Monday, January 19, 2009

The Meaning of the 2009 Inauguration and the Challenges It Represents

Tomorrow will be a day that will live in lore forever. It will open a door that Americans, particularly African Americans have waited for a long time. This will begin a journey that will change our society forever. It will officially announce to America and the world a change has taken place. However, tomorrow will also bring into full focus the great challenges the incoming President will be facing.

On January 20, 2009, millions will be gathered in Washington, DC, as well as those that like myself that will be watching on television to see the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States, and it’s first African American - Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, the country will see the swearing in of a person we will entrust to end two wars abroad, to fix a crippled economy, homeowners are losing their homes in record numbers. Those that still own their homes are having trouble heating them and keeping food on the table. Families cannot send their children to higher education because they don’t know if they will have a job. People are resorting to working two part-time jobs to keep their heads above water.

Besides the loss of jobs, the crippling economy, the confidence of the American people must be restored.

What the last eight years has taught us more than anything is how disgruntled, angry and disgusted Americans feel about how their government. For many, government was supposed to be a place where we could look to for hope, opportunity and chance. What the election as a whole has shown us; is that we cannot look to government alone for confidence and hope. They can be a guiding force, but we as a people we have to do what it takes to improve our lives.

It is going to be up to the American people to bring our country back, we did not get into this situation over night and we will not get out of it overnight. But by rolling up our sleeves and backing our new President we will bring America back. By becoming better parents, neighbors, students -we can do it.

On Nov. 4, 2008. When I went to vote on that morning, In my nine years of voting, I actually had to wait in line to cast my vote. This time, I had to line up at 5 a.m. and the poll was packed. This signaled to me the importance of this day.

I saw 15 of my former classmates and peers I went to school with cast their vote. As we stood in line, we both reminisced about back when we were in school together and how life has changed. Back when we were in school, we were always taught that we could be anything we wanted to be, if we were dedicated to the task. If we took pride in being great everyday. This was a day that really brought what we learned in school full circle.

That day also brought something even more important into focus that I learned about later that day. While many I know did vote for our soon to be 44th President, many did not vote for the State and local candidates who were running that day. What this highlighted for me was the disconnect that many have with government. Yes we have an African American that will be sitting in the White House. Yes we will have someone who is ready to lead us to better days, but in order for things to be taken care of at the national level, we must also take care of home by electing good people on the local level.

I remember something that the Director of Human Resources of Town of Hempstead and co-chairman of the Hempstead Republican Committee told me about former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. (D-MA) preaches a line that O’Neill said he learned as a senior at Boston College, when he ran for a seat on the Cambridge City Council and suffered his first and only electoral loss. The line he said and the one Mr. Salmon always said, was “All politics is local.”

Let us remember, it was not that long ago that Obama was a community organizer in the toughest of neighborhoods in Chicago and it is because of his commitment to make that community better and those that he worked with came together and worked their tails off to make the community better.
This work ethic allowed him to become a United States Senator and in less than 24 hours the leader of a world that is need of a steady hand.

It is true that tomorrow will bring a tremendous amount of joy, invigoration, love, pride and appreciation. What America has to understand is that this is not the end, it is only the beginning. We have an economy that must be repaired. Americans who need to be put back to work. An education system that must be revised. Above all , we as a nation must come together. It is time for us to become a nation that will take the steps to end racism.

After all the confetti has been dropped, all the champagne has been drank at the parties, the music concludes and the parades have stopped, the real works begins.

Obama knew this coming in. That is why he gave the keys to the security of our nation to his rival former New York Senator Hillary Clinton as our new Secretary of State. He also will host a luncheon honoring Sen. John McCain, his political rival.

If anyone has any questions about Obama’s readiness to take on these tremendous challenges that our nation and world will face. Just look at his cabinet, this tells the story about how ready he is.

So if you are not going to work tomorrow, while watching the Inauguration, think about how you can do your part to full fill President Obama agenda of getting America back on track.

