Saturday, August 30, 2008

What the Palin Pick Says About McCain

The selection of a running mate is one of the most important, most defining decisions a presidential nominee can make. Senator John McCain’s pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin says a lot about his decision making, and some of it is downright questionable.

We knew McCain is a politician who enjoys winging it, and likes to go with his gut. But it is incredible that someone who has repeatedly emphasized experience in this campaign named an inexperienced governor he, or anyone else barely knows to be his No. 2. This is what I believe the pick tells us about Senator McCain:

He’s desperate. Let’s stop pretending this race is as close as national polling suggests, especially after what happened at the Democratic National Convention. The truth is McCain is tied or trailing in every swing state that matters — and too close for comfort in several states like Indiana and Montana that the Republicans usually win pretty easily in presidential races. On top of that, voters seem very inclined to elect Democrats in general this election — and are very sick of the Bu$h years. McCain could easily lose in an electoral landslide. That is the private view of Democrats and Republicans alike.

McCain’s pick shows he is not pretending. Politicians, even loose canons like McCain, play it safe when they think they are winning, or see an easy path to winning. They roll the dice only when they know that the risks of traditionalism are greater than the risks of boldness. President Bu$h has turned the Republican brand into a mess. McCain is concluding that it won’t work to duplicate the George W. Bu$h and Karl Rove electoral formula, based around fear of threat to national security.

The Republicans are dying in dire need of a change from their normal old White men. She is a fresh new face, but she still follows the same party line. The McCain campaign hopes she will prompt voters to give him a second look, especially women who have watched Democrats reject Hillary Clinton for Barack Obama.

The risks of a backlash from choosing someone so unknown and so untested are obvious. In one swift stroke, Senator McCain demolished what had been one of his main arguments against Senator Obama.

McCain is willing to gamble — big time. This is not the pick of a self-confident candidate. It is the political equivalent of a trick play or, as some Democrats called it, a Hail Mary pass in football. McCain talks constantly about experience, and then goes and selects a person he hardly knows, who hardly knows foreign policy and who can hardly be seen as instantly ready for the presidency.

He is smart enough to know it could work, at least politically. Many Republicans see this pick as a brilliant stroke because it will be difficult for Democrats to run hard against a woman in the wake of the Hillary Clinton drama. But this is not only aimed at them; it is directed at the huge bloc of independent women, especially those who do not see abortion as a make-or-break issue. However, in my opinion, it is the same old Republican like of respect for the mental capacity of anyone who is not a White “old money” male. They break out token “Black” every election time in hopes of putting doubt in the minds of Black folks who have not keeping an eye open. Now they break out their “woman”, thinking women will vote for her without knowing anything about her. Total disrespect for the ability of women to think.

McCain is worried about the political implications of his age. Like a driver overcorrecting out of a swerve, he chooses someone who is two years younger than the youthful Obama, and 28 years younger than he is. (He turned 72 Friday.) The father-daughter comparison was inevitable when they appeared next to each other. And why did he have to stand beside her when she was speaking – did he plan to jump in if she made a mistake? Hummmmmm…

He’s not worried about the actual implications of his age. He thinks he’s in good health, and Palin wouldn’t be performing the only constitutional duty of a vice president, which is standing by in case a president dies or becomes incapacitated. If he was really concerned about an inexperienced person sitting in the Oval Office we would be talking about vice presidential nominee Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge or Condoleezza Rice. There is no credible way that McCain could say that he picked Palin, who was only elected governor in 2006 and whose most extended public service was as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 8,471), because she was ready to be president on Day One.

Nor can McCain argue that he was looking for someone he could trust as a close adviser. Most people know the staff at the local Starbucks better than McCain knows Palin. They met for the first time last February at a National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Then, they spoke again, by phone, on Sunday while she was at the Alaska state fair and he was at home in Arizona. Man, this guy just might be worst than Bu$h.

McCain has made a mockery out of his campaign's longtime contention that Barack Obama is too dangerously inexperienced to be commander in chief. Now, the Democratic ticket boasts 40 years of national experience (four years for Obama and 36 years for Joseph Biden), while the Republican ticket has 26 (McCain’s four years in the House and 22 in the Senate.) The McCain campaign has made a bet that the American voter is dumb and gullible and that most voters don’t really care about the national experience or credentials of a vice president, and that Palin’s cheerful personality and gender matters more.

He’s worried about the Republican conservative base. If he had room to maneuver, there were lots of people McCain could have selected who would have represented a break from Washington politics as usual. Senator Joe Lieberman comes to mind (and it certainly came to McCain’s throughout the process). He had no such room. Republican power brokers were furious over feelers about the possibility of choosing a supporter of abortion rights, including the possibility that he would reach out to his friend Lieberman. It is no secret McCain wanted to shake things up in this race — and he realized he was limited to a shake-up conservatives could support. Palin is a committed opponent of abortion who was previously scheduled to keynote the Republican National Coalition for Life's "Life of the Party" event in the Twin Cities this week. I care about unborn babies also, but what gets me about the Republicans is that they seem to care more about unborn babies that they care they care for live people who are having difficulties every day.

His team did manage to play to the media’s love of drama, fanning speculation about his possible choices and maximizing coverage of the decision and take the spotlight off Senator Obama who seemed to be like a snow ball rolling down a hill getting larger and larger. At the end of the day, McCain is still McCain. People may find him a refreshing maverick, or an erratic egotist. In either event, he marches to his own beat. Some like spontaneity, with a touch of impulsiveness, but whether it’s a good calling card for a potential president will depend on the reaction in coming days. Do we really want another one of those in the White House?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama Accepts Nomination with Great Speech

Forty-five years to the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, Senator Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for the president of the United States with a great speech of his own. Surrounded by an enormous, roaring crowd (estimated 84,000), Senator Obama promised a clean break from the broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of the last four years Thursday night as he embarked on the final lap of his bid to become the nation's first Black president.

He vowed to cut taxes for nearly all working-class families, responsively end the war in Iraq and break America's dependence on Mideast oil within a decade. By contrast, he said, "John McCain has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time and we can’t afford to take a 10 percent chance," a cutting indictment of his Republican rival — on health care, education, the economy and more.

"I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree" of a presidential candidate was as close as he came to the long-smoldering issue that may well determine the outcome of the election.

Fireworks lit the night sky after Senator Obama concluded his speech. His wife, Michelle, and their daughters Malia and Sasha joined him as the country music anthem "Only in America" filled the stadium. Vice presidential running mate Senator Joseph Biden and his wife, Jill, joined them onstage.

Senator Obama delivered his 44-minute nomination acceptance speech in an unrivaled convention setting, before a crowd of unrivaled size, with the backdrop that suggested the West Wing of the White House, and the thousands of convention delegates seated around the podium in an enormous semicircle.

Representative John Lewis, who was present on the day of this 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s memorable speech spoke from the convention stage. "Tonight we are gathered here in this magnificent stadium in Denver because we still have a dream," said the Georgia lawmaker, who marched with King and still has the scars to show for it, supported Senator Hillary Clinton, then switched his support to Senator Obama later in the primaries.

The rise of Senator Obama reminds me of Moses and the children of Israel about to go into the promised land. God did not allow the Moses generation to enter into the promised land because they still had a mentality of being captives. They saw themselves as victims. In fact they saw themselves as grasshoppers and they saw the people who occupied the promised land as giants. They had a slave mentality whereas Joshua and his generation envisioned themselves as victors and held onto the promises of God. They saw themselves as winning. Senator Barack Obama is of the Joshua generation with new ideas. As a man think, so he is…

The Moses generation still remembers the “White Only” signs, the water hoses, the attack dogs, the burning crosses and the bodies hanging from trees. The Moses generation holds their breath, hoping that Obama didn’t mess up or God forbid, nothing happens to him. The Moses generation sees the outdoor speech as a possible set up for a repeat of that horrible day in Dallas 45 years ago in November. The Joshua generation sees possibilities. The Joshua generation sees way to make things better.

Senator Obama was the first to deliver an outdoor convention acceptance speech since President John F. Kennedy did so at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960.

In his speech, Senator Obama pledged to jettison President Bush's economic policy — and replace it with his own designed to help hard-pressed families. "I will cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class," he said. He also promised to break the country's dependence on Mideast oil. He said that Washington has been talking about doing it for 30 years "and John McCain has been there for 26 of them."

"We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country," Obama said. "I will never hesitate to defend this nation." He said McCain had no standing on foreign policy, not after backing the Iraq war from the start and rejecting timetables for withdrawal now accepted by Bush. "John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war," he said. Obama's pledge to end the war in Iraq responsibly. "Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time?

