Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saints and Ain'ts

I wanted to write on these items separately as the thoughts first came to my head, but things in my life, which are still unfolding, dictated otherwise. More on that later. For now I want to comment on a couple of things.

First, I am so happy that the New Orleans Saints are going to their first Super Bowl. The Saints have basically been a symbol of professional athletic futility since 1967. They ruined great college players like Archie Manning and were the last stop for aging pros. Charleston Heston even played an aging Saints quarterback in a movie in which he died on the field. Fans used to wear bags on their heads when they came to Saints games.

Not anymore. Since 2006, the Saints have been one of the premier franchises in the league. Their glorious return to the Superdome, a stadium that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, symbolized a dawning of a new era in Saints and NFL history. I remember watching that first home game in the renovated Superdome against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. I believe I was the only non die-hard Saints fan that believed they were going to beat the Falcons, led at that time by Michael Vick. After forcing the Falcons to punt on their first possession, the Saints blocked the punt for a touchdown and the Dome was rocking. It has not stopped rocking since.

Drew Brees and Sean Payton have not only personally recovered from the hurricane's devastation, but they have helped an entire city revitalized itself. I do not believe that there is a NFL city that has more of a personal connection to their home team than New Orleans. Not even Green Bay, where the citizens own the team.

The Saints rising to the occasion to, in essence, beat a hometown hero to get to the Super Bowl is already the greatest story in sports this year. Now they have to beat another hometown legend to win it all. I know that no team is just happy to get to the championship, but win or lose, the Saints have given the people of New Orleans something to cheer about and look forward to, even as reminders of Katrina's destructive effect still remain, especially in the city's Ninth Ward.

Now to the Ain'ts. Dr. Ronald Mason made a crucial mistake this past week. Dr. Mason is the president of Jackson State University, my alma mater. Mason, who I voted for to get the position, has let me down by his lack of political acumen. Seems as though he drew up a plan to show how a merger of Mississippi's Historically Black Universities could work, even renaming the combined school Jacobs State University.

In his defense, Mason said the idea was just something he was playing with and it was not meant for public consumption. He later reiterated his earlier statement that he was not in favor of merging the HBCUs. However, now it is a perception problem.

Gov. Haley Barbour had earlier indicated that he wanted to merge the schools in order to shore up the state budget. Gov. Barbour served on the JSU Development Foundation Board during Mason's tenure. Therefore the perception is that Mason showed Barbour a model of how this could work and Barbour ran with it.

Now knowing both men I am assuming that it did not go down like that, but timing and perception is everything in politics. Initially, when Barbour made that recommendation, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, as a whole, said nothing, though it was known that they were against it. Yet when Dr. Mason, who is African-American, was implicated in devising a plan to make the merger work, it did not take them anytime to stand before the press and decry a university president they have never fully embraced.

Having said that, Dr. Mason has brought this fury on himself. In this day and age, when you put something on a computer and say e-mail it to some friends or colleagues, it is no telling where it might show up. Now if the Mississippi Legislature did the impossible and approved this merger, then it would have been prudent for Mason to put his thoughts out there in an electronic format to stay ahead of the move. By jumping the gun though, he added fuel to the fire and made a non-issue viable again. It will be interesting to see if he weathers this storm like others in the past. I personally believe the damage is beyond repair and that hindsight is now telling him he should have joined his law school roommate, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in the Department of Justice.

Another ain't is the national Democratic Party. When the President of the United States, the one you successfully elected to the office, has to implore you not to "run to the hills" in a State of the Union Address, things are not looking good for you. We have long lived up to the Will Rogers standard of not being an organized party, but that has to change before the November elections. The election in Massachusetts should be considered a wake-up call, not a surrendering point.
Watching the Governor of Virginia flaunt it in your face last night should be a call-to-arms, not a sign to retreat.

Health care reform must be passed. Jobs must be created. The deficit must be reduced. These are the issues the party can take the lead on before they watch their majority melt down on November 2nd. It is time for leadership in Washington, specifically the halls of Congress, and it is time for the DNC to support their local state chapters to mount a successful battle against the GOP in their respective Congressional elections, even in Mississippi.

It is time for the Democrats to adopt the John Paul Jones mantra, "I have not yet begun to fight!"

That is all for now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Go Reid! Go!

"He had no alternative. Senator Lott dug himself a hole and he didn't dig it all in one setting. He dug it over the years. And he couldn't figure out a way to get out of it...You play how you practice. If you tell ethnic jokes in the backroom, it's that much easier to say ethnic things publicly. I've always practiced how I play." -Sen. Harry Reid, December 20, 2000, on Lott's resignation from the post of Senate Majority Leader

On page 37 of the upcoming book, "Game Change," it states that "(Senator Reid's) encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,' as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination."

