Changing of the Guard: Lakers Move On

It’s time to Break It Down!

As the CIAA Tournament bucks the trend of sporting events that eschewed North Carolina due to the State’s insistence on adhering to the infamous HB2, and brings its crown jewel of conference competition (The CIAA Basketball Tournament) to Charlotte this week, and as the ACC season kicks off it’s last fortnight of pre-tournament hoops competition, my mind frequently contemplates basketball. The game still excites me and more often than not, I continue to lace ‘em up and play twice a week, including yesterday, and most likely tomorrow.

Most folks who know anything about my predilections and proclivities are familiar with my strong, some would say, exuberantly unyielding support for the Broncos (Fayetteville State University), the Tar Heels (University of North Carolina), and the Lakers (Los Angeles). In the light, yesterday marked the close of an era for the Lakers. Many of my fellow fans believe it’s about time, while others are convinced the change is long overdue.

Spoiler alert! Not only am I tackling something other than the recent politically-themed topics I’ve been tracking, I pledge to keep the conversation relatively brief. I understand not everyone is a sports fan in general, nor a Lakers fan in particular. I get it. This is where it’s really cool for me that it is my blog. But I digress.

So the long and short of it is this. Earvin Johnson, Magic to those who remember him as a player, returned to the Lakers franchise on February 2 to advise the owners on basketball and business. Johnson, who has long noted his interest in returning to the Lakers, if the opportunity presented itself, wasted no time in revealing his desires. He told USA Today, shortly after being hired that he wanted, “To be in charge.”

Yesterday, he was named president of basketball operations, according to a press release issued by Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ governor. In his new role, Johnson will terminate his work with ESPN, where he appeared on the show “NBA Countdown.”

Speaking about his being reunited with the only NBA team he ever played for, Johnson said:

“It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations, working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

In additional moves the team fired general manager Mitch Kupchak, and also relieved Jim Buss of his duties as executive vice president of basketball operations. Buss had said he would step down after three or four years if the Lakers were not performing at a high level. Frankly, the team has toiled in mediocrity for several years, last reaching the playoffs in 2013, the year Jerry Buss the team’s Patriarchal owner, died.

In putting yesterday’s actions into perspective, Jeanie Buss said:

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect. Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me.

Our search for a new General Manager, to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway, and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

In addressing the issue of her brother Jim, Jeanie said:

“He is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less.”

The Lakers are among the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA. They have won 16 NBA Titles, second to the Boston Celtics, who have won 17. As of yesterday morning their record was 18-39, next to last in the Western Conference, and almost certain to miss the playoffs, yet again.

In the 80’s the Lakers were Magic’s team. Today they have come full circle, except, Earvin is not Magic. At least not yet, he isn’t. He has never:

  • Run a team
  • Served in any personnel role
  • Acted in the capacity of a scout
  • Been a GM
  • Led a team as president
  • Drafted a player
  • Made a trade
  • Haggled with a free-agent
  • Fired a coach* (No Paul Westhead doesn’t count for the purpose of this discussion)
  • Faced Laker Nation as team management

Jeanie Buss, the Lakers, and Laker Nation must hope Magic becomes the second coming of Jerry West (7 Titles) and not Bill Russell with the Supersonics, or Elgin Baylor with the Clippers, or Willis Reed with the Nets, of Kevin McHale with the Timberwolves, or Wes Unseld with the Bullets, or Larry Bird with the Pacers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards and/or (pre-GM) Hornets. The team’s first-round pick goes to Philadelphia unless it’s in the top 3, and their 2019 pick could go to Orlando. Welcome home Earvin.

Almost certainly, the most compelling reason for turning the reins over to Johnson is because he is Magic…at least he once was, and Lakers everywhere must hope he can be again. He does still retain star power. But can he attract free agents? Will he be the difference-maker that Kobe Bryant was unable to be at the end of his stellar career, and that coach Walton will need to help him stock up on guys who can take the team to the next level, or as its known in Los Angeles, back to the pinnacle to which they are accustomed? Magic elevated the team; can Earvin do the same? We will see. Changing of the Guard: Lakers Move On!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

Irony Part III: Perhaps…The Mother of All Ironies

It’s time to Break It Down!

I know Valentine’s Day is for all intents and purposes merely a Hallmark Holiday for many, but a holiday it is. Yesterday, as I’m sure you know, was Valentine’s Day. Typically, I lean toward recycle mode during holiday weeks. Today, I’m opting for a compromise. I’m going with a rare trilogy theme. I can only recall once before when I actually used an entire month to develop strands of a central theme. This is not that. It has just played out that way.

For the past two weeks, I have ferreted out a variety of aspects dealing with a device commonly known in writing as irony. The topics of the past two weeks, and of this week are topically unrelated, and are tied together simply by the infusion, in each case, of irony.

The news this week has been rife with reports about newly former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn, and his tortuous route to the ranks of the  unemployed. The irony referenced in this post has to do with the response of the administration, stemming from Flynn’s resignation, or firing, depending upon whose account you choose to believe.