Senators Obama and Biden leave the convention on Friday for Pennsylvania, first stop on an eight-week sprint to Election Day. This was once-in-a-campaign opportunity to speak to millions of voters who have yet to make up their minds between McCain and him and Senator Barack Obama hit a homerun. Although this was an acceptance speech but it sure felt presidential – sort of like an inaugural speech.

As Senator Obama was walking out onto the platform to deliver his acceptance speech I imagined the civil rights heros of the past looking on smiling through tears of joy; there was Martin hugging his wife Coretta Scott King, standing next to Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks, Ralph David Abernathy, Thurgood Marshall, C.K. Steele and Fred Shuttlesworth who both helped MLK organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), there's Stokely Carmichael, and the four students who staged a sit-in at the Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, Emmett Till, James Meredith, Medgar Evers, the Black and White freedom riders who rode busses throughout the south to integrate public transportation and were beaten for their troubles, there is the four little girls that were bombed while at Sunday School, and the three young men (two of whom were White) who were killed while working to register Black voters in Mississippi, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and the countless others who suffered along the way to this historic day.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. was born September 16, 1950 as the son of Henry Louis Gates, Sr. and Pauline Augusta Coleman Gates. He is a literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, editor, and public intellectual. Gates currently serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, where he is Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

Henry Gates emerged from Mineral, West Virginia, to become one of the leading scholars in the U.S. He was one of the first Black students to attend the newly desegregated public schools of Piedmont following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. Gates took an interest in local civil rights issues and with three other blacks, known as the "Fearsome Foursome," pressured the Blue Jay restaurant and nightclub to integrate.

He initially enrolled at Potomac State College, transferred as an undergraduate to Yale where he spent a year volunteering at a mission hospital in Tanzania and traveling throughout the African continent in order to complete the year-long “non-academic” requirement of his five-year Bachelor of Arts program; upon his return, Gates wrote a guest column for the Yale Daily News about his experience. Having been appointed a "Scholar of the House" during his final year at Yale and thus relieved of academic coursework requirements, Gates spent his final undergraduate year writing, under the guidance of John Morton Blum, an unpublished book entitled The Making of a Governor, which described John D. Rockefeller IV's gubernatorial campaign in West Virginia. In 1973, Gates graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in history from Yale.

The first Black American to be awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, the day after his undergraduate commencement, Gates set sail on the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 for the University of Cambridge, where he studied English literature at Clare College. With the assistance of a Ford Foundation Fellowship, he worked toward his MA and Ph.D. in English. While his work in history at Yale had trained him in archival work, Gates' studies at Clare introduced him to English literature and literary theory.

At Clare College, Gates was also able to work with Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian writer denied an appointment in the department because, as Gates later recalled, African literature was at the time deemed "at best, sociology or socio-anthropology, but it was not real literature." Soyinka would later become the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize; he remained an influential mentor for Gates and became the subject of numerous works by Gates.

Gates was hired as a secretary in the Afro-American Studies department at Yale in October 1975. In July 1976, Gates was promoted to the post of Lecturer in Afro-American Studies with the understanding that he would be promoted to Assistant Professor upon completion of his dissertation. Jointly appointed to assistant professorships in English and Afro-American Studies in 1979, Gates was promoted to Associate Professor in 1984. He left Yale for Cornell in 1985, and stayed until 1989. After a two-year stay at Duke University, he moved to his current position at Harvard University in 1991. At Harvard, Gates teaches undergraduate and graduate courses as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and as Professor of English. Additionally, he serves as the Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

As a Black intellectual and public figure, Gates has been an outspoken critic of the Eurocentric literary law and has instead insisted that Black literature must be evaluated by the artistic criteria of its culture of origin, not criteria imported from Western or European cultural traditions that express a "tone deafness to the Black cultural voice" and result in "intellectual racism." Gates tried to articulate what might constitute a Black cultural artistic in his major scholarly work The Signifying Monkey, a 1989 American Book Award winner; the work extended the application of the concept of “signifying” to analysis of Black works and thus rooted Black literary criticism in the African vernacular tradition.

While Gates has stressed the need for greater recognition of Black literature and Black culture, Gates does not advocate a "separatist" Black law but, rather, a greater recognition of Black works that would be integrated into the main stream literature. He has affirmed the value of the Western tradition but envisions diverse works integrated by common cultural connections. Moreover, Gates has argued that a separatist, Afrocentric education perpetuates racist stereotypes and maintains that it is "ridiculous" to think that only Blacks should be scholars of African and African-American literature.

As a literary historian committed to the preservation and study of historical texts, Gates has been integral to the Black Periodical Literature Project, an archive of Black newspapers and magazines created with financial assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities. To build Harvard’s visual, documentary, and literary archives of Black texts, Gates arranged for the purchase of “The Image of the Black in Western Art,” a collection assembled by Dominique de Menil in Houston, Texas. Earlier, as a result of his research as a MacArthur Fellow, Gates had discovered Our Nig, the first novel in the United States written by a Black person, Harriet E. Wilson, in 1859; he followed this discovery with the acquisition of the manuscript of The Bondswoman’s Narrative, another narrative from the same period.

As a prominent Black intellectual, Gates has focused throughout his career not only on his research and teaching but on building academic institutions to study Black culture. Additionally, he has worked to bring about social, educational, and intellectual equality for Black Americans and has written pieces in The New York Times that defend rap music and an article in Sports Illustrated that criticizes Black youth culture for glorifying basketball over education. In 1992, he received a George Polk Award for his social commentary in The New York Times. Gates' prominence in this field led to him being tapped as a witness on behalf of the controversial rap group 2 Live Crew in their obscenity case. He argued the material the government alleged was profane, actually had important roots in dialect, games, and literary traditions and should be protected.

Gates has been the recipient of nearly 50 honorary degrees and numerous academic and social action awards. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1981 and was listed in Time among its “25 Most Influential Americans” in 1997. On October 23, 2006, Gates was appointed the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor at Harvard University. In January 2008, he co-founded The Root, a website dedicated to African-American perspectives published by The Washington Post Company. Gates currently chairs the Fletcher Foundation, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is on the boards of many notable institutions including the New York Public Library, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Studio Museum of Harlem, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, HEAF (the Harlem Educational Activities Fund), and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, located in Stanford, California.

The popular Harvard-area burger restaurant, Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, sells a Professor Skip Gates burger topped with pineapple and teriyaki sauce.

Gates has been the host and co-producer of African American Lives and African American Lives 2 in which the lineage of notable Black Americans is traced using genealogical resources and DNA testing. In the first series, Gates learns of his White ancestry (50%), and in the second installment we learn he is descended from the Irish King, Niall of the Nine Hostages. He also learns that he is descended in part from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. In 2006, Gates was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution, after he traced his lineage back to John Redman, a Free Negro who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Professor Gates is co-editor, with K. Anthony Appiah, of the encyclopedia Encarta Africana, published on CD-ROM by Microsoft and in book form by Basic Civitas Books under the title Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. He is the author of Wonders of the African World, the companion book to the six-hour PBS television series of the same name.

In addition, Professor Gates is the author of several works of literary criticism, including Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the 'Racial' Self; The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism, winner of the 1989 American Book Award; and Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars. He is the author of Colored People: A Memoir, which traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s; The Future of the Race, co-authored with Cornel West; and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man.

Professor Gates's publications also include a 1994 cover story for Time magazine on the new Black Renaissance in art, as well as numerous articles for The New Yorker. In addition, he has edited several anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and The Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers, and is the co-editor of Transition magazine. Previously for PBS, Professor Gates produced and hosted Wonders of the African World, America Beyond the Color Line, African American Lives and Oprah's Roots.

105 Year Old Woman Remembers Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech

Della Jones, 105 years old, remembers well Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech during the March on Washington, D.C., delivered 45 years ago today from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. "Oh, I thought it was wonderful," Della said of the historic 1963 speech. "I think we all should have a dream for our lives and work towards that dream."

Della's dream was to be a teacher, and she taught for 36 1/2 years, first in Kentucky's Black schools and eventually in its integrated schools. "I just kept persevering, and I always had good results for doing so," she said in a recent interview.

Della began her teaching career in 1924 in a segregated rural school in southeastern Kentucky, crying herself to sleep at night because she was away from her home near Cincinnati for the first time. She was 19 years old.

"It was such a secluded place, but I made a commitment and was determined to finish up the year." In fact Della kept her commitment and only stopped teaching in 1929 when she married Bradley Jones. When she decided to get her college degree, she cleaned dorms for 17 straight summers to pay her way through Kentucky State University. She received her degree at the age of 53 in June of 1957, and Dr. King gave the commencement address at her college graduation. He was 29 at the time, already a famous civil rights leader. Della got to meet and shake Dr. King’s hand.

Della taught grade school and high school during her long teaching career and finished up as a high school librarian. Her husband died in 1969, and their daughter passed away in 1972. Della retired in 1974 and lives alone in the same house in Williamstown, Kentucky, that she has been in for 85 years, despite being a double amputee and confined to a wheelchair.

She's surrounded by devoted friends and family, including the local sheriff, who lives down the street and looks in on her regularly. They all got together for Della's birthday on July 7.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Senator Obama Officially Nominated

Senator Barack Obama swept to the Democratic presidential nomination Wednesday night, a transforming triumph that made him the first Black American to lead a major party into the fall campaign for the White House. Thousands of national convention delegates stood and cheered as they made history.

Former rival Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton asked Democrats in the convention hall to make their verdict unanimous "in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory." And they did, with a roar. Chants of "Obama" and "Yes we can" surged up from the convention floor as the outcome of the roll call of the states was announced. Earlier in the day, Senator Clinton formally released her delegates and cast her official delegate vote for Senator Obama.

Senator Obama was across town as the party handed him its top prize, a ticket into the general election campaign against the Republican candidate. He was expected to briefly visit the arena later in the evening to thank the delegates. His formal acceptance speech Thursday night is expected to draw a crowd of 75,000 at the nearby football stadium.

Senator Obama's nomination sealed a political ascent as astonishing as any other in recent memory — made all the more so by his race, in a nation founded by slave owners. The son of a White mother from Kansas and a Black father from Kenya whom he barely knew, he attended college and Harvard Law School. In between was a turn as a $12,000-a-year community worker on the streets of Chicago. Just to show how far Senator Obama has come, you have to realize that in 2000 he couldn’t even get a ticket to the convention.

As I set watching the state roll call as it got closer, and the moment that the nomination became official, with tears running, I thought about my parents and how I wished that they were alive to witness this historic occasion. I believe this is what my grandfather meant when he said one day there would be changes in this country. And now my grandchildren know for sure that they can be ANYTHING they set their sights to be.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michelle Obama Wows Audience

In the first major address at the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama described herself as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother, no different from many women. She told a cheering crowd waving signs reading "Michelle" that she and her husband, the possible next president of the United States, feel an obligation to "fight for the world as it should be" to ensure the promise of a better life for their daughters and all children. Michelle Obama declared "I love this country" as she sought to reassure the nation that she and her husband share Americans' bedrock values and belief in a dream of a better future.

She was introduced by her brother, Craig Robinson, the head basketball coach at Oregon State University. Robinson noted that she memorized every episode of "The Brady Bunch" and praised her passion for helping others. Robinson also offered a political analysis of Barack Obama's basketball skills: "He's a team player who improves the people around him, and he won't back down from any challenge."

The speech showed an American family, an appealing American family, an ordinary American family (or as ordinary a family can be in which one member is running for president.) Michelle Obama's job was to show voters they have nothing to fear. “The Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago,” she said. “He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands.” Some in the audience could be seen crying a bit as she spoke.

She was describing a simple moment, a real moment, an emotional moment and one that made only one point: Senator Barack Obama is a human being just like you. He is not an “other,” he is not a “celebrity.” He is a father, a husband, a person. Michelle went on: “And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they’ll have families of their own. And one day, they, and your sons and daughters, will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming.”

Michelle Obama didn't explicitly address race, but allaying concerns among white voters was part of the strategy for the first Black nominee of a major party. "Barack doesn't care where you're from, or what your background is, or what party, if any, you belong to. That's not how he sees the world," she said. "He knows that thread that connects us — our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future — is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree." She also described her husband's upbringing by a single mother and grandparents who "scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves."

Michelle Obama did hit the campaign’s talking points, carefully praising Hillary Clinton, “who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters, and our sons, can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.“ And also Joe Biden, “who’s never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.” But she made the speech hers, and she made it a great one.

Afterward, their daughters, Sasha and Malia, joined her on stage as Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" blared from the convention hall. The girls began smiling and waving at their father after his familiar face popped up on a large screen on stage. "How about that Michelle Obama?" Barack Obama said, "You were unbelievable." And then something followed that is virtually unheard of at a political convention: an unscripted moment. In the live video hookup with Barack, who was in Kansas City, the two Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, who had joined their mother on stage, simply talked to their father. He asked them how they thought their mother had done in her speech. “I think she did good,” Sasha said. “I think so, too,” Malia said. And then Malia said, “We love you, Daddy.” And Sasha said, “We love you, Daddy. Bye.”

In Kansas City, reporters asked him how it felt to watch his wife. During the speech, and a biographical video shown before she spoke, Senator Obama occasionally wiped his eyes. "She was unbelievable. But I'm not surprised. When she does something, she does it well," he said of Michelle. "She told her story. It's a story that a lot of families can relate to. Her dad struggled, worked hard. And here, his daughter, is addressing the nation."

Senator Barack Obama closes the convention Thursday night with his acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michelle Obama in Spotlight at Democratic Party Convention

As delegates poured into Denver, Colorado for four days leading up to the historic moment of Barack Obama's formal nomination August 28, his wife, Michelle Obama, will take center stage tonight at the Democratic National Convention for a prime-time speech introducing herself as a potential first lady. Her solo appearance tonight will be her first address to a broad audience of voters and it's a chance for her to help frame her husband's biography.

The speech will be a family affair. Marian Robinson, Michelle's mother, will narrate a video about the next potential first family, and Michelle will be introduced by her brother, Craig, head basketball coach at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

The speech will be peppered with stories about the couple and their two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, but it will mostly be a humanizing portrait of her husband. ``You will have a sense of who she is and what our values are and how we are raising our kids, and I think what you will conclude is `gee, he's sort of like us,''' Senator Obama told voters yesterday in Wisconsin. The address also is a reintroduction for Michelle Obama, 44, who had been the object of criticism for some of her remarks during the primary.

Critics seized on comments she made in February when she said her husband's candidacy made her feel proud of her country ``for the first time in my adult lifetime.'' She later said she had been trying to say how proud she was that so many people were engaging in the political process as a result of her husband's candidacy, and that she had always been proud of her country. Michelle Obama has softened her image by appearing on television programs such as ``The View.'' Going into this week's convention, she is on the covers of Essence and Ebony magazines.

But what if, deep down inside somewhere, Michelle Obama really is angry. What's wrong with a little anger? Black women have a lot of reasons to feel that way, and she, especially, for some of the things that have been said about her and her husband. Maybe this Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer is angry about Fox News Channel calling her in an on-screen graphic, "Obama's baby mama." (And why are the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton not forming a boycott of the Fox News Channel and their sponsors.) She could be spitting mad about the rumor that there was a video of her railing against "whitey" from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. No video has surfaced; the campaign says that's because she never spoke there.

Her speech will serve two purposes; one is to reintroduce herself to the country and to the world because she has never had a larger audience. Secondly her task is to introduce her husband to the audience in a way in which she knows him and we don't. Tonight she breaks ground as she auditions for the role of the first Black first lady of the U.S.

``There haven't been [many] opportunities for Black women to be revered in a way of being referred to as first lady of a city, a state or as a nation,'' said Wellington Webb, Denver's first Black mayor. Such a step would be ``very significant given our history.''

Too often, the media depict Black women as gyrating hoochie mamas, someone's baby mama or dirty crack addicts. Michelle Obama strikes a pose not seen enough: an accomplished, confident, proud Black woman. That seems to scare some people. It is said that people are most afraid of what they are least familiar with. And most people don't really know Michelle Obama. Like most politicians, and their families, we know only what we read about her or see on TV.

Senator Barack Obama's advisers viewed her as his "secret weapon." In the primaries, she was dubbed "the Closer" for her ability to persuade undecided voters to come on board. Now she's the opener, the first-night star called upon to testify about her husband's vision and values, and perhaps settle some doubts about herself.

"People aren't used to strong women," Michelle Obama said when her image came up as she played guest co-host on "The View." America likes a certain type of first lady, the adoring, smiling, know-your-place-and-stay-in-it kind who stands beside her man. They want career political wives, not career women.

Don't get me wrong; I like soft. Who doesn't? It helps make women who they are, but it's just one side of who women are. And Michelle Obama has shown plenty of "soft" already; go watch the family's much-talked about interview with "Access Hollywood," or read her recent interview with Ebony magazine.

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a family of modest means. Fraser Robinson was a local Democratic organizer who worked at a water plant. His wife Marian raised the kids in a one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of her aunt's house, where Michelle and Craig slept in the living room, converted into two tiny bedrooms and a study area.

She fought her way into Princeton, and later to Harvard Law School, and began dating Barack Obama while working at a Chicago corporate law firm. They've been married for 15 years.

