Two women presidential scholars involved in the drafting and delivery of a letter to President Bush urging him to end US-sanctioned torture spoke about the experience recently with Amy Goodman on her Democracy Now! radio program. Mari Oye, the granddaughter of Japanese-Americans who were detained by the US during World War II, and Leah Anthony Libresco both agreed that they couldn’t let the opportunity to meet President Bush — which is one of the privileges for the elite high school graduates who receive the federal honor — pass by without making a statement. ‘I really felt I could not just go down and smile for the camera and not say anything,’ Oye told the Boston Globe.
Six scholars spearheaded the effort, writing the letter and collecting signatures from 50 of the 136 scholars before their meeting with the President. The letter read, ‘As members of the Presidential Scholars class of 2007, we have been told that we represent the best and brightest of our nation. Therefore, we believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions. We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants.’
Oye handed Bush the letter, which he read after the photo shoot. His only reply was, ‘We agree. America doesn’t torture people,’ according to Oye, the Globe reports. To that, Oye asked him to remove his signing statement that permits illegal renditions from the McCain anti-torture bill.