“Tip O’Neill” quote is courtesy of

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baseball Hall of Fame Announces Induction Henderson and Rice

This past week, the doors to Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame opened for what many considered the greatest lead-off hitter of all-time and for a Boston Red Sox who got in on his final chance of eligibility.

On July 26, 2009, Rickey Henderson, who received 511 votes out of 539 (94.8 percent) in his first year on the ballot and Jim Rice, who in is final year of eligibility received 412 votes (76.4 percent) will be inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In both players cases, each individually put up mind blowing numbers that gave them the opportunity to be the first left fielders in more than 20 years to be immortalized forever in the profession that they gave everything that they had.

In his 25-year playing career where he played for the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels (now the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim), New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, the 50-year old became MLB’s all-time leader in runs scored with 2, 295, stolen bases with 1,406 and lead-off home runs with 81. He finished his career second in walks with 2,190 and is 21st in hits with 3,055.

“I think as a kid, as a ball player, you look at some of the greatest players that played the game and what they went through and then when they was finished with their career, how well they was honored,” says Henderson, who retired from baseball at age 44.

“So the Hall of Fame means a great deal to me. I’m just happy that I got chosen the first round in the Hall of Fame.”

While he did put up strong numbers, Henderson also did it with great efficiency by averaging per season as a hitter, with a .401 on base percentage and hit 297 career home runs.

More than anything he had a knack of making big plays in the biggest of moments. In 1993, he was part of a 3-run walk-off home run that was hit by Joe Carter in the bottom of the ninth inning that helped the Toronto Blue Jays to a 8-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies and gave Blue Jays back-to-back World Series titles.

On Aug. 27, 1982, he broke the single-season steals record, finishing that season with 130, which surpassed Lou Brock’s 118 in 1974. On May 1, 1991, Henderson set the all-time record in MLB for career steals with 939 stolen base as an Athletic against of all teams the Bronx Bombers, better known as the Yankees. He embraced that mild stone by pulling the base out of the ground and held it in the air.

In 2001, Henderson recorded two milestones when he was with the Padres. On Oct. 4, he surpassed Ty Cobb as the league’s all-time leader in runs scored and on Oct. 7, recorded the 3, 000 hit of his career.

Along with his great numbers and milestone moments, he managed to garner some individual recognition. He was an all-star 10 times, won three Silver Slugger Awards (1981, 1982 and 1985); was the 1990 American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP), the 1989 American League Championship Series MVP and in the late stages of his career was the 1999 National League (NL) Comeback Player of the Year.

When we think of Jim Rice, the name that comes to mind of someone who waited a long time to be immortalized as a Hall of Famer in the sport where the number say he should have been in a lot sooner is former Washington Redskins’ wide receiver Art Monk.

In his career as a Red Sox, Rice had a .298 batting average, hit 382 homers, had 1, 451 runs batted in (RBIs) and a .502 slugging percentage. In the time period from 1975-86, what many considered the greatest time of baseball, Rice lead all AL players with 350 home runs, 1, 276 RBI’s  and 2,145 hits. He led the AL in homers on three occasions (1977, 1978 and 1983), RBIs in 1978 and 1983 and in total bases four times (1977-79 and 1983).

He was selected to eight AL all-star teams, was Silver Slugger Award recipient back-to-back years in 1983 and 1984 and was AL MVP in 1978.

“It is a crime and I blame my colleagues who are baseball writers as a group for letting this guy go this long,” Michael Wilbon, Washington Post Sports Columnist and co-host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.

His real crowning moment came in 1986 when he hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 4th inning in Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS that gave the Red Sox a 7-1 lead over the California Angels that they would never recover from and Boston went on to win the pennant 4-3. The Red Sox though lost to the New York Mets in seven games in the World Series.

While it might have taken a long time, Rice is very thankful for the opportunity to be enshrined forever the greatest of his professional sport.