There really is a significant amount of background that ultimately led to the disassociation of General Flynn and the current administration. I will not be delving deeply into much of it. If you have followed the current administration, you already know. If you haven’t, chances are you neither know nor care. As a matter transparency and generally being forthcoming, and, in the event you haven’t noticed, I have opted not to write directly about the winner of November’s election for the country’s top official. That won’t change today.

I digress. Back to the matter at hand, it was reported several weeks ago that certain Russian operatives had attempted to sway the outcome of our general election, to the detriment of Hillary Clinton, and in favor of her opponent. It was revealed that said reporting reflected the consensus opinion of America’s 17 related National Intelligence agencies. The administration in waiting dismissed the findings, characterized the reporting as fake news, and leveled charges at the outgoing administration for trying to undermine its successor. Surely, methinks they protest too much.

As reported by NBC News yesterday, below are a number of key dates and occurrences related to the fateful trajectory of Adviser Flynn (alternative facts not included):

Summer 2015 — Flynn first meets Trump, according to an interview he gave to the Washington Post.

Dec. 2015 — Flynn took a paid trip to Russia and appeared at a gala for RT, the state-run TV station, where he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

June 2016 — Russian hackers are identified as the culprits behind hacking of Democratic institutions and figures; U.S. officials will later say Putin was involved and the goal was to meddle with the electoral process.

Donald J. Trump


I highly recommend the just out book – THE FIELD OF FIGHT – by General Michael Flynn. How to defeat radical Islam.

11:49 PM – 22 Jul 2016

Nov. 18, 2016 — President-Elect Trump names Flynn his national security adviser.

Dec. 29, 2016 — Obama administration unveils sanctions against Russia for election-related hacking, expelling diplomats and shutting down two compounds. The same day, Flynn speaks to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak by phone.

Dec. 30, 2016 — Putin says he won’t retaliate for the sanctions and invites children from the U.S. embassy to a Christmas party. Trump then praises Putin in a tweet.

Donald J. Trump


Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

2:41 PM – 30 Dec 2016

Sometime after Dec. 30, 2016 — The FBI reviews intercepts and finds the Flynn-Kislyak conversation. The matter gets folded into the FBI’s ongoing probe into Russian election-related hacking and related issues.

Jan. 11, 2017 — Trump denies members of his staff had contact with Russia before the election, during the campaign.

Jan. 12 — Washington Post columnist David Ignatius first reports the contact between Flynn and Kislyak, raising questions about whether sanctions were discussed.

Jan. 13 — Trump spokesman Sean Spicer says Flynn did not discuss sanctions with the ambassador and the purpose of the call was to schedule a time for Trump and Putin to speak post-inauguration.

Jan. 15 — Vice President Mike Pence tells CBS’s “Face the Nation” that sanctions were not discussed: “It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

Jan. 19 — Obama administration officials — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates — discuss the situation and want to warn the Trump team that Flynn has misled Spicer and Pence. FBI Director James Comey vetoes that, saying it will compromise his ongoing investigation.

Jan. 20 — Trump inaugurated.

Jan. 20 or 21 — The FBI questions Flynn about his call to the ambassador as part of the bureau’s broader investigation into Russia, according to a senior U.S. official.

Jan. 23 — At Spicer’s first White House press briefing, he says that Flynn assured him the night before that the Flynn-Kislyak call did not involve sanctions. The subject, Spicer says, was a plane crash over the holiday, Christmas greetings, a potential conference in Syria on ISIS, and scheduling a call with Putin.

Jan. 26 — Acting AG Yates tells White House Counsel Donald McGahn what she knows about the call, according to the White House. Trump was told immediately, Spicer says, and the White House counsel launched an “exhaustive” review that included questioning of Flynn.

Jan. 30 — Trump fires Yates, saying she’s being axed for refusing to defend his executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Feb. 9 — The Washington Post reports that Flynn, according to current and former U.S. officials, did discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador; officials confirm the content of the discussion to NBC News. This day is the first time Pence is informed of the Justice Department warning about Flynn’s call — two weeks after Trump was told.

Feb. 10 — A spokesperson for Flynn tells NBC News that Flynn “can’t be 100 percent sure,” but doesn’t remember talking sanctions. Trump denies knowledge of the reports that Flynn and the Russian talked sanctions. “I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. What report is that?” he tells reporters. Also that day, Flynn speaks by phone to Pence, reportedly to apologize to him.

Feb. 13 — Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tells NBC News that Flynn has the full confidence of the president. Moments later, Spicer says Trump is evaluating the situation. Hours after that, Flynn resigns, saying he “inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.”

Feb. 14 — At a press briefing, Spicer says Trump asked Flynn to resign because of an erosion of trust — not because any laws were broken.