She's proved an adept solo campaigner with blue-collar audiences and with women, able to make a connection with voters whose lives are an economic struggle.

"I wake up every morning, wondering how on the Earth I'm going to pull off that next minor miracle to get through the day," she told a Chicago crowd. She talks about work, workouts, parent-teacher conferences, hair appointments, the burdens of campaign travel, the plugged toilet that her husband left her to deal with one day.

"With the exception of the campaign trail and life in the public eye, I have to say that my life now is really not that much different from many of yours," she said.

By all accounts, she has a great husband — who has made history and could make more if he is elected on Nov. 4 — two charming daughters, a power career as a hospital administrator, a million-dollar home in Chicago's Hyde Park. She's also a role model for little girls everywhere, especially those of color, who have been beaten down by poverty, broken homes, failing schools, low self-esteem and every other obstacle life can put in their way.

Think of those girls (and boys too) and how it could help them to see someone like Michelle Obama, strong, self-assured, devoted to family, triumphant over some of those same issues in her own life and possibly headed to the White House, and think to themselves, "Yes, I can."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Senator Obama Introduces Running Mate

Senator Barack Obama introduced Senator Joe Biden of Delaware on Saturday and immediately the newly named running mate quickly converted his debut on the Democratic ticket into a slashing attack on Republican Senator John McCain. The Republican presidential contender will have to "figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at" when considering his own economic future, said Biden, jabbing at the man who has constantly attacked Senator Obama for the past month.

It was a reference to Senator McCain's recent untimely admission, in a time of economic uncertainty, that he was not sure how many homes he owns.

Before a huge crowd spilling out from the front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, Senator Obama said Senator Biden was "what many others pretend to be — a statesman with sound judgment who doesn't have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong."

Democrats united quickly around Senator Obama's selection of a seasoned veteran of three decades in the Senate, a choice meant to provide foreign policy power to the party's ticket for the fall campaign against Senator McCain and the Republicans. Senator Biden is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with extensive experience in that area.

Senator Obama chose the same site that he launched his quest for the White House more than a year ago to introduce his running mate. The Democratic National Convention opens in Denver Monday to nominate a Black man who out distanced a crowded field of candidates who were far more well known than he was. A security fence sprung up overnight around the Pepsi Center as the pace of preparations accelerated in advance of Monday night's opening session, and police on bicycles patrolled nearby streets.

Responding to Obama's pick, the McCain campaign quickly produced a television ad featuring Biden's previous praise for McCain and comments critical of his new benefactor. In an ABC interview last year, Biden said he stood by an earlier statement that Obama wasn't yet ready to be president and "the presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

As Senator Obama brought Senator Biden on stage with a glowing introduction, the newly named running mate moved center stage in shirt-sleeves at a brisk trot that contradicted his 65 years, and embraced Obama. Both men spoke for 16 minutes, with Senator Obama's remarks carefully crafted to emphasize Senator Biden's accomplishments in the Senate, his blue-collar roots and — above all — his experience on foreign policy. Senator Biden blended praise for Obama and criticism of McCain.

Senator Obama recounted the personal tragedy that struck Senator Biden more than 30 years ago, within days of his election to the Senate, when his first wife and their child were killed in an automobile accident. He said Senator Biden raised his surviving children as a single parent, commuting between the Capitol and Delaware daily on the Amtrak train.

Friday, August 22, 2008

From Unknown to the World’s Most Recognized Face

Just eight years ago a little known Barack Obama arrived at the Democratic National Convention in Boston unable to obtain a floor pass. He ended up watching most of the speeches on TV monitors in the arena. He was so broke that his credit card was rejected at the car rental counter. His political future was bleak. He had just been trounced in his bid for Congress.

Four years later the change was remarkable. This time when Barack Obama attended the 2004 Democratic convention he was tapped as the keynote speaker, a coveted spot for up-and-comers, and as a U.S. Senate nominee generating political buzz, he fit the bill. Barack Obama still was an unaccomplished state lawmaker, a virtual unknown to the cheering delegates gathered in the Boston convention hall that July night. But his words lit up the crowd.

Now jump forward to the 2008 Democratic convention. On Aug. 28, Senator Barack Obama will step on the stage before a crowd of 75,000 to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. He will be at the summit of U.S. politics, a phenomenon who has smashed every fundraising record, drew astounding crowds, and made history.

How did this man go so far so fast? He is a candidate with political savvy and electrifying oratory skills, enormous confidence, and fierce drive, and an uncanny knack of making friends and forging connections in all the right places. He likes to get along with people. He listens to them. Someone said that he is lucky. And like I always say luck happens when preparation and opportunity meet. A lucky man is one who knows how to take advantage of a break when he gets it.

Senator Obama also has a life story unlike that of any man ever nominated for the U.S.'s highest office. And while his unconventional experiences have made him an unconventional candidate, they also have helped fuel his extraordinary rise. It is truly the American dream – one of the most unlikely political biographies of all times. When you look at his life, there are half a dozen times when he could have failed ... being abandoned by his father, his troubled teenage years... but he seems to weather adversity better than most people.

"It's a leap electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama," the Illinois senator told a crowd in July at a Missouri fundraiser.
There is his biracial roots and foreign-sounding name. It's his youth spent wrestling with questions about his racial identity and a foreign father he barely knew. It's his admission that he tried drugs as a teen. That kind of revelation is rarely made known by politicians. It's his travels from low-prestige community organizer in the poverty-ravaged corners of Chicago to the high-powered halls of Harvard Law School. And it's his rapid climb up the political ladder.

Barack Obama's life story is familiar to many by now. The Kansas-born mother, Stanley Ann Dunham (her father wanted a boy). The Kenyan-born father, Barack Obama Sr. Their meeting at the University of Hawaii, their marriage, the birth of Barack ("blessed" in Arabic). The father's departure two years later to study at Harvard, his return just once when Barack was 10. The childhood in Indonesia, homeland of his stepfather, Lolo Soetero; the exposure to poverty and beggars, crocodiles and roasted grasshopper. And then, after his mother's second marriage broke up, the return to Hawaii, where the young Obama (then known as Barry) enrolled in the prestigious Punahou School, a private academy in Honolulu.
As a teen, Barack Obama was smart and liked to read but he wasn't particularly driven or ambitious (there were no obvious signs -- unless you count a grade school essay -- that pointed to politics as his destiny). He wasn't part of student government. He wasn't in any advanced placement classes. “He was a young man concerned with ... hanging out with his buddies, playing basketball and body surfing,” says his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng.

When his mother's work as an anthropologist took her back to Indonesia, Barack stayed behind for high school, living with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn, known as Tutu or Toot (Hawaiian for grandparent), and Stanley, or Gramps. He played golf and poker, he practiced his left-handed jump shot on a playground into the night (he had a minor role on his school's championship basketball team), he sang in the choir, he listened to the music of Earth Wind & Fire (great musical taste).

In some ways, he was a typical teenager. In other ways, he was anything but: His mother was far away, his father was gone forever, he had already lived in a Third World country and was growing up in Hawaii (all of which shaped him into someone who could easily be flexible and adapt to change).

At Occidental College in Los Angeles, he who started using his given name, Barack and took his first plunge into politics, speaking at an anti-apartheid rally. Barack was confident and casual on campus; he favored flip-flops, shorts and a trim Afro, and not one to dominate dorm discussions about political issues. But Occidental was a small liberal arts college and Obama wanted to expand his horizons, so he transferred across the country to Columbia University in New York.

Barack Obama graduated with a political science degree and held a few jobs in New York. It was there he received a call from an aunt in Nairobi, Kenya notifying him his father had been killed in a car accident. The news eventually led Obama on a journey to Kenya and a visit to his father's grave.

After New York, Obama headed to Chicago, a city where he knew no one, taking a low-paying job, motivating poor people to participate in a political system that had traditionally shut them out. Starting out as a $12,000-a-year community organizer, Obama walked the run-down streets of the South Side that had been devastated by the loss of steel mills and factory jobs. Working for the Developing Communities Project, Obama met with Black pastors and tried to mobilize people to speak up for themselves, whether it was lobbying for a job training center or cleaning up public housing. He established an easy rapport with people in the community, many of whom treated him like a son (they teasingly called him "baby face.") "He would tell us you've got to do things right, you've got to take the high road," says one of the project founders. "He would talk about no permanent friends, no permanent enemies. He would say, 'Don't get personalities involved.'"

Obama — who calls his organizing work "the best education I ever had" — became a skilled conciliator. He became very effective at getting people who initially did not get along to work together and build alliances. He found a way to be tough and challenging when he didn't like something. At the same time, he was not one to burn his bridges with people. This is the way a president should deal with adversaries instead of not talking to them. And they continue to say he has no experience. This is REAL experience. If you can be successful in the hard nosed Chicago politics you can be successful anywhere.