“It’s a big relief. It just seems like. I did not have any weight on my shoulders per say before that, but when I got the call, it just seem like everything just fell back and so that was a relief there,” Rice said to reporters earlier this week. “I’ m not going to bad mouth the writers on why they waited so long because the numbers are still the same.”

In a sport today that does not have many African Americans in it, these two when they played were one of the best. They achieved greatness individually and made their team great in the biggest of moments. They put up the numbers and made the headlines at the same time. They still have one more headline to make and that is in July when they will be inducted with the greatest to ever play in Major League Baseball.

Statistical Information and quotations are courtesy of ESPN’s Sportscenter, and

Friday, January 9, 2009

What happened in 2008 and what is ahead in 2009

The year of 2008 was one that made us take of notice about where we are in today’s world. This was a year where the unthinkable took place. It was a year when we thought things that would never happened in our lifetime became reality. 2008 showed us that when we only take interest in ourselves and not the great good of people, dreams can be shattered, lives can be turned upside down and the future can be bleak. This was also a year where we said goodbye to people who impacted our lives through the big and small screen, to those who entertained us in person and one who made us better through lectures More than anything 2008 was a year of the reemergence of what it takes to be successful and that in order for things to happen it takes more than just the individual themselves.

The biggest story of what took place in 2008 happened on Nov. 4 when this nation stood as one and voted our first African American president in Barack Obama. What this showed us more than anything is what the true meaning of individual power really is. For as long as we can remember we were always told that people have sacrificed their lives for us to have the right to vote. There was a time when African Americans were shunned away from the poles. There was a time when women did not have the right to vote. That was something for a long time we took for granted, until this year.

Why this year? Well because of what has occurred. In just the past 12 months, were have an economy system that is in shambles. We have banks like Merrill Lynch that needed to be bought to be prevented from going under. We have three of the top automakers GM, Chrysler and Ford, all of whom are based in Michigan by the way, needed a government bailout to stay afloat. On top of that, people have lost their jobs and have been unable to afford to pay their mortgage on their house, which has resulted in the highest rate of foreclosures that this country has ever witnessed. On top of that, we are at war in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If there is anything that these events has shown is the importance of having a steady hand in the highest office in the land is very important. That we have an individual who we can have faith in that understands that America is only as good as the governing body that resides over it. More importantly, we are a nation of people who are willing to work together and be equal in standards and not petty things like money, power and greed. That is what it will take to get our nation back on track. 

While there were times that were bleak in 2008, it did have some high points besides our nation electing the first African American President. We witnessed one of the greatest performances at the Olympics when Michael Phelps in Beijing won eight gold medals in his swimming events. He surpassed Mark Spitz, also an American swimmer, who garnered seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

His performance showed us that you can make a name for yourself and the sport that you represent. This is someone who opened up our eyes to something that we did not pay much attention to. He showed us how ones competitive spirit and dedication can make you go from unknown to well known. On top of that, it also showed us that when you have family behind you, you are a winner regardless of what happens in the heat of battle. During the Olympic coverage you saw Phelp’s Mother Deborah Sue Davisson Phelps and his two older sisters Whitney and Hilary routing him on in every event. When you have that kind of support, you can do special things.

We learned one other very important lesson from the Olympics and that is the value of team. This was taught to us by the 2008 USA Men’s Basketball team, who took Olympic Gold over the Spanish National team 118-107 on Aug. 24, 2008 to capture Olympic Gold for the first time since 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. In the past, the United States has been criticized for putting together a team of a bunch of NBA All-Stars practicing for couple of months or less and going to the Olympic sight and winning gold. In the past, that formula did succeed, but in 2000, things started to change. While the 2000 edition captured gold, it was not easy. The rest of the world caught up and before you knew it, the United States was defeated in the 2004 Olympics.

The 2008 Men’s National Team was put together very differently. They appointed Jerry Colangelo, the national director of USA Basketball. He also made it clear to those players he asked to be on the team that they make a three-year commitment, which included participation in the 2006 FIBA World Championship Games and the 2008 Olympics itself. In selecting the coaching staff, Colangelo chose Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, to be assisted by Jim Boeheim of Syracuse University, New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan of the Portland Trail Blazers. While the team consisted NBA prominent All-Stars like Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Kobe Bryant (Los Angles Lakers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), the team also had balance of great role players like Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons), Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks), Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) and Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets).

Together, that group not only represented well on the court, but it made our country proud of the court. They were seen at all the events, which included seeing Phelps make history winning his eight gold medals. They took in the sights like going to the Great Wall of China. On the court, they played well on both ends. They made the extra pass on offense and were like a connected string on defense.  They defeated China, Angola, Greece, Spain and Germany by an average of 32.2 points per contest.  The gold medal contest though was not an easy one. The United States lead by as many as 14, but Spain did not concede and came back cut the margin to 2 points with 9 minutes to go. The USA held Spain off thanks to Wade who scored 27 points, 21 of those authored in the first half and to Bryant who scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the USA won.

What was so special about this team was the joy they had of the process. To each of the players, bring gold back to America was important and you saw that jubilation at the end of the game when they all hugged one another at center court. They treasured that moment right before our very eyes and made their country very proud.

At the end of each year is a time to look back at those we lost. People who we celebrate their lives because they impacted so many. As CBS News’s “The Early Show” Anchor Maggie Rodriguez said at the close of the CBS Evening News this past Wednesday, “Some of these lives were long. Some were too short, but they were lives lived well and well worth remembering.”

The list of those who left us in 2008 include actor Heath Ledger, who seemed to be on the verge of greatness, particularly with his role as The Joker in the latest installment of the Batman series “The Dark Knight.” He unfortunately left us earlier this year when he passed from an alleged drug overdose. He was 29 years old.

In the late stages of 2008 we lost one of the first true symbols of beauty, grace and elegance to African Americans in Eartha Kitt. She left us on Christmas night at age 81 after a long battle with colon cancer. She left behind a career that span six decades as an actress, singer and dancer. She is best known for her role as Catwoman on the television series “Batman.”

That is not bad for someone who life was very rough in the beginning. She was sent away from her home in South Carolina to live with relatives after her mother remarried and her new husband wanted nothing to do with a child that was mixed.

She got her first big break when she moved to Harlem and joined the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. From there she went on to win two Emmys; got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960; was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Negro Musicians in 1968 and was a Nightlife Legend award recipient in 2006.

What she is probably most famous for more than anything is her speaking out against the Vietnam War at a luncheon at the White House by First Lady Bird Johnson. Within two hours, Kitt was unable to find work performing in the United States would spend the next several years touring in Europe before coming back.

Among other giants in world that left us in 2008 was NBC Chief Washington Correspondent and moderator of “Meet The Press” Tim Russert (May 7, 1950-Jun. 13, 2008);  Actress Estelle Getty (Jul. 25, 1923-Jul. 22, 2008); Sen. Jesse Helm (R-N.C.) (Oct. 18, 1921-Jul. 4, 2008); Actor, director, entrepreneur and humanitarian Paul Newman (Jan. 26, 1925-Sept. 26, 2008); Writer and Director Michael Chrichton (Oct. 23, 1942-Nov. 4, 2008). Best known for the Jurassic Park movies and one of the longest running primetime drama on NBC “ER;” Actor and comedian Bernie Mac (Oct. 5, 1957-Aug. 9, 2009). Musician Issac Hayes (Aug. 20, 1942-Aug. 10, 2008) and ABC’s Wide World of Sports host James Kenneth McManus, better known as Jim McKay. He is most remembered for his introduction which went like, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is “ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

The year of 2008 had a lot of highs and a lot of reality checking lows. It showed us how teamwork can bring greatness and it also showed us how greed can destroy or alter the lives of many. It showed how we can get passed our differences and put someone in a position where they can guide in bringing a nation and hopefully a world back to prominence. What happens in 2009 is unknown, but 2008 hopefully shows us that we need to follow a blueprint that will allow our country and our world to re gain a balance where all can prosper.