published Monday, October 10th, 2011

Unseemly plan for stamps

  • photo
    A postage stamp honors Mark Twain. If Twain were alive today might he tweet: "OMG, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated, LOL"? When Twain did read his premature obituary, he sent a letter assuring friends the report was overblown. But when was the last time you got a personal letter in the mail? If you live in a typical American household, it's been a while. According to the post office's annual survey, the average household gets one personal letter about every seven weeks.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

It is no secret that the U.S. Postal Service is in serious financial trouble. Billions of pieces of correspondence that once would have been sent by traditional mail are today sent by email, creating huge losses for the Postal Service.

But a recent plan by the agency to raise revenue in the face of those losses is unwise.

The Postal Service has long had an honorable policy of not issuing stamps featuring people who are still alive. Now, however, it is dropping that tradition and plans to start issuing stamps bearing the images of living entertainers, writers and others -- possibly even politicians!

Of course, many living Americans have made wonderful contributions to our society, and we have no desire to deny them appropriate recognition.

But it is unseemly for the Postal Service to place images of still-living Americans on stamps, just as it is unseemly to name government buildings or other government facilities for people who are still alive, or to put the images of living people on our money.

You may recall the understandable uproar a few years ago in Kentucky when that state's Daniel Boone Parkway was renamed the Hal Rogers Parkway -- after a sitting congressman. It's not that the people of Kentucky necessarily disliked Rogers. But they recognized the value of preserving the state's history and heritage -- and the inappropriateness of naming a road after a politician who was not only living but was still in Congress.

The same principle applies to the Postal Service's plan to create stamps to honor living Americans. It's just not appropriate.

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