Chicago is the city where Barack Obama put down roots. He joined the Trinity United Church of Christ and became friends with its pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose remarks Senator Obama denounced after they created a national uproar. He no longer attends the church.

Chicago also was Obama's political boot camp, where he learned how to win over skeptics who wondered why that tall, skinny guy was at their door when Harold Washington, the first black mayor, was in City Hall. "Black people would say, 'Harold will take care of the problem. Why do we need a community organizer?'" recalls Mike Kruglik, a fellow organizer. "He'd say, 'We have to build the power ... we can't trust any individual politician.'" Senator Obama was not all work. He attended Chicago Bulls games and wrote short fictional stories that evocatively captured the feel of the streets. (He later wrote two best-selling books, one of them a memoir.)

Obama also remained close to his family. After her father died, Maya, who is nine years younger, says Obama "really took on the role of a father," taking her on college tours, introducing her to jazz, blues and classical music — and, much later, consoling her when their mother died of ovarian cancer at age 53.

Then Senator Obama made a giant leap from the tough South Side to the heady atmosphere of Harvard Law School, the training ground for America's political elite. He made history there, as the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review, the most prestigious law journal in the U.S.

After his first year, Obama was a summer associate at a corporate law firm in Chicago where his adviser was Michelle Robinson, another Harvard law graduate and a product of a working-class family. They later married, and had two daughters, Malia, now 10, and Sasha, 7. As Obama prepared to leave Harvard, job offers poured in. But he already had a plan. He would return to Chicago for a political career.

At first, he chose a behind-the-scenes job. Obama ran a voter registration drive that added tens of thousands to the rolls. "He was very straightforward and had a no-nonsense, all-the-cards-on-the-table approach," recalls Sandy Newman, founder of the national group, Project Vote!

Obama also began carefully mapping out a path that positioned him for public office. He joined a small, politically connected law firm that did civil rights litigation. He and his wife, Michelle, lived in Hyde Park, the racially mixed neighborhood around the University of Chicago that is home to progressive politics, intellectuals and a sprinkling of Nobel Prize winners. By choosing to move to Hyde Park, he moved in an area where an independent can come out of nowhere to win. He also broadened his circle of acquaintances, impressing influential Democrats and party donors who proved invaluable in his campaigns.

Obama was a great networker. He worked all the right circles. Foes called him a calculating politician; friends called him a smart, methodical worker. He does nothing that's different from most politicians. The difference is he's extraordinarily gifted. His greatest capability is he never makes the same mistake twice. But that skill was nothing without a political opportunity. While waiting for one, Obama became a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He taught constitutional law. "He's a great conversationalist and a good listener," says Richard Epstein, a law school professor.

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois state Senate, but as a member of the Democratic minority, his legislative proposals were consistently let down by Republicans. Some dismissed him as a college liberal. Obama won over many lawmakers in nearly eight years in the state Senate (inexperienced?). He played in weekly poker games, befriending suburban and White rural legislators. He also had an important ally in an old-school Chicago Democrat who became Senate president when the party took control of the chamber, a change that increased Obama's influence.

Obama had several legislative successes. He passed measures that limited lobbyists' gifts to politicians, helped expand health care to poor children and changed laws governing racial profiling, the death penalty and the interrogation of murder suspects. He reached across party lines to work with Republicans. He can compromise without giving up his principles.

Obama stumbled badly, though, in 2000 when he challenged Representative Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther member with deep roots in the community. During that contest, Obama was dogged by the question raised by some critics and Black politicians (whether he was "Black enough" for the district). He is running for president of the U.S. not president of the Black community. But in that congressional campaign, Obama was seen as the outsider. Rush, the insider, crushed him by 31 percentage points in the primary.

Two years later, Obama set his sights on another office: U.S. Senate. He won in a massive victory. Months later, Senator Obama impressed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry during a joint campaign appearance in Chicago, leading to his stirring keynote speech. In 17 minutes, Senator Obama went from an obscure state lawmaker to a force in national politics.

When Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy 18 months ago at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, he was still unknown to most Americans. The freshman senator Obama had been in Washington just two years. He has appeared on numerous magazine covers, won two Grammys for recording his best-selling books, made TV appearances, received hundreds of invitations a week and traveled the country in 2006, campaigning for other Democratic candidates and building up relationships along the way. And the spotlight only grew during the primary season. Senator Obama proved to be an enormous draw on the campaign trail, packing arenas with overflow crowds as he promised an end to the Iraq war, a new era of bipartisanship in Washington and "change we can believe in."

Just like John F. Kennedy tapped into the television market in the 1960 election, Senator Barack Obama has tapped into the internet better than any candidate ever has, he knew what to do with the Internet and e-mail in a way no candidate has.

In Denver, at Democratic Party Convention, Senator Barack Obama will turn to the old-fashioned powers of speechmaking when he steps on stage to address the crowd and accept the nomination as the Party’s nominee for President of the United States. And this time, everybody will know exactly who he is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Choice is Clear

In my own personal poll I have not met anyone who thinks that Senator John McCain would make a better president than Senator Barack Obama. Then why are most national polls showing the race so close with Senator Obama holding a narrow lead over Senator McCain throughout the summer.

Over the last month Senator McCain has repeatedly been on the offensive against Senator Obama by questioning his experience, criticizing his opposition to most new offshore oil drilling and mocked his overseas trip.

Even a good friend of mine is feeding on the lack of experience “BS”. In my opinion, we are in the mess we are in today because the people with experience are running the country. What we need is toss the whole executive branch of the government out and replace them with people with fresh ideas. We have had a president with a gunslinger mentality for the last eight years and now a guy who even calls himself a maverick wants to take over. The dictionary defines maverick as a nonconformist, eccentric, individualist, rebel. Sounds like a person who is out for himself instead of what is good for the country.

We are almost done with unintelligent leader in the White House and here is Senator McCain who was in constant conflict with higher-ranking personnel at the U.S. Naval Academy for not obey the rules. He did well in subjects that interested him, such as literature and history, but studied only enough to pass subjects he disliked, such as math (and a class rank of 894 of 899). Attending high school at a private preparatory boarding school should have prepared him for the curriculum of the academy. He probably only got into the academy because his father and grandfather were both graduates. After the naval academy he began training as a naval aviator at Pensacola, Florida. There he earned a reputation as a partying man (lots of alcohol like the current president). He crashed twice while serving as a naval aviator and once collided with power lines. (How he managed to keep his wings is a mystery to me).

Senator McCain seems to think that being a former prisoner of war qualifies him to hold the office of president. Then why didn’t the other POW run for office. In truth Senator McCain turned down early release as a POW because it would help him later in life. The senator likes to say how much of a hero he was, but in truth he tried to commit suicide while being held as a POW and made an anti-American propaganda confession.

Senator McCain like to portray himself as a great family man while in truth while his first wife was suffered from a crippling automobile accident, he became a celebrity of sorts as a returned POW. During this period he had extramarital affairs. In 1979 he met Cindy Hensley and they began dating, and he urged his wife to grant him a divorce, which she did. McCain and Cindy Hensley were married in 1980. McCain’s children did not attend the wedding and several years passed before they reconciled. John and Cindy McCain entered into a prenuptial agreement that kept most of her family's assets under her name; they would always keep their finances apart and file separate income tax returns.

He went to work for Hensley & Co., his new father-in-law large Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship. As Vice President of Public Relations at the distributorship, he gained political support among the local business community, meeting powerful figures such as banker Charles Keating, Jr.. He was later investigated in a political influence scandal of the 1980s as a member of the “Keating Five”. Between 1982 and 1987, Senator McCain had received $112,000 in lawful political contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and his associates at Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, along with trips on Keating's jets that McCain belatedly repaid two years later. In 1987, McCain was one of five senators whom Keating contacted in order to prevent the government's seizure of Lincoln Savings and Loan. In the end, McCain was cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee of acting improperly or violating any law or Senate rule, but was rebuked for exercising "poor judgment".

In 1997, McCain became chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee; he was criticized for accepting funds from corporations and businesses under the committee's purview, but in response said the restricted contributions he received were not part of the big-money nature of the campaign finance problem.

And for all you Black folks who think Senator McCain is so great, in 1983, he opposed creation of a federal Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This year (in the midst of a presidential campaign) he admitted: "I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support (not until 1990) for a state holiday in Arizona." Yeah right; only after being forced to do so under threat from the U.S. government of pulling federal money from the state and the treat from the NFL of not bring the Super Bowl to Phoenix.

