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I had the honor of submitting a Guest Column that ran in today’s Augusta Chronicle.

We can all embrace limited government and personal responsibility

Guest Columnist

Why is there so much resistance among a large number of African-Americans to the idea of limited government?

Is it because of its association with a party they are disproportionately not affiliated with? From a pragmatic point of view, if businesses were able to operate in the most efficient manner with as little government intervention as possible so they can grow and become more profitable, that would be reasonable.

Personal responsibility is another term that conjures negative images among many African-Americans, with its association to one political party. How and when did this happen?

I grew up in a household where we had to make up our beds before we came to the table for breakfast. The notion of lounging around the house with our pajamas on, on a Saturday, was not going to happen. Each of us (I have three siblings) had responsibilities and chores, and there was no discussion about that.

There is something liberating to me about personal responsibility. I remember having a baby-sitting job in my early years so I could have my own money. I also recall applying for and receiving scholarships and grants for college so my parents would have to fork out as little money as possible to help me, which allowed my siblings at home to have more. As long as I am able, I am going to do my part. I believe most people think the same way. But somewhere over the years, I believe too many of our elected officials have gotten in the way.

THIS COLUMN was not written to debate the argument of having government-funded social programs or the need for them. I believe we are all aware of those conversations and have heard them ad nauseam . But with all of the divisiveness and in-fighting among our national political leaders and political parties, I don’t see many of the social issues decreasing, do you?

Here are some statistics plaguing the African-American community.

– Black males lead the nation in incarceration. According to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, about 60 percent of Georgia black male high school students don’t graduate.

– In 2009, Richmond County had 26 murders; 15 of the victims (57 percent) were black men. In that same year, of those murders, 17 of the victims (65 percent) were black. Eighty-two percent of those arrested for these murders were black men.

– The largest number of people contracting HIV/AIDS is African-American women.

– In 2009, 77 percent of the known people having abortions in Richmond County were African-American women.

– Georgia has the eighth-highest teen birth rate in the nation.

l Richmond County has two ZIP codes in the top 10 with the highest number of incarcerated prisoners — 30906 and 30901.

There is simply not enough progress in resolving these social ills. It seems to be getting worse. With these statistics, ask yourself: Do you think they are going to get better if we maintain the same type of thinking or if we continue doing the same thing we have been doing? I think not.

This Thursday, April 15, there will be an event at Augusta Common — the Augusta Tea Party. Thousands of people will attend, and you probably also will be able to count on four hands the number of African-Americans present. What’s wrong with that picture?

Are there some overzealous individuals who may say and do things that are offensive and a little extreme? Maybe. Will there be talk against President Obama and Democrats? I would think so. There also will be discontented people who will have a lot to say about most of our congressmen — no matter their political affiliation.

But will the primary message of the Augusta Tea Party on Thursday be limited government and personal responsibility? I think so. Why? Because those are two cornerstones of the conservative ideology. And, yes, there are more conservatives associated with Tea Parties than anyone else. But why does it have to be that way?

LET’S LOOK BEYOND the negative images the national media project about Tea Parties. Let’s look beyond party affiliations and put our affiliation blinders on. What if we did something different? What if we embraced and implemented this train of thought of limited government and personal responsibility for, say, 30 days? Statistics have shown that when one does something for 30 days, it can become a habit.

What do you think would happen? Would the mind-set of an individual change a little? What would be the harm in taking personal responsibility and taking safer precautions with sex? Or encouraging kids that getting an education is really cool? Or finding a better way of dealing with anger and jealousy, and turning the other cheek?

What do we have to lose by trying and doing something a little different so we can better address the concerns that plague African-Americans?

Look at the big picture. Listen to the message of limited government and personal responsibility. I don’t believe these concepts should be a political or divisive issue because they affect all of us. Ask yourself: Is there a way I can wrap my arms around these concepts, along with what I already believe?

I am asking you to step out of your comfort zone and expand your thinking to embrace concepts you’ve never considered before.

I’m not talking about changing your political party, because frankly I believe it’s political parties, in part, that have gotten us in the mess we’re in now. I believe they have helped cloud our ability to engage in a civic dialogue too. It’s time to start bridging divides.

But I do want you to think about the statistics I’ve shared. Consider the questions I’ve raised, and try the 30-day exercise I’ve described. What do we have to lose?

(The writer is an Augusta entrepreneur and the host of a local radio talk show.)

http://chronicle.augusta.com/helen-blocker-adams/2010-04-13/we-can-all-embrace-limited-government-and-personal-responsibility

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I received the following Media Alert today about an important initiative that deals with one of the fastest-growing and addicting drugs ever to hit the state of Georgia and beyond. I took special notice to the two high profile Elected officials who have teamed up to unveil this statewide prevention campaign next week. They are: Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and Democratic U.S. Attorney General Thurbert Baker. If you think about it, most if not all, issues that our elected officials must address impact a variety of people. Even those that are considered Republican,  Democrat, Independent, Green, Liberterian or other. And no matter if one person voted for another. The prevalence of and the impact of Meth in Georgia is staggering and doesn’t target a particular political party of people. And such is the case with virtually every other social or  economic challenge facing us today. It sure would be nice, and would be much more effective, if all of our elected officials, from Washington, DC to our local municipalities can work together, on causes that address people (constituents), no matter what one’s political affiliation. This initiative is an indicator that it can happen. And I do realize that is not an isolated event. But it needs to happen much, much more.

Georgia Meth Project – Media Alert sent by Jackson Spaulding

The Georgia Meth Project will launch its statewide prevention campaign—and unveil its innovative television, print, and outdoor advertising—at the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, March 8, 2010.  The news conference will begin at 11 a.m.

