Increasingly, people are asking about "my politics."
Some people ask me. Interestingly enough, most (people) seem to ask someone else, who then of course, ...brings it up to me.
Actually, I find it all pretty amusing, given that I have always at least "thought" of myself as not only direct, but clear too. A straight shooter as they say. And so, as someone who likes to deal with things head on, I thought I would simply handle this issue the same way. Direct and transparent. And so, here we go...
I am not a Democrat.
I am not a Republican either.
I am a (pick one...) capitalist with a heart, a principled pragmatist, or as my new friend Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum would say, "an optimistic pragmatist." My favorite description is simply "an honest broker." No agenda, save progress.
The bottom line is my community, my birth community, the Black community, is in a crisis. A proud and extremely accomplished community to be sure, this done in spite of our history of uninvited adversity, but some substantial nagging challenges remain. The fact is we lead every negative indicator you can imagine, from health to economics. And there is no clear end in sight. And time is running out. Ladies and gentlemen, in the 21st Century we need a solution, not a party. No disrespect intended.
People are funny.
In April, 2002, Operation HOPE became the first non-profit organization in history to host two U.S. Presidents in one week! Reason to celebrate, one would think. Read on. We hosted former President William Jefferson Clinton on April 24th, 2002, as he and I co-taught a Banking on Our Future financial literacy course in a Harlem, New York area school, in celebration of our partnership to educate every middle-school child in Harlem in financial literacy over 5-years. A bold partnership backed by our friends at Carver Federal Savings Bank and one of our strong national partners, Citigroup.
And then less than a week later, on Monday, April 29th, 2002, on the 10th anniversary of the worst civil unrest in U.S. history (the Rodney King Riot in South Los Angeles), to mark the "rebuilding of community," a host of community leaders, led by me and Operation HOPE, hosted President George W. Bush at First A.M.E. Church in South Los Angeles.
And while both of these events were genuinely very well received, but of course -- someone -- had something -- to say about us hosting President Bush. And on hosting former President Clinton you ask? ...Not a word. No good deed, shall go unpunished.
And so, to that, I had this to say...
HE'S THE PRESIDENT! There are not 10 of them, or six of them, or even two of them. There is just, well, him.
He's the President of the United States of America, not President of a select political party, nor should he be seen as "...President of any party other than mine." Common sense note to self: any time the President of the United States of America wants to visit your community, or even better, to meet with you, the only rational response from someone -- no, anyone -- who truly wants progress should be, "ah, what time?"
Once again, "...my community is in a crisis."
And so, I don't really care whether you are black or white, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat... if you want to help me eradicate poverty in my community you are MY FRIEND! And if you don't, you are simply wasting my time. Everyone else's time too.
PhD's are good, Ph-Does are much better.
My suggestion? We should all leave politics to politicians, and the rest of us should get on with the real business of achieving, and then living the American dream. That means freedom and civil liberties, schools that work, a home of our own, a job, an occupation, or even better still, a business. The politician that can give us those things, not to mention an answer to pressing and systemic social problems, gets our vote. What's so complicated about that?
But it seems we are, more and more these days, not a society concerned about real results and real progress, but rather partisan politics, ...and winners and losers.
And so, at the end of the day, I am not about polarized political parties, but good people (and good leaders too). I am not about partisan politics, but good and effective public policy. Wherever I find either one, is fine with me.
I am reminded of something former President Clinton said in the final days of the most recent Presidential election. Probably the most heated and most partisan national election in me or my parent's memory. President Clinton said, "you know, I think I am the only person in the world today that things Senator Kerry, and President Bush, are BOTH good people, that happen to see the world through fundamentally different perspectives..." Bravo to you sir. I could not have said it better myself.
I don't know Senator Kerry personally, although I was in a brief meeting with him and other Democratic U.S. Senators for the first time last week. Appeared impressive and sincere enough. Assume one must be pretty sharp to become a U.S. Senator in the first place.
This said, I do know President George W. Bush. I have spent time with the President. The most recent being a closed door meeting of almost 2 hours with African-Americans leaders from business, faith and community. A short sidebar just prior to this meeting in the Oval Office too. Now, I read people fairly well, and my read on President Bush is that he is indeed sincere. The real thing. What I mean to say is, he is good people.
That does not mean that I agree with everything he does, nor every decision he makes, but what President have we, any of us, ever completely agreed with? Did any of us agree with everything President Clinton did or said, when he was in office? Not. He (Clinton) is a good man too, I might add. A very good man. Honored to be associated.
The point is, "we can disagree without being disagreeable." We can make our point, or points, when and where we differ, and yet stay focused on THE THINGS WE CAN GET DONE. No need to demonize, simply because we fail to agree. Fact is, if we ever get to the point where we truly do not believe in the the goodwill of our President, and further, that he is genuinely "trying to do the right thing" by America, then in the short run at least, the game is over anyway -- for we have lost all hope.
President Bush is good and decent people, and he is welcome in my community anytime. Particularly if he genuinely wants to help. Bearing some fruits of his Ownership Society that we can put to use, would be even better!
In the 21st Century, eradicating poverty in America, the largest and most economically prosperous nation in the world today, should be a bi-partisan issue. The problem is too severe, and thus vital to our nation's collective future, to play political games with. Get it right, fix this, and a host of other related social ills begin to fix themselves!
Quoting Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, "the work you are doing (at Operation HOPE) is the most important piece of unfinished business in America today." I couldn't agree more.
Let's try to find a way to do it together.
Onward, with HOPE.