Senator McCain mocked Senator Obama as a “Rock Star” on his on Obama’s overseas trip when in truth McCain visited the same countries and more and acted like he was the head of state as he accused Senator Obama of doing. McCain himself urged Obama to visit Iraq and when it turned out that Senator Obama was received very much better than Senator McCain, he began to whine. Senator Obama’s overseas trip killed any notion that he is not ready to lead.

Senator Barack Obama is a true American story. In no other country could the child of a single mother who was raised by his grandparents grow up to be at the doorsteps of the highest position of that nation. No I’m not telling you who to vote for. I’m just telling you not to be doped by the routine U.S. political attack machine. We cannot afford another four years of the same policies as the last eight years. In the words of Bernie Mac, "Who You Wit".

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Grambling State University

Continuing on with the list of historically Black colleges and universities here is what is commonly known as “the Black Norte Dame”.

Grambling State University is a public, coeducational university, which is among the Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. Located in Grambling, Louisiana, Grambling State was founded in 1901 and accredited in 1949. The GSU motto is “Where Everybody Is Somebody”.

Grambling State University emerged from the desire of Black farmers in rural north Louisiana who wanted to educate other Blacks in the northern and western parts of the state. In 1896, the North Louisiana Colored Agriculture Relief Association was formed to organize and operate a school. After opening a small school west of what is now the town of Grambling, the Association requested assistance from Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Charles P. Adams, sent to aid the group in organizing an industrial school, became its founder and first president. Under Adams’ leadership, the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School opened on November 1, 1901. Four years later, the school moved to its present location and was renamed the North Louisiana Agricultural and Industrial School. By 1928, the school was able to offer two-year professional certificates and diplomas after becoming a state junior college. The school was renamed Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute.

In 1936, the program was reorganized to emphasize rural education. It became known as "The Louisiana Plan" or "A Venture in Rural Teacher Education." Professional teaching certificates were awarded when a third year was added in 1936, and the first baccalaureate degree was awarded in 1944 in elementary education. The institution’s name was changed to Grambling College in 1946 in honor of a White sawmill owner, P.G. Grambling, who donated a parcel of land for the school. Thereafter, the college prepared secondary teachers and added curricula in sciences, liberal arts and business. With these programs in effect, the school was transformed from a single purpose institution of teacher education into a multipurpose college. In 1949, the college was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). In 1974, the addition of graduate programs in early childhood and elementary education gave the school a new status and a new name – Grambling State University.

From 1977 to 2000, the university grew and prospered. Several new academic programs were incorporated and new facilities were added to the 384-acre campus, including a business and computer science building, school of nursing, student services building, new stadium, stadium support facility and an intramural sports center. In a renewed emphasis of its commitment toward modernized university facilities, student housing and sustained scholarship support, Grambling State University kicked off a Comprehensive Capital Campaign, November 24, 2007 with the goal of raising $30 million over the next five to seven years. GSU students were among the first to contribute to the campaign with their contribution of a $1 million scholarship endowment to forge sustained financial support for academic programs. Their endowment was made by a $500,000 contribution which will be matched dollar for dollar and used for need based scholarships.

Following the first university president Charles P. Adams, in 1936, the school’s longest serving and most noted president, Dr. Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, became the second president who served until 1977.

Currently, the GSU Department of Athletics sponsors men's intercollegiate football and baseball along with men's and women's basketball, track & field, softball, golf, soccer, tennis, bowling and volleyball. GSU is best known for its world famous football and marching band programs. At the time of his retirement in 1997, Coach Eddie Robinson held the NCAA record for most career wins as a head coach in college football. During his stellar 57-year career Coach Rob sent over 100 G-Men to the National Football League (NFL) and many more to the Canadian Football League (CFL) causing the school to gain a national reputation. After Robinson’s retirement in 1997, former GSU standout and NFL Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams took over the reins of the University's football program. Grambling has won thirteen Black college national championships, more than any other HBCU school. The Tigers sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (I-AA for football) in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The school colors are Black and Gold. Grambling State plays its arch rival Southern University in the annual "Bayou Classic," in New Orleans over Thanksgiving weekend at the Louisiana Superdome and broadcast nationally on NBC.

Composer Sam Spence wrote an instrumental piece for NFL Films entitled "Ramblin' Man from Gramblin,'" acknowledging both the University as well as the Bob Seger song "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man".

Since the arrival of the late great Conrad Hutchinson in 1952, the Tiger Marching Band has performed all around the world, from Tokyo, Japan to Monrovia, Liberia; in movies, TV commercials, TV shows, numerous Super Bowls, NBA games, albums, etc.

• Since the early 1960s the “famed band from Tiger Land” has performed in nearly every major stadium in the U.S.
• Performed at Super Bowl I.
• Performed at the inauguration of Liberian President William Tolbert.
• Performed at the U.S.’s bicentennial celebration in Washington, D.C.
• President Bill Clinton performed with the band for a halftime show in Grambling, Louisiana and gave Grambling State's Marching Band the undisputed title of "The Best Band in the Land!"
• The Tiger Marching Band has an average of 250 students with a grade points average of 3.00 or more each year.
• The Tiger Marching Band — along with GSU's female dance troupe, "The Orchesis Dance Company" — was featured in a nationally televised commercial as part of Procter & Gamble's "Tampax Was There" marketing campaign.
• In 1998, the band was featured in Super Bowl XXXII, alongside Boyz II Men, Martha Reeves, and Smokey Robinson.
• The band appeared in "Marching Band/Coke Is It," an award-winning commercial developed for Coca-Cola USA.
• The band also performed in the Hollywood films Grambling's White Tiger (1981), and Drumline (2002).
• In the 118th Tournament of Roses Parade, Grambling State's marching band was the marching band in the Star Wars Spectacular, in which all members were wearing Imperial officer uniforms.
• The band was in the inaugural parade for President George W. Bush.

In 2006, Grambling State was the setting for the Black Entertainment Television network docudrama "Season of the Tiger," which chronicled the daily lives of members of the football team and marching band throughout the 2005 season.

Notable alumni include Willis Reed, NBA Hall of Famer; Erica Abi Wright (better know by her stage name Erykah Badu); Doug Williams, NFL Super Bowl XXII MVP; Ronnie Coleman, 8 time Mr. Olympia winner; actress Natalie Desselle-Reid; and a list of who’s who in the NFL including Hall of Famers Buck Buchanan and Willie Davis.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jamaican Jam and Sweep in Olympic Women's 100 Meters

When it comes to the Beijing Olympic sprints, nobody does it better than the Jamaicans. Yeah, mon, the Caribbean island of 2.8 million people capped the first gold-medal sweep of men's and women's 100-meter dashes since 1912 with a rare 1-2-2 sweep of the women's race. After never winning Olympic gold in the 100, Jamaica got two in as many days.

Shelly-Ann Fraser won the women's 100 meter dash Sunday, pumping her fist as she was clocked in 10.78 seconds. Teammates Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart finished in a dead heat for the silver, 0.20 second back - the same margin Jamaica's Usain Bolt won by Friday night when won the men’s 100 meter dash in a world record time of 9.69.

Fraser smiled wide, showing her braces, and then went to pick up the green, yellow and black Jamaican flag. It was the widest margin of victory in an Olympic women's 100 final since 1988, when Florence Griffith-Joyner set the world record. After she crossed the finish line more than a body length in the lead, reggae music played in the background during a three-minute delay while judges looked at the photo finish to determine second place. There was no way to split the difference, so Jamaica got the top three spots and didn't even have to settle for a bronze.

Jamaica's big win turned into a giant disappointment for the United States. Lauryn Williams finished fourth, Muna Lee fifth and Torri Edwards last. Making it even more impressive is that the woman widely considered Jamaica's best at this distance, defending world champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, wasn't even in the field, after failing to qualify at the country's Olympic trials.

Her spot went to Fraser, the least accomplished of the Jamaican sprinters - at least until now. She is only 21 and didn't have a time under 11 seconds before this year. The highlight on her resume before now was the silver medal she won as part of the Jamaican relay team at last year's world championships.

Speaking of relays - it's not hard to pick a favorite for that women's 400 relay Friday. Jamaica won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics four years ago, though it was hard to know whether Jamaica was truly the fastest team because Williams and Marion Jones botched their handoff and the traditionally strong American team didn't finish the race.

Jamaicans now hold the titles of “World’s Fastest Man” and “World’s Fastest Woman”. In what was the domain of the United States, Jamaica is now the power house in the sprints and as such the world’s sprint factory.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lightning Bolt Breaks 100-meter record, Wins Olympic Gold

It was an incredible display of pure speed. It originated from those long, waist-high strides of 6-foot-5 Usain “Lightning Bolt” with his golden spikes, to win the 100-meter Olympic gold medal and break his own world record Saturday night.