Hallie Jackson


“No, absolutely not” says Sean Spicer, when asked if ‪@POTUS instructed Flynn to talk about sanctions with Russian ambassadors

1:35 PM – 14 Feb 2017 · Washington, DC

The record shows there is a lengthy summary of dates and acts. It appears that there are a number of inconsistencies and other incongruences relative to the assertions of the Trump administration. So in this third edition of ironies, we appear to have arrived at the irony of all ironies. How does the administration conclude, after all of the above, that the real concern is leaks to the media, rather than the actions of a National Security Adviser who apparently either misled (notice I generously did not say lied) the Vice President, or perhaps, who really acted on behalf of the administration, and is now just being a good soldier and taking the fall for his Dear Leader?

Well, on second thought, the administration couldn’t be expected to cop to the latter. But the former is supported by quite a compelling cacophony of arguments. Beyond that, it should be noted that had the report not surfaced (been leaked), the administration would still be poised to feign ignorance, and keep this story from the daylight view of the American public. While I won’t pretend I speak for the administration, I am confident the American public is in a better place as a result of the recent revelations. It was not that long ago the prevailing chants were “Lock her up” and “Drain the swamp!” Where is all that indignation and search for political purity? In summation, I give youIrony Part III: Perhaps…The Mother of All Ironies!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:



Irony Part II: McCain, Cruz, Burr, et. al. Speak on Blocking Any and All Clinton SCOTUS Nominations

It’s time to Break It Down! 

Last week I discussed the stark reversal of course by some GOP lawmakers and their expectations for Sally Yates performance as a member of the Justice Department staff. In summation, when GOP Senators questioned Ms. Yates during her confirmation hearings for the post of Deputy Attorney General, Jeff Sessions asked her a number of pointed questions that clearly framed his expectations that should she be confirmed, she would oppose any rules, regulations, or executive orders that President Obama, a Democrat, proposed, if she thought they not consistent with either the law or the Constitution. As fate would have it, after Mr. Obama left office, Yates was asked to serve as interim Attorney General until the new AG is confirmed.

So guess what happened. The new GOP President issued an executive order that Ms. Yates did not believe complied with some elements of the Constitution. She then proceeded to do, as she said she would during her confirmation; stood on principal and refused to ask Justice Department staff attorneys to defend the Executive Order, regardless of whether it’s a ban or a pause. The administration of course, promised a Muslim ban. It was even described that way by the administration…until it wasn’t. At any rate, not surprisingly, the administration fired Yates.

Interestingly enough, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, a Bush appointee, ruled in favor of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sued to invalidate key provisions of the executive order. That fight continues as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel heard arguments from both sides in an hour-long conference call at 3:00 p.m. PST yesterday.

The degree to which the GOP’s sense of holding the opposition’s feet squarely to the fire, while having no such affinity to be held to the same standard did not stop there. The GOP is now promoting its Party’s nominee for the Supreme Court. In doing so, the Grand Old Party, collectively, has been quite salty about what it views as Democrats’ attempt to obstruct, deny, or even delay the confirmation of the next Justice-in-waiting.

The most readily at hand reference for comparison sake for most people may be the fact that the GOP refused to even grant interviews to Merrick Garland, the last Obama nominee for the High Court. Justice Antonin Scalia’s died in February 2016. In March of that year, President Obama nominated Garland as an Associate Justice for the SCOTUS. Republicans not only refused to hold hearings to consider his confirmation, they declined to even grant him individual interviews, which is a courtesy commonly extended to candidates for the High Court.

As if that were not bad enough, the disdain, disparagement, and disregard did not end there. Late in last year’s electoral season, when it appeared that Hillary Clinton might win the Presidential election, Senator John McCain exclaimed:

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,”

After making those comments, Senator McCain appeared to up the ante, suggesting that if Hillary Clinton were elected, Republicans would block any Supreme Court nomination she would make. Ever!

Hark, there’s more. CNN reported on private remarks made by North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, who was running for reelection. According to the cable network, he said:

“There will be no lame-duck confirmation, and if Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”

That sentiment aligned him perfectly with another conservative Senator, Ted Cruz, who told Dave Weigel:

“There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”

And there’s more still. There was also support for the argument among conservative intellectuals. Manu Raju noted in a CNN story on November 1, 2016:

“Ilya Shapiro argues in The Federalist that the Senate should block any Clinton nominees, saying the Constitution allows it. Michael Stokes Paulsen writes in National Review that the Court should be reduced from nine to six justices. While he supports a legal change in the future, Paulsen says attrition by refusing to confirm would be a good way to get down to six.”

Technically, Shapiro is correct…as far as it goes. While there is no explicit, affirmative obligation to confirm, refusing to confirm is hardly conservative. In fact, it’s deeply anti-conservative, in the small-c sense of following norms and customs, as laid out by the Constitution, and according to precedent.

In short, the tacit implication of the arguments made by Senators McCain, Cruz and Burr’ is that Democratic presidents—whether Obama or, hypothetically, Clinton—are less legitimate than Republican presidents, who clearly should be allowed to make appointments on the Supreme Court. The essential motivation even though unstated, is just as clear—ideological disagreement—but there is no longer any reasonable argument, not even a pretense, of respecting the notion that Democrats ever have a mandate. It’s the only logical end, and in fact inescapable conclusion to the increasing politicization of the court-nomination process.

To that end, I simply cannot close without noting that while all the noise registered by Republicans may indeed be buttressed by their current numerical advantages, as they control the executive branch, the legislative branch, and they are poised to gain sway in the judicial branch, it’s time to drop the veil of phantasmical assertion that Democrats somehow are breaking new ground in their effort to at least offer a modicum of resistance to the Borg-like power sweep that the GOP is executing. In other words, welcome to“Irony Part II: McCain, Cruz, Burr, et. al. Speak on Blocking Any and All Clinton SCOTUS Nominations.”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

Jeff & Sally: The Irony Of It All

It’s time to Break It Down!

Senator Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III is the junior United States Senator from Alabama and a member of the Republican Party. He is the most senior junior Senator, and is also the current nominee, and likely imminent appointee as the next United States Attorney General.

Sessions served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, and re-elected in 2002, 2008, and again in 2014. The Senator is considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate, and was rumored to be a possible Vice Presidential nominee by the current administration.

Sally Quillian Yates is an American attorney who practiced law at the King & Spalding law firm in Atlanta. In addition, she:

  • Was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney by Bob Barr for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia
  • Served as Chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section in that office
  • Acted as the lead prosecutor in the case of Eric Rudolph, who committed the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Rudolph was a terrorist convicted for a series of anti-abortion and anti-gay bombings across the southern United States between 1996 and 1998, which killed two people and injured over 120 others.
  • Rose to First Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2002 and to Acting U.S. Attorney in 2004. In the U.S. Attorney’s office she held leadership positions under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
  • Was nominated by President Barack Obama to be U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia.
  • Was confirmed by the Senate on March 10, 2010.
  • Was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as Vice Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.

The United States Senate voted 84–12, in 2015, to confirm Yates as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, the second highest-ranking position in the Justice Department. While Yates was going through confirmation hearings, Senator Sessions posed a series of questions that ultimately led to him encouraging her to resist unlawful orders.

She served under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who took office shortly before Yates’s confirmation.

As Deputy Attorney General, Yates was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Justice Department, which included approximately 113,000 employees. In 2015, she authored the policy, known as the “Yates memo” prioritizing the prosecution of executives for corporate crimes. During the final days of the Obama administration, she oversaw the review of 16,000 petitions for executive clemency, making recommendations to the President.

Circling back to Ms. Yates’ confirmation hearings to become Deputy Attorney General, and Senator Sessions’ questioning her, he grilled her intensely regarding her willingness to oppose a President (Obama) if he required her to execute “unlawful” views. As it turns out, Sessions is now on tap to lead the Justice Department.

During her hearing, the Senator observed:

“You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things and you need to say no. You think the attorney general has the responsibility to say no to the President if he asks for something that’s improper?”

He went on, referring to AG Nominee Loretta Lynch…

“A lot of people have defended the Lynch nomination, for example by saying, ‘Well, he appoints somebody who’s going to execute his views, what’s wrong with that?’ ”

“But if the views the President wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”

Ms. Yates responded:

“Senator, I believe the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the President.”

So fast forward back to the present. Earlier this week, Yates, who had been running the Justice Department while Sessions completed the confirmation process, transformed her 2015 words to 2017 actions.

On January 2017, Yates accepted a request from the incoming Administration to serve as Acting Attorney General, beginning on January 20, 2017, and serving until the United States Senate confirms the new Attorney General. On January 30, 2017, Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s executive order on travel and immigration. She wrote:

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities of the Department of Justice, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful…I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. For as long as I am the acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of this executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted he trusted Yates’ judgment, in response to her statement. Not surprisingly, the administration reacted in stark contrast. Shortly afterward, she received a hand-delivered letter from the administration firing her.

She was replaced with Dana Boente, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. According to the White House statement on the subject, Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

It is a peculiarly ironic time warp in which Sessions and Yates find themselves. It began manifesting itself when Sessions, a Republican, questioned Yates at her Deputy AG hearing. At that time, he and his fellow GOP’ers wanted assurances that as Deputy AG, Yates would not just roll over and execute the recommendations of the President, who at the time of course, was a Democrat. Time and circumstance have a way of showing themselves fickle. By the time Yates was actually faced with the real world scenario Sessions had asked about, the worm had turned, Yates was tapped to serve as acting AG until Sessions received confirmation, and the President, as we all know, is now a Republican.

Yates held up her end of the bargain. As she said she would, she declined to order staff to defend an executive order that she did not believe to be lawful. Based upon the predicate conversations during her 2015 hearings, her actions were, or should have been predictable. She did not disappoint. Let’s be clear, the administration also did the expected, in light of what it considered defiance. It fired Yates. All things considered, no one should be surprised by any of this; least of all the principals. “Jeff & Sally: The Irony of It All.”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

Mr. Foxx Exits: But Not Before Kicking Off One Final Highway Project!

Last week, Anthony Foxx wrapped up his tenure as the nation’s 17th Secretary of Transportation. President Obama appointed him to the post; he was confirmed July 2, 2013.

Before taking on that post Mr. Foxx served 3 and a half years as Charlotte’s 54th Mayor. Foxx is a young star in the Democratic Party, and led the City’s successful bid to host the Democratic Party’s 2012 Convention, at which the Party conferred its nomination on President Obama, who went on to win a second term in office in November 2012.

Foxx, 45, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, graduated from West Charlotte High School, and attended and graduated from Davidson College, (located in Mecklenburg County, the county of which Charlotte is the County Seat), where he became the first African American Student Body President. After matriculating at Davidson, he attended New York University School of Law (NYU), where he earned a J.D. in 1996.

After graduating from law school, Foxx worked at a law firm in Charlotte, clerked for an Appeals Court Judge in Cincinnati, worked for the United States Department of Justice, the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, and in 2004, he served as campaign manager for Representative Mel Watt (NC).

In the process of honing his own political chops, Foxx ran for and was elected to the Charlotte City Council in 2005, and re-elected in 2007. In 2009 he upped his game, running for and winning election at Charlotte’s Mayor, a post to which he was re-elected in 2011.

President Obama announced in April; 2013 that he would nominate Mr. Foxx as Secretary of Transportation. Subsequently, June 27, the Senate confirmed Foxx’s nomination to the post by a vote of 100-0. He resigned as Charlotte’s Mayor and accepted the position. As an aside, Foxx served as the designated survivor during the 2015 State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015. Fox and his wife Samara, also an attorney, have two children, Hillary and Zachary.

Foxx, like other members of the Obama Cabinet wrapped up his official duties by noon last Friday, January 20, 2017. As the Secretary prepared to hit the road, figuratively, he initiated a parting gesture designed to pay homage to two North Carolinians who gained notoriety as civil rights icons. He signed proclamations sometime last week, asking the NC Department of Transportation to designate portions of I-85 in Mecklenburg (where the City of Charlotte is located) and Durham (where the City of Durham is located) Counties be re-named the Julius Chambers Memorial Highway, and the John Hope Franklin Memorial Highway, respectively.

The process is not yet complete, but it’s anticipated that it will likely go through. Secretary Foxx admitted:

“These kind of recognitions are rare, and they probably should be. But they are important symbolic statements about the history of the state and the various personalities who’ve animated the state’s history.

Frankly, there are not a ton of examples of African-Americans who have been recognized, and these two are two of the very best who graced us with their presence in North Carolina.”

When contacted to discuss the proposal, NC Governor Roy Cooper endorsed the proclamation. He said in a statement:

“John Hope Franklin and Julius Chambers were men of great vision and purpose who gave so much to North Carolina, and this would be a fitting way for our state to honor them.”

Attorney Julius Chambers played a substantial role in school desegregation across the United States. Secretary Foxx praised him for:

Advancing “the rights of minorities and low income people through his tireless advocacy in the forms of litigation, scholarly research, and grass-roots activism, and enhanced racial equality throughout the nation and from his home state of North Carolina.”

He also extolled Franklin, a renowned academic and historian, and his work, saying:

He elevated “the cause of civil rights and the study of black history in the United States and weaving into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly.”

After signing the proclamations, one of the next steps Foxx took was to apprise relatives of the two icons. Franklin’s son, John Whittington Franklin, found about the honor via a text message Saturday morning. An employee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, Mr. Franklin expressed surprise. He further indicated he was pleased, and he thanked Foxx.

Chamber’s son Derrick indicated he’d learned about the proclamations Thursday, Foxx’s last full day as transportation secretary. A Charlotte resident, Derrick described it as a great honor. He added:

“I feel it’s long overdue for someone who made history. I look back at all the work that my father did in my lifetime and I’m proud that he is not forgotten.”

Chambers died in 2013 at age 76. Over the course of his career he was involved as counsel in a number of celebrated cases as the lead partner in the Chambers, Stein, Ferguson, and Atkins Law Firm in Charlotte, North Carolina’s first integrated law firm. Among the cases he took challenging discrimination in education, employment, and government, included Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. The 1971 Supreme Court decision that arose from that case was pivotal in making busing a viable option for implementing school desegregation plans. During the most intense years of the civil rights movement, Chambers car was dynamited, his house was firebombed, and his office was torched. He later served as Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (1984-1993).

Chambers enrolled at North Carolina Central University in 1954. He was the president of the student body at NCCU and graduated summa cum laude with an undergraduate degree in history in 1958. He earned a graduate degree in history from the University of Michigan. In 1959, he entered law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was the first African American editor-in-chief of the school’s law review and graduated first in his class of 100 students in 1962. Chambers also became the first African American to gain membership in the Order of the Golden Fleece, the University’s highest honorary society. In 1964, he earned his LL.M. from Columbia University Law School.

Franklin died in 2009 at the age of 94. He was a renowned African-American history scholar. In 1947, he authored “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,” which is regarded as a seminal work on African-American history.

He served as legal researcher for the NAACP legal defense fund’s work on Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark Supreme Court case that led to desegregation of schools nationwide.

Franklin taught at a number of institutions, including North Carolina Central University and Duke University, both in Durham, NC. At Duke, he was a professor of history and a legal history professor at its law school. He was the first African-American to head the American Historical Association.

Then-President Clinton awarded Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. Two years later, Clinton tapped Franklin to lead the President’s Initiative on Race, a panel that was created to foster a national dialogue on the sensitive subject of race relations.

While it’s likely the highways will be renamed, Secretary Foxx’s actions don’t mean that Chambers and Franklin highway signs will go up soon. Applications must be filed with NCDOT requesting the changes, and a good deal of coordination must still take place. It is actually conceivable that the road in Mecklenburg County that ultimately bears Chambers’ name could be I-77 rather than I-85, because there are several names already in the pipeline.

I am delighted to join Secretary Foxx in saluting these two amazing men, both of whom share an incredible legacy that includes membership in one of my favorite organizations, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Meanwhile, Mr. Foxx Exits: But Not Before Kicking Off One Final Highway Project!

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:,_North_Carolina

WWMD? (Reprised ’17)

It’s time to Break It Down!

This is another holiday week. While many may have moved on, I opted not to. I attended an MLK, Jr. Holiday Observance in a neighboring community. The program included public officials, minsters, choirs, teachers, students, a genuinely engaged crowd, and a personal friend who delivered the public address. It was a day that appropriately memorialized many of the ideals for which Dr. King surrendered his life.

I must note at first blush I was a little surprised that of the hand full of students who were afforded the opportunity to read their essays, none were people of color. As an aside, one of two students unable to attend the event had an Indian (as in India) surname, so perhaps… However, upon further contemplation, I concluded, if King’s aims are ever fully achieved, the deftness of the students’ writing skill and the content of their character should supersede the color of their skin. At any rate, in as much as I didn’t read the essays, I’m going to give the teachers and administrators a pass.

In reflecting on the many works of Dr. Martin Luther King, I decided to revisit a post I wrote and posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011, that examined both the advent of the King Holiday, and at the time, a controversy in local and nearby school systems. It’s been 6 years since that fateful snowstorm, 31 years since the initial observance of the King Holiday, and 34 years since President Reagan signed the MLK, Jr. Holiday bill into law. Now seems an apt time to take a look into the rear view mirror of time.

Monday was the 25th Anniversary of the initial observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (MLK DAY). After a quarter century of inculcation into the very fabric of our society, it may be largely forgotten that the conceptualization, submission and continual resubmission of the idea, the enactment, and the gradual national observance, was not the product of universal acceptance of a grand and enlightened concept, but rather, was emblematic of the civil rights struggle itself; steeped in controversy, and the eventual victory of a relentless movement to achieve richly deserved, and long overdue social justice.

Several members of Congress, and a number of states, and even a President, using a host of creative means, sought to undermine, outmaneuver, sabotage, subvert, and otherwise derail the efforts of the measure’s proponents. Ultimately, the movement was consolidated, snowballed, and would simply not be denied.

The effort to create a King Holiday was started by U.S. Representative John Conyers, Michigan, shortly after Dr. King’s death, in the spring of 1968. It was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 1979, but fell 5 votes short of the number for passage in the Lower Chamber.

High profile opponents to the measure included Senator Jesse Helms, NCSenator John McCain, AZ, and President Ronald Reagan. Both Senators voted against the bill, and Senator McCain publicly supported Arizona Governor Evan Mecham for his rescission of MLK Day as a State Holiday in Arizona. The campaign however, reached a critical mass in the early 1980’s. Spurred on by Stevie Wonder penning a song in King’s honor called, “Happy Birthday,” a petition drive to support the campaign would attract over 6 million signatures. It has been called the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. History.

Buttressed by what had become a wildly successful public campaign, Congress soon followed suit. The proposal passed in the House by a vote of 338-90, and in the Upper Chamber by a vote of 78-22. Given the dimensions of this overwhelming support, in the form of bicameral veto-proof votes, President Reagan signed the provision November 2, 1983, and it became Federal Law. The first observance under the new law took place January 20, 1986, rather than on January 15th, Dr. King’s birthday. A compromise in the legislation specified that the observance take place on the Third Monday in January, consistent with prior legislation (Uniform Monday Holiday Act).

Of course, that was not the end of the story. It would actually take more than 30 years after Dr. King’s death before the Holiday was fully adopted and observed in all 50 states. Illinois holds the distinction of being the first State to adopt MLK Day as a State Holiday, having done so in 1973. Twenty years later, in 1993, for the first time, some form of MLK Day was held in each of the 50 States. It was not until 2000 that South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill to make MLK Day a paid holiday for State employees; giving the Palmetto State the dubious distinction of being the last of the 50 States to do so. However, Mississippi also sets itself apart by designating the Third Monday in January as a shared Holiday that honors the memory of Robert E. Lee and Dr. King…two fine southern gentlemen.

