Letter of Recommendation
by Jonathan Brand
It is a pleasure to recommend John Doe to you. I teach in the Department of Political Science and had him in one of my classes last year. In addition, I serve as the Vice-President for Institutional and Budget Planning and have interacted with John on several budget-related issues at Grinnell College. Overall, I have been extremely impressed by his academic abilities and drive to achieve excellence.
John is someone who will work as hard as it takes to achieve excellence. In my class "The Nature, Function and Limits of the Law", I permit students to write and submit as many drafts of their papers as they wish in advance of formally submitting them. Most students appreciate the offer but never take me up on it. John, on the other hand, wrote numerous drafts of his last paper on homosexual hate crimes (which he and I reviewed and discussed together) before submitting it to me. As one would hope, this process significantly increased the quality of this paper. In addition, through our writing process, he took criticism in the constructive vein in which it was intended. He recognized that the overall goal was to produce a first-rate paper that clearly articulates a point, and he appreciated any comments that moved him in that direction. Ultimately, he addressed a very complicated legal matter and produced one of the best papers in the class.
Class participation is also crucial to succeeding in my class, and John was one of the leaders in this area. Within this context, he is not just able to evaluate critically a given topic, but he can also articulate his thoughts beautifully. For example, when our class discussed Korematsu v. United States, John did a wonderful job of setting out the competing interests that the U.S. Supreme Court had to consider in reaching its decision. He also successfully parsed through the Court's relatively complicated rationale. He is also gifted in that he feels free to say what he thinks yet is also able to respect other people's positions. Perhaps even more importantly, he is able to shift his own positions based upon the persuasiveness of contrary evidence. In discussing Korematsu, John's initial instinct was to criticize the US. Government for having placed those of Japanese descent in detention camps during World War II. He shared this instinct with everyone else in class. Yet, by the end of our class discussion , unlike many others, he had come to appreciate why the U.S. Government established the detention camps in the first place: as a result of the hysteria that had gripped the West Coast after Pearl Harbor.
There is no doubt in my mind that John will be a huge success in graduate school and beyond. As I have tried to explain above, he approaches everything he does with immense and genuine interest and he is a real worker. I think his success will flow not solely from his intellectual abilities, though, but also from his extremely positive attitude. As an example, in class, we engaged in several difficult discussions related to homosexuality and the U.S. Supreme Court case Romer v. Evans. I marveled at John's ability to approach these discussions from an academic or intellectual perspective, notwithstanding the fact that they were perhaps difficult for him to take at a personal level. While some in class disagreed with the Supreme Court's ruling in Romer, John maintained his wonderful attitude and pursued the class discussions as far as they could go.
I also have known John in his capacity as member of our student government association. Consistent with the above, he demonstrated a particular strength in helping to find common ground and mediate issues that arose between the general student body and the administration or board of trustees. More specifically, he was the driving force behind open fora last year to discuss proposed tuition increases at the College. He respects other points of view and is also one who is able to take a position and stand by it (as long as he truly believes that it is the best position).
In sum, I think extremely highly of John and also think that he has all the qualities to make an excellent Truman Scholar and graduate student. He is erudite. He is articulate. He is intellectually curious. He has a genuine interest in others. And he is mature. I recommend him to you without any reservations.
Vice President for Institutional and Budget Planning