In a race usually determined with a look at the replay, it was there for all to see, this one was an amazing gap of several feet between the Jamaican and the rest of the field at the finish. And the bright, yellow numbers on the red-and-black trackside clock blaring the official time: 9.69 seconds. “Is that really possible?!” Was it possible for one man to end up that far ahead of seven other men, seven other elite sprinters, the best the world has to offer? It was, after all, the first Olympic 100 in which six men finished in under 10 seconds.

Imagine what the time might have been if with 20 meters to go and already certain victory steps away Usain Bolt had not slowed to mug for the cameras. Outstretched arms with palms up, he slapped his chest while taking the last steps, leaning back to enjoy the moment instead of leaning forward at the finish line.

Usain Bolt’s eyes were wide as he playfully nudged an opponent during the prerace stroll through the stadium hallways, and, moments later, when he clowned with one of the volunteers at the start line before handing her his backpack. “I was having fun,” Bolt said. “That’s just me—I like to have fun.”

Those lanky legs allow Bolt to cover more ground, but his turnover for each stride also takes longer. He might just be turning the dash into a big man’s event. In 2004 Bolt ran the 200 m in 19.93 seconds, becoming the first junior to break the 20-second mark; breaking Lorenzo Daniel's world junior record. At the 2007 Jamaican Championships, Bolt ran 19.75, breaking the 36-year-old national record held by Don Quarrie by 0.11 seconds. At the World Championships in Osaka, Japan Bolt won a silver medal in the 200 m behind Tyson Gay. This was only his 5th senior run over the distance. On the 13 July 2008 in Athens, Greece Usain once again broke the 200 m national record by running 19.67. Bolt arrived at the Beijing Summer Olympics as the favorite in both the 100 m and 200 meters. He is coached by Glen Mills and currently attends the University of Technology, Jamaica. Bolt has 6 sub-10 seconds in 100 m and 12 sub-20 seconds in the 200 m.

Bolt’s sudden emergence truly began May 5 in Jamaica, when he ran 9.76 seconds, just shy of countryman Asafa Powell’s then-record 9.74. Then, on May 31 in New York City, Bolt broke Powell’s mark by finishing in 9.72. Now that is gone, too, and Bolt’s 0.20-second margin of victory matched the largest in an Olympic 100 final over the last 40 years. Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, and the NCAA champion from LSU won the silver by finishing in 9.89 and Walter Dix of the United States, was the bronze medalist in 9.91.

Bolt turned in as awe-inspiring a show as Olympic track and field has seen in years, maybe dating to Michael Johnson’s world-record 19.32 seconds in the 200 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Games. That mark could be next for Bolt, who considers the 200 his specialty. The heats for that event begin Monday, and the final is Wednesday, a day before his 22nd birthday. It’s all particularly remarkable when you consider that Bolt, from the same farming Trelawny parish in his Caribbean nation that was home to Ben Johnson, only began competing in the dash 13 months ago.

Even though his left shoelace was dangling, the knot undone. Even though he skidded out of the starting blocks with the seventh-slowest reaction time in the eight-man final. Even though as recently as this month, Bolt left some doubt as to whether he would even contest the 100 in Beijing, because he didn’t want to disrupt his preparation for the 200. The talk for weeks has been about how Bolt might hold up in the four-round format at the Olympics, and how he’d do squaring off against Powell and reigning world champion Tyson Gay. That didn’t work out. Gay, who paid for being sidelined the past 1 1/2 months after injuring his left hamstring at the U.S. Olympic trials, didn’t even make the final, finishing fifth in his semi. Powell, meanwhile, was fifth in the final for a second consecutive Olympics, adding to his reputation for flopping on the big stage.

Usain Bolt was born 21 August 1986 in Trelawny, Jamaica, the youngest of six sons of parents Cislins and William Powell. While attending William Knibb Memorial High School, he won the Jamaican high school titles in the 200 and 400 meters. At the age of 15 he won a gold and two silver medals at the 2002 World Junior Championships in front of a home crowd in Kingston, becoming the youngest world junior gold medalist ever. He won another gold medal at the 2003 World Youth Championships, running the 200 m in 20.40 seconds. Usain Bolt and retired Jamaican sprinter Michael Green are past students of William Knibb.

Friday, August 15, 2008

James Blake Stuns Roger Federer in Beijing

In an amazing upset at the Beijing Olympics, U.S. tennis player James Blake defeated the Olympics top-seeded and the world’s No. 1 men’s player Roger Federer. Blake, the eighth seed, beat Federer, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), after losing all seven of their previous meetings. James Blake represented the United States as one of its three men's singles tennis players in the Beijing Olympics. In the quarterfinals, he gained perhaps the biggest win of his career with his first ever win over Roger Federer. However in the semifinals Blake lost to Fernando Gonzalez 4-6, 7-5, 11-9.

James Riley Blake was born December 28, 1979 in Yonkers, New York to Thomas, Sr. and British mother Betty Blake. Blake started playing tennis, along with his younger brother, Thomas, Jr., at the age of 5 years old. Thomas, Jr. is also a professional tennis player. He has three older half-brothers, Jason, Christopher, and Howard, and a half-sister, Michelle.

At the age of thirteen, he was diagnosed with scoliosis and was forced to wear a back brace for eighteen hours daily although not during tennis. Blake was inspired to pursue tennis after hearing his role model, Arthur Ashe, speak to the Harlem Junior Tennis Program. James, eager to turn pro, left Harvard University after his sophomore year, as the top collegiate player in the country. He is the only player in the top 50 who even went to college. He intends to return to Harvard, once his time on tour is up—and to change his major from economics to sociology or African-American studies.

James Blake was named rookie of the year for 2000 for the World team tennis season. He gained the eyes of the tennis world by taking eventual champion Lleyton Hewitt to five sets in the U.S. Open in 2001. In 2004 Blake experienced dreadful events starting with him breaking his neck by running into a net post during practice, his father past in July due to stomach cancer, and Blake developed shingles that temporarily paralyzed part of his face and weakened his vision.

Blake is currently the 7th ranked player in the world as of August 13, 2008. He is the top-ranked American player. James Blake is known for his speed and powerful forehands. On July 3, 2007, Blake's book, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, discussing his comeback after his unlucky 2004 season, was released and debuted at #22 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

In 2005 Blake recovered from his injuries and received a wildcard to the U.S. Open, where he beat Rafael Nadal, Tommy Robredo, but lost in a five set match to Andre Agassi. He has remained a top tennis player since.

At the age 21, Blake saw his first Davis Cup action in 2001 against India and became the third person Black American to play for the Davis Cup for the United States (after Arthur Ashe and MaliVai Washington).

Career Highlights
• August 5, 2002: Wins his first ATP title - the doubles title at AMS Cincinnati with Todd Martin
• March 19, 2006: Reaches his first ATP Masters Series singles final, losing to Roger Federer in the final of AMS Indian Wells
• 2005 2005 U.S. Open: beat Rafael Nadal on September 3, 2005, which was his first win over a Top 10 player in a Grand Slam event.
• March 20, 2006: Breaks into the world top ten for the first time—ranked No. 9, moving up from No. 14
• August 21, 2006: Achieves a ranking of No. 5
• November 4, 2006: Secures a spot in the Tennis Masters Cup for the first time in his career
• November 19, 2006: Achieves a career-high No. 4 ranking, becoming the top-ranked American.

Away from tennis, Blake also enjoys golf and basketball. He is a big fan of the New York Mets. Blake appeared in People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue. He is also good friends with singer/songwriter John Mayer, who also attended the same High School.

James Blake now lives in Tampa, Florida with his brother Thomas, in a gated community populated almost exclusively by professional athletes. Mardy Fish, his closest friend on tour, lives down the street, as do several Yankees, including Derek Jeter and, soon, Mariano Rivera. Blake owes his tennis existence to his father, a salesman at 3M who learned the game in the Air Force, met his mother on the public courts in Yonkers. Thomas Sr., volunteered at a tennis clinic in an old armory in Harlem when the boys were young, and that is where he took them every weekend, and where, in the years to come, the media would tend to imagine them being from. When he was six, the Blakes moved from Yonkers to Fairfield, Connecticut, a well-to-do commuter town, where the family lived modestly, by Fairfield standards, in a house with one bathroom. At the public high school, the boys were tennis stars and straight-A students. Blake gets annoyed when people say he's from Harlem. “I can still be Black and be from Fairfield," said Blake.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Many Religious Voters Favor Senator Obama

As the U.S. presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, continue to fine-tune their platforms before this month's party conventions, a survey released this week has renewed debate about the political leanings of a prominent, and often misunderstood, group of voters: Christians.

Ever since George W. Bush rode a wave of evangelical votes into the White House in 2000 and 2004, political analysts have been mulling just how much restless evangelicals, with their strong views on hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage, seem to be reshaping the political landscape.

Faith-based groups have been the domain of the Republican Party lately, but political times could be changing. A study released this week by the Barna Group, a Christian research and consulting firm based in Ventura, Calif., finds that Senator Obama, the Democratic nominee, currently enjoys the support of more faith-driven voters, including Christians, than his Republican rival.

The poll, which shows Barack Obama ahead of John McCain 43 percent to 34 percent among likely voters, also finds Obama leading in 18 of 19 different religious faith communities defined by the survey's strict standards. McCain leads in only one--evangelicals. Regardless, there is little doubt that evangelicals are still a highly motivated, well-organized voting bloc. Nearly 90 percent of evangelicals in the Barna study said they intend to vote in November.

The survey shows that the much debated "God gap" between Republicans and Democrats among Christian voters as a whole may not be nearly as dramatic as it appeared in 2004. Indeed, among those who self-identify as "evangelical" but who don't fit the Barna group's criteria, John McCain holds only a 39 to 37 lead over Barack Obama, with nearly 1 in 4 voters saying they are still undecided.

Among most other Christian groups, the Democratic candidate continues to enjoy a comfortable lead. Senator Obama has a huge advantage among non-Christians, atheists, and agnostics, but he also leads among nonevangelical, born-again Christians (43 to 31), Christians who are neither born-again nor evangelical (44 to 28), Catholics (39 to 29), and Protestants (43 to 34). If the current preferences stand pat, this would mark the first time in more than two decades that the born-again vote has swung toward the Democratic candidate.

Experts aren't sure exactly what is causing this shift. Senator Obama has made a concerted effort to reach out to faith-oriented voters, including a splashy announcement this summer about expanding President Bush's faith-based initiative. He speaks more openly about his faith than many previous Democratic presidential candidates, and he has made an effort to find common ground with opponents of abortion.

Still, most experts believe that Christian voters' preferences, like those of many other voters, have less to do with the candidates' current positions than with a backlash against the Bush presidency. When asked to describe what makes the candidates stand out, at the top of the list for Christian voters currently supporting Barack Obama is "being different from George Bush."

When the pre-election advertising campaigns begin this fall--particularly those that emphasize Senator Obama's support for abortion rights--those numbers may drop. There is a lot of anger toward the Bush administration.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Darfur Refugee Will Lead U.S. Olympic Team

Lopez Lomong will lead the U.S. Olympic team at opening ceremonies Friday night at Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing. Lomong, one ot the "Lost Boys of Sudan" was selected Thursday as the flag bearer for the U.S. team. He won a vote of team captains to earn the honor at the Olympic opening ceremonies.

Lopez was born Lopepe Lomong, January 1, 1985 in Kimotong, Sudan. He was among roughly 3,800 refugees, dubbed the Lost Boys of Sudan by reporters and aid workers, who were resettled in cities across the United States. Nearly all were boys who had been separated from relatives during fighting in Sudan. They endured months of wandering during which thousands died of hunger, disease or attacks by bandits or wild animals.

Human rights groups have faulted China for doing too little to pressure Sudan, its trading partner, to halt continuous bloodshed in the Darfur region. An estimated 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been forced from their homes in a campaign of genocide in Darfur. Lomong was uprooted in 1991 by a grinding civil war in Sudan that pitted Black southerners who practiced Christianity and other religions against a government dominated by Arab Muslims from northern Sudan. The north-south war in Sudan killed 2 million people and displaced 4 million others before a 2005 peace deal ended the fighting. Yet violence still rages in the unrelated conflict that erupted in 2003 in the western region of Darfur. Lomong is a member of Team Darfur, a group of athletes committed to raising awareness about the violence in the Darfur.

The 23-year-old Lomong is a 1,500-meter runner. He was born in Sudan and separated from his family at the point of a gun by rebels, a fate shared by thousands of children in the Darfur, a western area of Sudan. After escaping from a rebel camp with the help of friends at age 6, he spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in Tully, New York in 2001 as part of a program to relocate lost children from war torn Sudan and becoming a U.S. citizen a year ago.

Lomong called the honor “the most exciting day ever in my life. It's more than a dream," Lomong said in an interview with the Associated Press moments after he got the news. "I keep saying, I'm not sure if this is true or not true. I'm making the team and now I'm the first guy coming to the stadium and the whole world will be watching me carry the flag. There are no words to describe it. I feel great," Lomong said. "I feel happy, honored. I'm feeling so blessed to get an opportunity to present the United States of America, to present the United States flag in front of my team."

Lopez Lomong began running shortly after the 2000 Olympics. He walked about 5 miles from the Kenyan camp and spent his earnings of a few cents from a landscaping job to pay to watch the Sydney Games on TV.

Lomong attended Tully High School in Upstate New York where he helped lead the cross country and track teams to sectional and state titles, and later competed for Northern Arizona University. In 2007, Lomong was the division I NCAA indoor champion at 3000 meters and the outdoor champion at 1500 meters. He finished third in the distance at the Olympic trials. All three Americans in the 1,500 are naturalized citizens — Lomong, Bernard Lagat (Kenya) and Leo Manzano (Mexico).

After his success at the collegiate level, Lopez signed a contract with Nike and now competes professionally. He specializes in the 1500m run but is a serious contender in every mid-distance race from 800m up to and including the 5k. Lomong is a member of Team Darfur, a group of athletes urging China to exert pressure on Sudan's government to address the violent conflict in Sudan's Darfur.

He is the son of foster parents Robert and Barbara Rogers. Lomong enjoys listening to music. One of his favorite artists is 2Pac Shakur. He plans on majoring in hotel and restaurant management and hopes to have a partnership with a well known hotel like Marriot. His goal is to build a hotel in Africa in order to bring tourists to his birth home and create more of a peaceful environment there. He'd love nothing more than to give people the opportunity to visit the country and interact with the people before prejudging what it may be like there.

Monday, August 4, 2008

BlackAmericaStudy: Stereotypes Don’t Match

A recent study has proven what we already knew – not all Black folks are alike. My father may take one position, and I take another, and my daughter takes another. A Black man in Ruston, Louisiana has a different worldview and experience than a Black man in San Jose, California, and the views of a Black woman raised in Denver, Colorado are vastly different from a Black woman raised in White Plaines, New York.

The study provides a portrait of Black Americans’ social views, consumer tastes and notions of identity. Sponsored by Radio One, one of the U.S.'s largest radio broadcasting companies and the largest radio broadcasting company that primarily targets Black and urban listeners, the study, “Black America Today”, provides a fresh look at more than 30 million Black Americans.

The survey finds that Blacks have made progress economically and educationally and that most have a positive outlook for the future. Nearly one-third make more that $50,000 a year, and 47% own homes.

While each of us is different those surveyed also believe that Blacks have a distinct history which makes solidarity important. Many also maintain a high level of distrust of the government, criminal justice system and mainstream media.

The survey found that the so-called digital divide that previously was leaving behind minorities and others without access to the internet have narrowed greatly. About 68% of Blacks spend time online, compared with 70% of all Americans. People who wouldn’t necessarily have the internet on a computer now have iPhones or can find other ways,” says Tariq Muhammad, director of, the most-visited website targeted to Black Americans. “Accessibility has been a big factor in ensuring that communities of color are online.”

The survey also revealed an entrepreneurial spirit among young people. One-fourth of the “connected teens” group is already saving for their own businesses. They say can not rely on corporate America.

The study found that Blacks who live in the not so nice parts of the inner city worry about crime every day and dream of having a home in safer areas. They view the police with conflicting emotions. They are afraid of the police and at the same time glad that police are not far from where they live.

To view the survey and learn how we view one another visit:

Bernie Mac Hospitalized with Pneumonia

While Bernie Mac (real name: Bernard Jeffery McCullough) remains in a Chicago hospital with pneumonia, his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement that the 50-year-old actor/comedian is responding well to treatment and should be released soon.

The pneumonia is not related to an inflammatory lung disease known as sarcoidosis which causes inflammation in the lungs, lymph nodes and other organs. That condition has been in remission since 2005.

Most recently Mac made headlines when he attended a Barack Obama fundraiser and made a few lighthearted comments about the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. "I'm proud of him because politics is dirty, especially with Republicans," he said. "People like rumors. They are going to say things like, you know, 'You was in the club with Lil' Kim, and you and Kanye West got in a fistfight.' "

In addition to his appearance in last year's hit "Transformers," Mac has recently been working on the TV series "Starting Under," as well as several films, including the Samuel L. Jackson flick "Soul Men" (slated for release later this year) and the John Travolta comedy "Old Dogs," which is scheduled for a 2009 release.