The front-page photo in the Sept. 12 edition of The Portland Press Herald showing President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama side by side with former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush was a fitting finale to the highly emotional tribute to the 9/11 victims and survivors.

Their appearance together was a statement, not of opposing political parties and their diverse ideologies, but of Americans united in a moment of great sorrow.

One can only hope that our Congress, also composed of Americans, charged with the responsibility of governing our nation for the benefit of all its citizens, not just the privileged few, will set aside their political squabbling, their own selfish agendas, and adopt the same unity of purpose displayed at the 9/11 ceremonies.

The maxim, “United we stand, divided we fall,” has never been more meaningful than at this critical moment in our history.

Sam Kamin

Cumberland

Jetport could help tourism with better bag service 

Portland and Maine have recognized the importance of tourism for economic development.

As Maine’s No. 1 industry, tourism relies heavily not only on Maine’s natural beauty but also on how tourists are received and treated — the “customer service” provided.

Customer service involves far more than how guests are treated at hotels and B&Bs, or the service they receive from restaurants and tour providers. Customer service begins as soon as the “person from away” first arrives.

The Portland International Jetport, specifically the airport’s baggage claim operation, does an extremely poor job in welcoming tourists.

Due to my past negative experiences with the baggage claim service and the cost of checking bags, I usually do not check my bags. On Sept. 22, my apprehensions about checking bags were further reinforced.

My plane from Charlotte, N.C., landed in Portland at exactly 8:41 p.m., but the bags were not unloaded until well after 9:30 p.m.

The only explanations provided by both the US Airways bag agent and manager were that they were busy and only had one person unloading the bags, and “anyway US Airways contracts with Piedmont to unload baggage.”

Their excuses are totally unacceptable, as many flights are scheduled to arrive at the same time every evening and staffing arrangements can be made.

A large number of visitors to Maine, whether tourists or business travelers, accompanied me on my flight.

The poor service they received at baggage claim presented these travelers with a frustrating, negative experience that adversely tainted their first impression of the state’s hospitality.

David B. Jones

Associate professor, USM

Portland

Here’s a simple suggestion for cutting excess spending 

For those senators and representatives in Congress who want to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, and who want to cut back on the Postal Service functions, I have a great idea on how to start cutting back on wasteful federal spending. I suggest they all agree to reduce their yearly compensation from the federal government by one-half.

I would also suggest that they agree to accept only one-half of their monthly expense account requests. Last, but not least, I suggest they pay for their own health care costs.

How’s that for a start on cutting wasteful federal government spending? And stop calling Social Security payments an entitlement for those of us who have paid into it for 55 years before collecting one cent.

Donald H. Kincaid

Chebeague Island

Benefits of not working encourage unemployment 

A recent editorial regarding unemployment overlooks one area that is significant in the bigger picture. Many people today do not want to work because our nanny government has made them comfortable being on the dole.

The social engineering of the past three to four decades has created a huge number of people who would rather not have a job and the related hard work and responsibility. Why bother when being on welfare is nearly as good as working?

It is much more fun to stay at home watching TV, playing computer games, doing drugs and making babies than working hard, being responsible and meeting the expectations of a boss.

Prior to all the government entitlements, if you didn’t have a job you starved. Now having no job is a badge of honor and you get to see how much you can get away with. It is my opinion that many will not seek employment until we stop giving away the farm.

When we cease the handouts, jobs will be created and unemployment will be reduced.

As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

George A. Fogg

North Yarmouth

Aging Agency’s volunteers provide help worth funding

RSVP (the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) is a program that for nearly 40 years has helped harness the skill and dedication of older Mainers by linking them to volunteer opportunities in nonprofit and health care organizations.

In April of this year, Congress reduced federal funding for RSVP nationwide by 20 percent. In response, Southern Maine Agency on Aging, the sponsor of RSVP in York and Cumberland counties, was forced to shrink staff hours devoted to the program and eliminate mileage reimbursement for the volunteers. The steps have made it much more difficult for the program to recruit volunteers to help out in their communities.

Now, more cuts in all government programs are being contemplated as Congress works on deficit reduction plans.

As president of the Advisory Council for RSVP in southern Maine, I have personally seen the benefits that RSVP provides. The volunteers feel important and needed, something which research shows actually benefits their health. The communities benefit from the skill, experience, dedication and time of the volunteers as they work with local community organizations to meet community needs.

I encourage those in government to preserve RSVP. It is a proven, cost-effective solution to our need for more citizen involvement.

Barbara Miller

Hollis