So with that extensive preamble, I give you the issue of the day. This year, the convergence of a series of perfect winter storm systems bludgeoned the South and Eastern United States during the weeks leading up to the King Holiday. Part of the collateral damage emanating from these storms was widespread school closings, especially in the South, including parts of Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

In an effort to reformat the remainder of the school year, while minimizing overall disruption to School Calendars, a number of School Administrators discussed, and/or chose to eliminate the MLK Holiday, and program the day as a school “Make-up Day.” The ensuing conversations, especially those that lead to decisions to cancel the Holiday proved to be controversial and highly charged. It does not help that in many Southern school districts, there has been a level of retrenchment that many parents, families, and human rights organizations believe is tantamount to re-segregating the districts.

So I ask you, “What Would Martin Do?” (WWMD?)

I am not going to indulge in intellectual hubris, and pretend I know the answer to the aforementioned query. Instead, I will apply a couple of basic pragmatic considerations, and share my version of common sense. First, it is no secret; the efficacy of the American Education System is in question. By most accounts, American students, our children, are in trouble. A web search of “Shortcomings of the American Educational System” yields 28, 400,000 results. Do not worry I am not about to recount them for you.

The point is from the White House, to the State House, to the School House, the calls for reforming the American System of Education resound clearly, loudly, and incessantly. Almost every depiction of what is required for America to regain its mojo and reach its potential includes some version of enhancing the level and quality of education that we provide to our students.

In that light, I believe we are missing, not only the larger point, but we are also missing a unique opportunity, if we allow ourselves to get “stuck,” quibbling over the alleged unfairness, inequality, or racial bias of administrators having declared MLK Day a school day. Even “if,” any or all of those notions were accurate, and I am not certain they were, our forbears prided themselves in rising above those challenges, and excelling in spite of them. Given all of our advantages, relative to our ancestors, it is incumbent upon us to do the same…and more!

We should have leveraged the construct of MLK Day as a Day of Service, and enhanced it to make it a Day of Service and Education. There are many studies that suggest the longer students stay away from their regular studies and study habits, the more ground they lose. Has it not occurred to anyone that such a result is the very last thing we, or they, need? It was both important, and apropos to have school on MLK Day because that was the next “First Day Available” to conduct the Make-up Day. By taking advantage of that option, the students, for whom education is designed, and whom should derive the greatest direct benefit, receive the highest and best use from a necessary evil; the inclusion of a Make-up Day.  Naturally, all of society reaps the rewards of their immediate increased potential.

Since I am not a medium or a spiritualist, I do not profess to have conducted a séance with Dr. King; nor am I an educator, and I have not polled teachers or administrators. I am just a guy who is a perpetual student…of life, and that is how I see it. So if you were to ask me, “WWMD? (Reprised ’17),” My answer is, in his most Reverend voice, Dr. King would implore us not to get “stuck,” quibbling over the alleged unfairness, inequality, or racial bias of administrators having declared MLK Day a school day. He would add, “I Have A Dream” that one day, down in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina, black boys and black girls will join with white boys and white girls, and with Latino boys and Latina girls, and with Asian boys and Asian girls, and they will all get the quality education that they deserve, irrespective of their color, or their culture, or whether January 17th is a School “Make-up Day.” That was my take then and now. What’s yours?

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the links: or A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:,_Jr.,_Jr._Day

POTUS’ Farewell Address: Obama Out!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Last night, President Obama stopped by McCormick Place in Chicago to bid adieu to a mostly grateful nation. After eight years, only nine days remain in the Obama Presidency. In today’s America, that’s good news or bad news, depending upon which side of the ideological chasm you find yourself. Over the years, I’ve learned that there are all kinds of people on both sides of that divide. There have been other posts that dealt with that subject in depth; there will be more…some day.

Just not this day. Today’s post is all about 44, and his fond farewell. In fact that’s all it’s about. No preamble, no postscript, no scintillating analysis. In the event you missed it, or had a question about the phraseology around one or two particular points, or you simply want a keepsake, I am sharing the transcript of President Obama’s remarks last night in Chi-town.

If you saw it, or you didn’t care to see it…and you don’t care to now, feel free to sign off. I’ll be back next week with a new post. For now, enjoy.

Here’s the text of President Barack Obama‘s farewell address Tuesday at McCormick Place in Chicago, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:

It’s good to be home.  My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks.  But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.

I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, and was still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life.  It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.  It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.  This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and come together to demand it.

After eight years as your President, I still believe that.  And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.

It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

This is the great gift our Founders gave us.  The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a common good, a greater good.

For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation.  It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.  It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, it’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot, it’s what powered workers to organize.  It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.

