Friday, May 1, 2009

100 days and lasting memories

The President of the United States has made it past the 100 days milestone. The first 100 days of a presidency will give you an insight as to what direction the President wants to go and to take advantage of the grace period given to him after his election.

President Obama has been aggressive during his first 100 days, especially concerning the economy. Stimulus packages have been passed, CEOs have been fired, and reforms have either been passed or proposed. The President has set an agenda for the end of the conflict in Iraq and refocused efforts in Pakistan. He has stopped a band of pirates and has met with 90 world leaders.

Now his focus in on a possible pandemic, drug wars south of the U.S border, saving the U.S. auto industry, a new Supreme Court appointment. But this is just the start.

President George W. Bush has cruised through his first 100 days and was moving as if he truly had a mandate from the American people. Then a plane hit one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City at 9:05 am on September 11, 2001. The Bush Presidency was changed forever.

Four years is a long time in political terms, especially serving as President. It will be interesting to see what will be the defining moment of the Obama Presidency.

Speaking about moments and memories, I could not miss this opportunity to talk about two friends of mine who have passed away since the last time I wrote on the blog. The first was a lady named Debra Noble. Debra worked for AT&T for a number of years, but that was not the work that defined her.

Debra was a union leader and a political activist here in Mississippi. A native of Natchez, Debra, along with her union partner Brenda Scott, did more to contribute to the elections of African-Americans than a lot of "political insiders". Debra was a leader in the Communications Workers of America and was instrumental in developing the successful phone bank operations for many union-supported candidates, including myself and President Obama.

More than that Debra had a commodity that very few in Mississippi politics possess: Loyalty. Debra was one of those people that would always show up for the showdown, any time, any place, anywhere. Her love for the union, Mississippi and a good game of Scrabble will be sorely missed.

My other friend that passed on to a better place was the Honorable Charles Young, Sr. Charles and I served together in the Mississippi House of Representatives for nine years. He had been in the House since 1979 representing the city of Meridian and was one of the founders of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, which is now the second largest African-American state delegation in the country.

My nickname for Charles was "the Fox", partly for his charming ways with the ladies even as he advanced in age, but mostly for his keen political instincts and his ability to moderate even the most heated debates. He was a strong businessman, running the family hair products business for years and being the owner of two television stations and two hotels in his lifetime. Charles was also a pioneer, becoming the first African-American to be a member of the Meridian Chamber of Commerce.

He and I would talk a lot during breaks in the session about anything from politics to civil rights history to being a good father to your children. He took pride in his children and his daughter, who is around my age, will probably win his seat in the special election this June, while his son will take over the family business. He treated me as one of his children as well, giving me encouragement and advice when needed, and always with a smile. My last great memory of him was when I last ran for the U.S. Senate, taking the time during the campaign to stop by his office at the E.F. Young Manufacturing Company, and just talk about life in general and how proud he was of me and Obama.

One of the traditions of the House was to have senior members give prayers or speeches on the last day of the session. Aaron Henry had a special Irish prayer he would say, and then when Dr. Henry left, Charles took up the mantle of saying that prayer. As I say goodbye, I feel it is only fitting that I end this entry with that prayer:

"May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand."