Thursday, April 10, 2008

McCain’s stance on Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday highlights why he is not a leader

By Ed Smallwood

I promised earlier in the week to start publishing more regularly, and also to be more topical. I also mentioned that I would mention Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in passing in this post. This post is not directly about MLK or his birthday, but rather about what his birthday brought up in our Presidential race.

I was looking at a blog, I don’t remember which one unfortunately, about MLK’s Birthday, and how John McCain may not want it brought up. He fought against making it a national holiday as an Arizona Senator in the late ‘80’s, and praised the then governor of Arizona in the ‘90’s when he stopped Arizona from recognizing it anymore. Today, all 50 states recognize his birthday, but that was not the case 15 years ago. I was young at the time, but I do remember thinking that was a no-brainer. Martin Luther King Jr. had a huge impact on civil rights, and not celebrating his birthday seemed silly.

But that really isn’t the point of this essay. The thing that caught my eye was the comments made by readers of the blog. Several pointed out that John McCain was “just doing his job,” representing his constituents by voting against the holiday, that the people of Arizona didn’t want Dr. King recognized. Others argued that Mr. McCain voted against the bill because it only recognized Dr. King, and not other civil rights leaders of different races, such as Caesar Chavez.

Both of these arguments highlight just why I don’t want John McCain to win the White House.

There are times when someone who is supposed to be leading must lead. Those who argue that Mr. McCain was just doing what his constituents wanted him to do are saying he was with the pack, in the middle of the curve. In essence, his own supporters who are using this argument are saying he only deserves a “C” grade. Leaders sometimes have to make the hard choices, and I want my leader to make the right decision in those cases. Sometimes this means doing something unpopular, simply because it is the right thing to do. Sometimes it means hauling the rest of us, kicking and screaming, forward rather than letting us stay in the comfortable but backward place we want to be. I don’t want someone leading this country that allows the wrong thing to be done simply because someone, or even most people, wants them to. We’ve gone on much too long this way, and it’s way past time to wake up and do what is right. We absolutely need a leader, someone who is ahead of the pack, not stuck in the middle.

When I was a kid, we celebrated the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln separately--two different holidays. We did this because these two men were so worthy of the honor of having their birthdays celebrated that we didn’t want to combine them. Each was unique and ahead of his time. Both led the nation in difficult times and kept us together. Both left their stamp on the office of the Presidency undiminished. Sometime when I was young, someone suggested we reduce the number of holidays by combining both of their birthdays into one holiday called “Presidents Day.” We could get more work done and get more time in schools by celebrating all of the Presidents at once, instead of one at a time. The result is really that we diluted the import of their holidays. Technically, we are celebrating all of the Presidents simultaneously. Yep, Richard Nixon and James Buchanan are now as important as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

This is what those who suggested we needed one day to celebrate civil rights leaders wanted to do. Even in the civil rights movements there were some people who stood out from the rest. Some of them should get special recognition. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of those people. Caesar Chavez is another. Don’t these two men deserve special recognition on their own? Do we have to put them into the same company of people who made a contribution, but not at the same transcendent level as these two did?

In short, isn’t making a special holiday for all civil rights leaders just diluting the impact of all of them? Isn’t the argument in favor of celebrating them all at once just an excuse not to celebrate them at all and avoid doing the right thing?

I do not want another President that I will constantly feel embarrassed over. I do not want another President I will feel that I have to apologize for. I do not want another person in the office of the President that will get, at best, a “C” grade on the job by following what’s popular rather than doing what’s right.

What I do want in a President is someone who will lead the country. I want someone who will get an “A” in the job. I want someone who will look at a tough decision and say “I don’t care what’s popular; we need to do what is right!” And then I want that person to do it. I want someone with honesty and integrity. I certainly do not want a mediocrity in the role of “leader.” Again.

That is why I will not vote for John McCain. He is clearly, at best, a mediocrity. He follows when he should lead. He allows himself to be beaten down, as the White House has done so many times in the last few years. He talks loudly about what should be done, and then doesn’t do it.

We can’t allow this to happen again.

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