That revelation has created a firestorm which the senator jumped in front of, owned up to, and personally apologized to the President about. The timing is precarious because of the current fight to push through health care reform legislation and the President believes Reid's leadership is important in this process, thus the quick acceptance of the apology.

I don't know if I am that forgiving. I had the privilege of running against Sen. Lott and people that supported me never forgot what Lott said to humor a 100-year-old Senator on his birthday. For those of us in Mississippi, it was not a surprise that Lott would do that, but it was a surprise that it made national news and led to his resignation before a new president took office.

On the flip side of that though, I was told as a candidate to remove my facial hair and modify my glasses to come across as less threatening to a certain section of voters. In 2006 and 2008, I was even called the "Obama of the South" by some supporters because of the similar clean-cut image and oratorical style. It was not uncommon to hear people say that myself and Obama were well-spoken African-Americans that were electable.

So I don't really know if my anger is toward Reid for saying the remarks or re-visiting living through that assessment. However, I do believe it is a double-standard to support Reid for saying something as calculating, regardless of the goodwill intended, and condemn Lott. Both remarks were wrong and poorly phrased.

To break it down, based on Reid's remarks, Harold Ford is more electable than Martin Luther King, Jr. That is not a real assessment. Electability is based on financial support, stances on issues, trust and the political temperature of the voters. Image plays a part only when those aforementioned factors are a virtual dead heat, i.e. John F. Kennedy vs. Richard M. Nixon. You have to look the part, but looks with no substance equal political disaster and crushed egos.

I guess if I was a white person I would be more offended by Reid's remarks because it implies that Obama was acceptable but a darker-skinned African-American that slipped in some Ebonics in his/her oratory with his same background would not be in my eyes. It also feeds the negative vibe some Blacks were expressing about Obama when he first decided to run for the Presidency, that he was not "Black enough."

The key was that President Obama was the better candidate. The narrow-minded folks aside, Obama swayed the American public with his knowledge of the issues and the message of change. He is a great speaker and he presented a presidential image, regardless of the level of melanin in his skin. Reid's remarks belittle that notion.

Maybe I am still altruistic, but I believe if Obama ran a campaign similar to Sen. Dodd or even Sen. Biden, then he would not have come close to winning the primary, let alone the General Election. Obama's election reassured my faith in the American electorate and helped me realize what I would need to work on to pursue a higher office again.

I have to admit that race does still play a factor in elections, but I know from experience that being Black does not guarantee the Black vote and does not automatically discount the white vote. You have to work hard for every vote, and even though I lost my election, I know that my vote total was not just based on ethnic solidarity. Reid's remarks diminishes that belief.

I understand the importance of Reid's role in the current health care reform debate. I understand and appreciate the Democrats circling the wagons for him, unlike what the GOP did to Lott , forcing him out of their leadership circle for six years. I don't agree with the dismissal of his remarks as an apples and oranges comparison with Lott. Offensive and demeaning is offensive and demeaning, regardless if our friends say it or our enemies.

I am glad the President has forgiven Reid. Now he needs to ask Reid to seriously consider stepping down or, at the very least, not run for re-election this cycle. Reid basically said in the earlier posted quote what is said in the backroom will be eventually said in public. Reid's lack of faith in the American people should be enough grounds for a public servant to step aside and allow a chance for a servant with that faith to step in his place.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Start

Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

Happy New Year, my friends. It is the first year of the second decade of the 21st Century. It is time for a new start!

If you have been neglecting your relationship with the God who gave us this new opportunity, today is the day to get reacquainted. If you have not tapped into that spiritual power that resides within you, today is the day that you should dip into that vast reservoir.

You are what God created you to be: wonderful and glorious! Walk in that and claim your rightful inheritance. You will overcome all adversity. You triumph over all enemies. You will be the shining example that others will follow. It is your destiny and your birthright.

In 2010, be bold, be courageous, be the best you can be! The spirit that dwells within you is not a spirit of fear or timidity, therefore don't act outside of your nature. You are a child of God! Live like it!

This year, make a difference in the world you live in, no matter how small the contribution. Stand on the promises of God and go forth with His favor to do great things in 2010. Remember the greatest commandment is love and the greatest commission is to spread the Word! Do your part to love and enlighten this year, in as many places as you can.

Finally, be a prayer warrior this year. The world is reeling with strife, probably including the home you live in. Commune with God regularly and let Him guide you through these tough times. Through prayer, you re-energize your faith. As stated before, your faith is your strength, so flex those faithful muscles in 2010.

This is a new start! Praise God for yet another second chance! Amen! Amen! Amen!