Mark Curtis's blog

"The Sunday Political Brunch" - January 19, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – This week the nation celebrates the Martin Luther King, Jr., national holiday. There are a lot of interesting facts about the famed civil rights leader, and I have some personal reflections as we get ready for Monday’s holiday. Here we go:

“It’s All in a Name!” – Many people don’t know that King’s real first name was Michael, as was his father’s. The senior Pastor King had their names changed after visiting Germany, and being inspired by religious reformer Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation.

“Church vs. State?” – For all the hue and cry nowadays about keeping church affairs separate from government action, I just have to scratch my head. King founded an organization with other black pastors, known as the SCLC – the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The whole impetus of the organization was to use the power of the pulpit, to change public policy. Without the SCLC, and the deeply held Christian beliefs of King’s followers in the 1950s and 60s, the civil rights movement never would have succeeded. In many ways it appealed to the Judeo-Christian beliefs shared by many white American lawmakers and voters. It worked! Granted we don’t want religion to control U.S. politics, but certainly there are times when it’s a major influence.

“Education, Education, Education!” – Ok, it’s my riff on the old real estate axiom about, “Location, location, location!” But Dr. King had a profound influence on American education. He was a brilliant man, who only spent two years in high school before going off to college. He earned a Ph.D. from Boston University, thus becoming a beacon of inspiration to other black students, toiling in a separate and unequal education system. King was one of the first prominent black Americans to obtain a college degree and beyond. To many of his fellow black Americans it inspired a philosophy of, “If he can go to college, so can I.” It’s probably his most underappreciated contribution to society.

“Dream On!” – One of my favorite bits of trivia about Rev. King involves his famed, “I Have a Dream” speech. While he delivered the rousing address in 1963, the original text of the speech did not surface until 1984. After the King speech on the National Mall in Washington, DC, a young man at the front of the stage asked King as he was departing, if he could have the papers on which the speech was written. King gave the man the original copy of the speech and it must have made an impression. The young man that day was George Raveling, who later became the first African American head basketball coach at the University of Iowa, and also coached at Washington State and the University of Southern California. Raveling – now retired - still has the speech in his possession.

“Well Spoken” – As someone who teaches and coaches public speaking, I have a real appreciation for those who excel at this talent. King was the greatest public orator in my lifetime, hands down. I’ve lived during the time of some excellent political speakers – John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - but they are all second-tier talents when compared to the speaking and motivational skills of King. He simply has no peer.

“Gone with the Wind” – One of my other favorite bits of trivia about Dr. King is that, as a child, he sang with the choir at his father’s church. When the fabled movie, “Gone With the Wind” opened in Atlanta, in 1939, King sang with his choir at the premiere!

“Holiday Origins” – The idea to honor King with a national holiday was more a bipartisan effort than some want to believe. After his assassination, the bill to create the holiday was introduced by two African American Members of Congress, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Edward Brooke (R-MA). While it would take years to become law, it eventually passed the House of Representatives 338 to 90.

“Where Were You?” – Like the Kennedy assassinations and other historic events in my life, I remember exactly where I was when King’s death was announced. As a kid, we were one of the only families I know that had a television in the kitchen. It was often on at dinner time, because my parents were news junkies, especially my mom. We often ate late because my dad worked late, or we just ate without him. It was probably 7:30 p.m. in Milwaukee, when the network interrupted the TV show we were watching during dinner, to announce King’s murder. My mom made all of us get up from the table, kneel down on the floor and pray for his family and our country. I was almost nine years old. I remember it like it was yesterday.

What are your thoughts and remembrances? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ABC News

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- January 12, 2014

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(Corning, New York) – The “Brunch” is on the road again this weekend and certainly the New York area is abuzz with politics. For the past couple of weeks we have talked about former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie being the current frontrunners for the 2016 presidential nomination of their respective parties. Clinton found herself embroiled in the Benghazi scandal; and now Christie has his traffic jam scandal. How might these affect their chances at the White House? Let’s take a peek:

“The Bookends of Political Scandal” – All political scandals and problems are framed by the extremes of corruption on one end, and by incompetence on the other end. If Hillary Clinton knew of the security requests in Benghazi; and Chris Christie knew of the traffic jam plot on Fort Lee; and, they turned a blind-eye to the public good for ulterior political motives, then they are corrupt. If, on the other hand, Clinton knew nothing of the security threats; and Christie knew nothing of what underlings were plotting; then, they are both disconnected, out of touch and inept; or – in a word - incompetent. This framework will be problematic for both candidates.

“Lingering Doubts” – Let’s assume both candidates were blindsided by their staffs, and knew nothing of the problems that were about to transpire. In politics, and in business, sometimes decisions are truly made at the mid-level, or among senior staff, but the boss is only clued-in on a “need-to-know” basis. That, in itself, can be a problematic policy. In any case, this concept known as “plausible deniability” stretches the credibility of those making the claim. I wish I had a dollar for every person who told me, “Hillary Clinton had to know what was going on!” And now similar things are being said about Christie. Doubt is just part of human nature.

“Ready, Set, Pounce!” – Both Clinton and Christie have to worry about people in their own parties preparing to take political advantage. Scandal – whether guilty or not – always leaves a candidate weakened and vulnerable. I have predicted that both candidates – while frontrunners – would have primary challengers from up and comers in their respective parties. This is, after all, for the Presidency of the United States. A lot of politicians would love to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and if they see an opening, some may attempt to seize the advantage.

“Timing is Everything” – The two potential presidential candidates have something in their favor – the timing of the scandals. Benghazi happened in September of 2012, and the New Jersey traffic jam in 2013. The voting public tends to have a short memory, or an attitude of, “That’s just old news!” That’s a plus for Clinton and Christie two years before the first primaries. On the other hand, the Internet keeps things alive for eternity. So, expect to see Hillary Clinton’s infamous, “What difference does it make?” comment about Benghazi to be resurrected in campaign ads. The same might happened with clips from Christie’s news conference last week.

“Investigating Forever” – We just marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. And to this day, there are still people investigating that case. So, too, will the Clinton and Christie investigations march forward, either formally or informally. If evidence comes out in the next two years that clearly contradicts what the candidates previously said about their respective scandals, their presidential hopes could be ruined. They both have to hope that the worst of the bad news comes out soon, or is already out.

“Who Has the Advantage Right Now?” – Hillary Clinton is clearly at the best vantage point now. She is out of office, and so anything bad that happens going forward in the Obama administration can’t really hurt her. Christie, as a sitting governor, could have all sorts of problems pop up, aside from the current issue. But, it’s not a huge advantage. We know that more information – and witnesses – from Benghazi may be coming forward, and that presents potential potholes for Hillary Clinton.

“Apples and Oranges” – I am sure I will get criticism for even connecting these two incidents. That’s fine, because I agree that they are vastly different in nature. One involves not taking proper action, perhaps to gain political points in an administration that is worried about over-militarization, particularly in the Muslim world. The other was clearly an effort at political retribution for not giving an endorsement. Ostensibly, one scandal is about political protection; the other about political punishment. Both are wrong.

“Why it Matters” – It matters because we expect so much more from our leaders than petty politics. We want our leaders to do right by us, or right by out country, by simply doing the right thing. The United States is still a nation that prides itself in taking the moral high ground, without regard to the political fall out. We’re better than we performed in Benghazi; and we are better than we preformed on the George Washington Bridge. From our foreign embassies overseas, to our highways at home; good, honest leadership still matters!

What are your thoughts and opinions? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ABC News

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