Yes, our progress has been uneven.  The work of democracy has always been hard, it’s always been contentious and it’s sometimes been bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history … if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11 … if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens … If I had told you all of that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

But that’s what we did.  That’s what you did.  You were the change.  You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy:  the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next.  I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.  Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

We have what we need to do so.  We have everything we need to meet those challenges. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth.  Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours.

But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works.  Only if our politics better reflects the decency of the our people.  Only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

That’s what I want to focus on tonight – the state of our democracy.

Understand, democracy does not require uniformity.  Our founders argued, they quarreled, eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened that solidarity.  The beginning of this century has been one of those times.  A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but are testing our democracy as well.  And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs and protect our homeland.

In other words, it will determine our future.

To begin with, our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.  Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again.  The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records.  The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low.  The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.  Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in fifty years.  And I said, and I mean it, if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system – that covers as many people at less cost – I will publicly support it.

That, after all, is why we serve – not to score points or take credit, but to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But for all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough.  Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class.  That the economic argument. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles.  While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress or health care worker who is barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend.  I agree — our trade should be fair and not just free.  But the next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas.  It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.

And so we’re going to have to forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from this new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their very success possible.  We can argue about how to best achieve these goals.  But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves.  For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

There’s a second threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself.  After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America.  And such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic.  Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.  Now, I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago no matter what some folks say. You can see it not just in statistics. You can see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

But we’re not where we need to be.  All of us have more work to do.  After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an  undeserving minority, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.  If we’re unwilling  to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children -– because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce.  And we have shown that our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.

So if we’re going to be serious about race going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination – in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system.  That’s what our Constitution and highest ideals require.  But laws alone won’t be enough.  Hearts must change. It won’t change overnight. Social attitudes often take generations to change. But if our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

For blacks and other minority groups, that means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – not only  the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.

For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment that our Founders promised.

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, and Italians and Poles, who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened.

So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; we all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.

For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.  The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable.  And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

And this trend represents a third threat to our democracy.  Look, politics is a battle of ideas; that’s how our democracy was designed.  …  But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.

And isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting?  How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?  How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing?  It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating.  Because as my mom used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.

Take the challenge of climate change.  In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, and we’ve led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet.  But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: more environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.

Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem.  But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of this country, the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.

It is that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse – the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.

It’s that spirit – a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but built on principles – the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.

That order is now being challenged – first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, and open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power.  The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile.  They represent the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, and the intelligence officers, law enforcement, and diplomats who support them, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years; and although Boston and Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever.  We’ve taken out tens of thousands of terrorists – including Osama bin Laden.  The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory.  ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe.  To all who serve, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief.

But protecting our way of life — that’s not just the job of our military.  Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.  So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.  And that’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing.  That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.  That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans, who are just as patriotic as we are.  That’s why we cannot withdraw from big global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, and women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem.  That’s part of defending America. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression.  If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid.  ISIL will try to kill innocent people.  But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight.  Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world – unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

Which brings me to my final point – our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.  When voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote.  When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service.  When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our congressional districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

And remember — none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift.  But it’s really just a piece of parchment.  It has no power on its own.  We, the people, give it power – we the people give it meaning with our participation, and the choices we make and the alliances that we form.  Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms.  Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law.  America is no fragile thing.  But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken … to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” and so we have to preserve this truth with “jealous anxiety”; that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

America, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter into public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent.  We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we in fact all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: citizen.

So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands.  It needs you.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up.  Dive in.  Stay at it.  Sometimes you’ll win.  Sometimes you’ll lose.  Presuming a reservoir of goodness in other people, that can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you.  But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.  And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed.

Mine sure has been.  Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch. I’ve seen wounded warriors, who at points were given up for dead, walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change – that faith has been rewarded in ways I could not have possibly imagined.  I hope yours has, too.  Some of you here tonight or watching at home were there with us in 2004, in 2008, in 2012. Maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.

You’re not the only ones.  Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side – for the past 25 years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend.  You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and with grit and with style and good humor.  You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.  And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.  You have made me proud.  And you have made the country proud.

Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women.  You are smart and you are beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion.  You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily.  Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.

To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son:  you were the first decision I made as a nominee, and it was the best.  Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.  We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.

To my remarkable staff:  For eight years – and for some of you, a whole lot more – I’ve drawn from your energy, and every day I’ve tried to reflect back what you displayed every day: heart, and character, and idealism.  I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, and start incredible new journeys of your own.  Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. You guarded against cynicism. The only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done is the thought of all the remarkable things you are going to achieve from here.

And to all of you out there – every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change – you are the best supporters and organizers anybody could ever hope for, and I will forever be grateful.  Because you did change the world. You did.

That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started.  Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans – especially so many young people out there – to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.  Let me tell you, this generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country.  You believe in a fair and just and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward.  You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you.  I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days.  For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

 I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes We Can.

Yes We Did.

Yes We Can.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

That’s it…”POTUS’ Farewell Address: Obama Out!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

For more detailed information on a variety of aspects related to this post, consult the links below: