By TERRY REUTHER QUILLEN
“Now it’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there…” And so, the die was cast.
Minutes after saying those words to supporters the night of June 5, 1968, Bobby Kennedy laid mortally wounded in the kitchen floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The next day, he was gone, and that summer, I became a Kennedy Democrat.
The closest you could come to the Kennedys in Tennessee was John Seigenthaler, editor of The Tennessean. When I got a job working for him in 1975, it was, as we now say, the bomb.
John’s years with the Kennedys are well documented. So is his storied career as a sentinel for justice and one of the leading journalists of our time. I have known him as boss, antagonist, protagonist, mentor and friend.
I carried so much away from my years working for John, but four words of his still come to mind again and again: Pity the poor reader.
In John’s newsroom, you had to grasp this or go home.
Truth won’t set anyone free if it is not delivered in a fair, clear and compelling way. Get it right, and get the message across, or you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Under John’s leadership, Nat Caldwell went undercover (literally) in a nursing home to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning expose. Jerry Thompson donned the white hood to tell of the Klan from the inside out.
But neither of those legendary investigations, and many more conducted during John’s tenure, would have ever made a flip had he not demanded that they resonate. No matter how great the message, it is useless if you fail to breathe life into the words you use to deliver it. Pity the poor reader.
We, as Tennessee Democrats, might take John’s words to heart.
It doesn’t matter how important our message about jobs or education or health care is. If we don’t connect with the folks in Sylvan Park as well as the ones in Selmer, our words ring hollow, and we go home, leaving Tennessee to those whose message is: “The board room comes first.”
As a young Kennedy Democrat from Tennessee, I was so blessed to work with and learn from John Seigenthaler. As an aged-in-the-wood Kennedy Democrat from Tennessee, what he taught me matters more now than ever.
An editorial in the Tennessean says that poverty in the South is devastating and we are at a point where we have nothing to lose. LINK
In January, MDC’s State of the South report called this a year of reckoning. “No one can enter the year 2011 without a sobering sense of progress and equity at risk,” the report said. The latest figures show the danger was worse than imagined. Not only has poverty increased, but the nation’s median income has gone down as well, signifying that the stress is not just at the bottom, but in the middle class. The median household in Tennessee makes $3,089 less than when the recession began.
Erik Schelzig writes the governor is saying that his brother has the right to lobby for Pilot. LINK
Gov. Bill Haslam is endorsing his brother’s right to speak out against privatizing interstate rest stops, a move opposed by his family’s truck stop chain.
The Republican governor has recused himself from handling issues that could affect Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J, but says brother Jimmy Haslam as president and CEO has a responsibility to try to influence politicians on matters that affect the business.
We don’t need a third party. We need the people in Congress to do what they were elected to do: represent the people, not the coporations. We need them to just say no to lobbyists every now and then. We need some election finance reform so that money loses some of its grip over our politics.
Jeff Woods at Pith in the Wind has some words of advice for Sen. Lamar Alexander regarding health care and as usual, he is direct and doesn’t stutter. LINK
People signing up for a life-saving benefit that they’re actually already entitled to receive-that’s what Alexander is complaining about. Here’s the question he should ask: If there are so many people out there entitled to Medicaid who don’t know it, why isn’t the state already trying to let them know? In the long run, that would save money by curtailing the number of uninsured who go without care until arriving at hospitals for the most expensive treatment.
At Newscoma, I write that politics are local and working on things you have some measure of control over is crucial in a post called Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport. LINK
National interest groups want people to be angry because it goes two ways. It either paralyzes or it is a call to action. If it is a call to action, working on what we can in our own backyard can be effective. Everyone may have a different message and that’s okay, but then again we don’t need to get into a game of “my message or cause is more important than your message or cause.”
State democrats ended a six-day job tour of Tennessee on Saturday. In a story from TN Report, they say they garnered a great deal of information. LINK
“We’ve talked to a lot of people. Jobs are what’s of concern for Tennesseans,” Craig Fitzhugh, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said at a stop Saturday in Cookeville. “We’re just trying to get ideas about what we can do as a Legislature to increase the jobs. We’ve got some good ideas.”