There are always a few warriors in a battle who stand out and are worthy of observing and imitating. In the United States Congress, of these Obama years, there are two Democratic Congress persons who I admire. One is James Clyburn of South Carolina, and the other is Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
The great James Clyburn is an African American son of a minister, born in the segregated South, one year before my birth. After fighting the civil rights wars in South Carolina, under the likes of Strom Thurmond and others, he was elected to Congress in 1992. He was the first African American representative from South Carolina, since 1897. He is an unwavering supporter of President Barack Obama.
Clyburn has chronicled his life in his 2014 book, Blessed Experiences. The title of Clyburn’s book is a take from his father’s favorite hymn, Blessed Assurance. In the book’s preface is a reminder of one stanza that says, “This is my story, this is my song.” This powerful book is his story.
As a sub-title, Congressman Clyburn, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago, says he is “genuinely Southern and proudly Black.” In the chapter, entitled, “Proudly Black”, he reminds us that, regrettably, we are fighting some of the same battles we fought during the civil rights years. The difference is that the ones fighting us today don’t wear sheets and don’t call us the “N” word.
Today’s battles are against what the conservatives call, with disdain, “entitlement programs”. These programs are the life’s blood for the old, the poor, and the infirm. The programs are under full scale attack from the conservatives, led by the Tea Party. The programs, as cited in his book, include school desegregation, voting rights, equal employment opportunities, public accommodations, medical assistance for the poor and elderly, nutritional supplement for the young, and health insurance for us all.
The language of this frontal attack on our rights are nice words like deficit reductions, debt ceilings and balanced budgets. The loss is to those who are losing their hope and their access to longer and better lives for them and their families.
In Congressman Clyburn’s chapter on “Genuinely Southern” he cites the South Carolina motto: While I breathe I hope.” He cites the motto as a constant motivator to never give up for himself, his family, and those who hear him.
I cited Elizabeth Warren’s book, A Fighting Chance, because she comes at the problem of the privileged rich from the angle of a white woman. She was raised as a poor little white girl in Oklahoma who ended up as a professor at the Harvard Law School and who went up against the Republican machine to defeat their fair haired, “boy” Scott Brown. My respect for her comes because she seems to be unapologetic in finding solutions for today’s economic problems and how to solve them.
Warren is a target of the Republican hate machine because she is smart and doesn’t go away quietly. She is a believer that the decks are stacked against the have-nots but that we all deserve a fighting chance.
Her life’s dream was to become an elementary school teacher, but she pushed her way to the top by developing plans for getting over every hump placed in front of her. She writes that as a sixteen year old about to graduate from high school she wanted to go to college. She wasn’t sure about how she could afford it. She says, “I wasn’t pretty, and I didn’t have a high grade point average. I didn’t play a sport, couldn’t sing, and didn’t play a musical instrument. But I did have one talent. I could fight – not with my fists but with my words.” She used that talent to make plans and get where she wanted to be.
I write about these two giants because they represent the hope of the future, and they need our support. I suggest these two books as motivators for the reader, or their children, looking for some direction.