The Honorable Johnny Isakson, United States Senator, and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker will be joined by members of the Georgia Meth Project Advisory Council, substance abuse experts, and Georgia families whose lives have been impacted by Meth use.

The goal of the Georgia Meth Project is to significantly reduce first-time methamphetamine use in the state, and address the social and economic burden caused by Meth use in Georgia.

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In the Midst of Political Hate

If one were not careful, he would start to believe that there is no hope between Blacks and Whites or  Republicans and Democrats. Venom spewed at some of the Healthcare Reform Town Hall meetings, finger pointing, voices of doom and gloom from some of the national talk show hosts and on and on are becoming part of our conversations every day. Here in Augusta, there is a Healthcare Reform Rally planned for Thursday, September 3rd. We have some pretty reasonable people here so I am optimistic that we won’t see some of the nonsense we’ve seen in other parts of the U.S. There are, however, thousands of people who are concerned about the current legislation and they do have a right to express themselves.  I have a problem with it in its current form as well. Prayerfully our Congressmen/women have heard enough from the people that when they return on the 8th, cooler heads will prevail and they come to the table and prepare a bill that is reasonable and acceptable. We shall see.

But in the midst of all of this political hate, I read an article in this morning’s Washington Post that was so encouraging I had to share it. For as long as I can remember, I have been of the mindset that one shouldn’t put all of their eggs in one basket. To have one group of people that blindly votes for one Party versus another is troubling to me. I know from experience how a person can win a race simply because they have a D next to their name, if the African-American vote is who they are pursuing. Surely one can be taken for granted easily when a political candidate really doesn’t have to ‘earn the people’s vote.’ But simply be a Democrat and no worries, ‘we’ve got the Black people’s vote.’ That is what many politicians say, you know?

So Marvin Rogers of Rock Hill, SC has a book coming out soon that addresses this very issue and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. And I also can’t wait to have  him on my radio program. Stay tuned. The name of his forthcoming book is ‘Silence Is the Loudest Sound.’ I love it. Here is the article written by Kathleen Parker from today’s Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/01/AR2009090103631_pf.html

Tackling the Great Divide

By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. — When people think of South Carolina, they think of . . . I know, Comedy Central. Given the state’s generosity in providing punchlines, Jon Stewart and native son Stephen Colbert really ought to consider taking a pay cut.

What people do not typically think of is black Republicans, a perception that could change soon if a young man named Marvin Rogers has his way. This 33-year-old, Spanish-speaking former aide to South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis has a plan for the GOP: He wants to change its complexion.

Until 2008, when he ran unsuccessfully for the state House of Representatives, Rogers may have been better known in Latin America, where he was an itinerant preacher for several years, than in North America. “Unsuccessfully” in this case should be qualified. Rogers won 32 percent of the vote in a blue stronghold, running as a black Republican in the year of Obama.

All things considered, not bad.

Rogers’s story is, shall we say, unorthodox. Born in the tiny town of Boiling Springs, S.C., he was raised by working-class parents with values rather than ideology. “So I was largely removed from the acrimony between the African American race and the Republican Party.”

Without preconceptions about where his race placed him politically, Rogers began examining issues on paper and recognized that he was philosophically more aligned with Republicans than Democrats. But then a funny thing happened. When he began attending political meetings, he noticed, “Oh, my, I’m the only black guy here. What’s up with that?”

That question led Rogers on a quest that has resulted in a book nearing completion, “Silence Is the Loudest Sound,” in which he attempts to explain how the party of Lincoln lost its black soul.

Through five years of study and interviews, Rogers reached the conclusion that the chasm between the black community and the Republican Party is more emotional than philosophical. And, he says, that chasm is more a media template than reflective of reality.

The best explanation for what’s gone wrong, he says, was articulated by Jack Kemp, who told him during an interview: “The Republican Party has had a great history with African-Americans and they turned away from it. The Democratic Party has had a terrible history, but they overcame it.”

Part of the turning away followed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” that tried to harness votes by cultivating white resentment toward blacks. Rogers is no Pollyanna and recognizes this period for what it was — a “bruise” on the GOP. But he insists that Democrats use the Southern strategy when it suits them.

The biggest problem for today’s Republican Party, he says, is tone-deafness, as manifested by conservative talk radio and TV. Rogers says he and most blacks can’t listen to Rush Limbaugh because all they hear is anger.

“They might agree with Rush on the issues, but they can’t hear him because he sounds mad. People don’t follow fussers. People don’t follow angry men. They follow articulators.”

What about Michael Steele, the Republican Party chairman? Is he changing the perception of the GOP as a party of whites?

Rogers takes a moment to consider, and answers carefully.

“Let’s say I think that when he ran for the Maryland Senate seat, and when he was lieutenant governor, that was when he was most effective in changing this perception.”

Another reason the GOP limits itself among African Americans, says Rogers, is because Republicans don’t talk about issues that have currency in the black community — poverty, the challenges of single-parent homes, social justice, recidivism, black capitalism and crime. Studying Republican speeches through the decades was how Rogers came up with his book title.

The way for Republicans to attract black voters is pretty simple, says Rogers: Show up and solve problems.

When he moved to Rock Hill, where he currently lives, Rogers made his home in the inner city rather than the suburbs. When a local basketball team needed money for jerseys, Rogers helped them. Thus, when this inner-city team hit the court, their jerseys said, “York County GOP.”

“People don’t care what [political affiliation] comes after your name,” says Rogers. “They just want the jersey.”

With Rogers on the hustings, Democrats have cause for concern. Among other things, he’s telling African Americans that they have rendered themselves politically impotent by voting monolithically. “If one party can count on our vote, then they can take us for granted. Predictability is suicidal.”

Predictability would seem not to be a problem for a Spanish-speaking, black Republican wonk who just might make South Carolina less of a joke.

kathleenparker@washpost.com

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