grand theories from individual cases and to apply them to others without regard to the particular context and circumstances of each case. This particular policy reversal was leader-driven and the product of individual learning by an authoritative decision-maker under the emotional stress of a nuclear crisis. She compares Reagan's conversion to that of president Kennedy. Both leaders abandoned their hard-line approach towards the Kremlin in the wake of a nuclear crisis. "Nuclear fears brought about nuclear learning," she concludes. For his January 16, 1984 watershed speech Reagan borrowed a passage from a speech Kennedy had given shortly after the Cuban missile crisis: "Let us not be blind to our differences, but let us direct our attention to our common interests, and to solving our differences."
After half a century scholars are continuing to debate the origins of the cold war. The debate over its end is still in an early stage. This book establishes certain benchmarks that other scholars will not be able to ignore. For now, until archival sources shed more light, it sets an earlier date for the beginning of the process that ended the cold war and assigns president Reagan the leading role in the pre-Gorbachev phase. Although the protagonist is no longer in a position to recollect, the author has been able to interview key advisers, including Weinberger and McFarlane, in addition to drawing her evidence from available memoirs, the public record and published studies. Although some scholars will certainly disagree with her thesis, it would be difficult to find fault with its clear and skillful presentation.
A political science major at Colgate, Beth Fischer was able to observe the gradual change in Soviet-American relations during the fall of 1984 as a member of the Geneva study group under the direction of professor Roland Blum. The following semester, for my course on problems of arms control and disarmament, she examined in her term paper Reagan's world view and its bearing on national security policy. After receiving the Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, she taught there for three years with the rank of assistant professor of political science. She teaches currently at Carleton University's Norman Paterson graduate school of international relations in Ottawa. As the co-author of a forthcoming book, The Constitution and American Foreign Policy, she is contributing a chapter on the U.S. decision not to sign the treaty banning anti-personnel land mines.
Charles Naef is Emeritus Professor of Political Science