Larry Out!

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Larry Wilmore

 

I didn’t care for Larry Wilmore’s jokes Saturday night at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.  His ending made me cringe.  I wish he’d ended with the something respectful that he said last night…

“When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.”

Then followed the leader of the free world, America’s first Black President, with “Obama out!” or “Larry out!” and dropped the mike.

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President Obama drops the mike!

 

Instead, after boring, senseless, classless jokes, he ended with an undignified n word standing in front of a room of journalists and politicians who haven’t made it easy for the President over the past seven years.

To invoke the n word, to the first Black President was disrespectful to the office and our American ancestors. Men and women who worked the fields, built this country’s economy and marched tirelessly against racism and who were often called nigger.  And made it possible for us to have a Black President and Larry for you to host your show.

I stand proudly, head high standing on the shoulders of those men and women, my heroes. They toiled, sweat and died, so that today, Americans of all races have a better way. I love this country. Mr. Wilmore your last words to the President were disrespectful to the men and women who came before you and made it possible for you to have your job!

Atiba out!

They Aren’t Going to Like This!

Politics has always fascinated me.  When I was four, I told my parents, “I am going to be the first Black President!”  Almost forty years ago, that seemed impossible. But in 1978, at the age of six, I saw Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the Camp David Accords with President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin hammering out an agreement for peace between Israel and Egypt.

I studied Sadat. Why not? He looked like me.  His hair was gray, but the texture looked like mine. I could relate to him even more, when I learned he was a Muslim like my family. At first, I was alarmed that he smoked a pipe. But that made me look closer and see something I have found in other courageous leaders.

They are pensive. Sadat looked this way with his pipe in hand. But like courageous leaders, sometimes he looked sad. Not the kind of sad you and I feel. His was a retrospective sadness. Like he was thinking, “They aren’t going to like this, but it is the right thing to do.”

That look comes from knowing they may be right but have to move a mountain of naysayers to get the people onboard. Who wouldn’t be sad knowing this lies ahead. That is why CHANGE is hard and we see many leaders instead of standing up with courage, they turn and run the other way.

Equipped with this difficult task, on the global stage Sadat still often flashed a big smile. Begin and Carter did too. Their smiles on September 17th, 1978, were one of hope, that together they would move that mountain.

History shows that courageous leaders against great opposition, inspire hope.  They inspire even when we aren’t ready to travel the road less traveled. Fortunately, we have had Presidents do this, even when our Congress disagrees. Domestically this was the case with slavery, segregation and women’s right to vote.

Internationally we saw it when President John F. Kennedy negotiated behind the scenes with Russia averting war over the Cuban missile crisis.  When President Richard Nixon negotiated and then visited China.  And when, President Ronald Reagan negotiated with Russia to eliminate intermediate range and shorter range missiles. All decisions that altered the course of history using the strength of diplomacy over the power of war.

The Iran agreement is a pathway forward that trusts the strength of our diplomacy. What fourteen countries including the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany achieved is historic.

Leaders like South African President Nelson Mandela whose nation was imperiled by apartheid offered his nation a better way forward.  If we look at photos and video of Mandela, you might see the look of pensiveness and sadness once he left prison.  Yet, close your eyes and remember his great smile.  It is like he knew something we didn’t.  And he provided hope to his nation and led them from apartheid to liberation.

Like Mandela, Obama now will try to offer that hope to our Congress who disagree with his decision with Iran. Congress will debate it and may vote against it. The reality is there is no agreement the GOP  would accept. They prefer fear, conflict and tension.  That is why this agreement puts Obama in the category of Presidents like Mandela, Kennedy, Carter, Nixon, Reagan, Sadat and Begin.

He made a hard decision that leads to a better pathway for peace.  And opens pathways for the world to get to know Iran better.  Because of the Camp David Accords I have been able to visit Egypt, South Africa and Israel.  I hope in the near future, peace in Iran makes it possible to travel there.

CHANGE is difficult for some to accept.  At times, leaders feel like they are stuck in quick sand moving large numbers out of an abyss of despair. They cannot walk like they are on land. They have to rise above the danger and see, then communicate that help and a brighter future with a better way is ahead of them.

Some leaders don’t have that ability.  More importantly, they don’t possess the talent or ability to inspire hope .  So they use fear to keep people close. This causes more friction and danger. We see this too often here and abroad. It keeps wars going for too long.

That’s why President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words are still used today. During a time of great economic calamity he said in his first Inaugural Address that the “only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Fear has been used for centuries to keep us from moving FORWARD. The awakening of the intellectual spirit is offering hope that there is a new and better way FORWARD. That is what this agreement is really about, a better way FORWARD.

We won’t know for weeks, years or decades to come, if Iran will hold up its end of the bargain. But we should give it a try. And whether you do or don’t applaud the President for it, at least support him in the short term for diverting our nation from a course that would lead to another war.

The President like those before him often has that pensive look. At times, he has a look of sadness in his eyes. Moving a mountain is no small feat. Over the past six years, we have seen his big smile!  It is a smile of HOPE. It tells us everything is going to be okay. He is battle tested and deserves our support on this decision. The President has led our nation out of economic uncertainty, stabilized global markets and got us out of two wars.

He has moved mountains and as a leader he continues to make the hard decisions, not the popular one. His hair is gray much like Sadat’s almost four decades ago. He like Sadat, Begin and Carter during the Camp David Accords is trying to make America safer.

Some child or children are watching Obama as I watched Sadat thirty-nine years ago because they can relate to him. More importantly, they are watching us. Let’s give them the best example to follow. One that shows that together, we can move big mountains and make the world a better place for us all!

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP).  Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Is This About Race? Black Leaders Call for Lynch to Be Appointed

Lynch

Why are Republicans in the US Senate holding up the appointment of nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch?  If confirmed, she will become the first African American woman to hold the position of Attorney General and first to hold a cabinet level position in the Obama Administration.

What makes Lynch’s confirmation interesting is that she’s had a stellar career.  Yet her confirmation has been held up longer than any Attorney General in 30 years.   A glaring and stark comparison to her appointment, is that of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who was nominated on December 5, 2014 and approved unanimously February 1, 2015.

Observers question, is this is about race?  Lynch was nominated by President Barack Obama on November 8, 2014 and confirmed out of committee, 12-8 on February 26, 2015.   Yet, she waits for the full Senate body to confirm her appointment.

The confirmation has gone from a “process of confirmation to a trial by ordeal that has moved from ridiculous to absurd,” Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said yesterday on an hour long press call about Lynch in which he was joined by Congressional members, the head of a civil rights legal defense group and sorority president.

It is difficult to argue the absurdity of the confirmation considering that Carter who is White was nominated after Lynch and confirmed as she waits for appointment.  Adding to the drama is that nothing in the confirmation hearing questioned or challenged her qualifications or her character.

“The CBC is disturbed that this confirmation has taken four months…..the votes are there today to have her confirmed.  If she was put forward for confirmation today, she would be confirmed by tonight,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC) said.

So, is this about race or something else?  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says her confirmation vote will occur after the Senate votes on a human trafficking bill.  While Senators Jeff Sessions (AL), John Cornyn (TX) and Ted Cruz (TX) have said the President’s action on immigration and Lynch’s defense of his actions are why they oppose her appointment.  Either way, her confirmation hearing has now come and gone.  While Secretary Carter has been nominated and confirmed during a shorter timeframe.

“Rather than focus on race, we should ask, what are women and African Americans perceiving when they watch this?  For those who watched a woman who is an African American woman control the room during her confirmation hearing, also saw her move even the opposition party with her story.  When women all over the country see a woman, move toward getting this job and then see it held up despite her qualifications, what does that say to women?”  Sherilynn Ifel, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund stated.

Loretta Elizabeth Lynch, born in Greensboro North Carolina is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  She has been confirmed for the position twice by the Senate, holding the position now twice, first from 1999-2001 and now since 2010.   With leaders around the country calling for the Senate to vote up or down for her appointment, despite her stellar record, there is speculation two Senators from Lynch’s home state may vote against her confirmation.  One saying before the process began, he would not vote for her.

When the vote happens, some on the call said, it could be one of the closest ever for Attorney General.  Some analysts speculate, that Vice President Joe Biden may provide the deciding vote.

Potential Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in this week on Twitter, “Congressional trifecta against women today, 1)Blocking a great nominee, 1st African American woman AG, for longer than any other AG in 30 years 2) Playing politics with trafficking victims 3) Threatening women’s health and rights.”

Dr. Paulette C. Walker, National President of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., for which Lynch is a member said, “Call upon the Senate to confirm.  The Senate needs to do what it is elected to do and confirm Loretta Lynch.  She has committed her life to make the lives of all Americans better.”

If this is about race or even opposition to the President, the Senate’s disparity in confirming the two nominees, may show that control of the Senate is harder than it was in the minority.  The Republican Senate appears more fractured than what we see on the surface.

Is McConnell holding up the nomination because he is having the same issues Congressman John Boehner experienced with Tea Party members in the House of Representatives?  Either way, holding up the nomination of Lynch, a qualified candidate, may further distance and hurt GOP relations not only with important voting communities of African Americans or Hispanics around immigration.  It may also distance itself with women.

Atiba  Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow @atibamadyun or like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Selma & Ferguson Are Now!

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By Atiba Madyun

I applaud the DOJ for its findings released this week on Michael Brown’s senseless, tragic killing in Ferguson!

The findings bring to light what we’ve known a long time, Black men and Hispanic men are too often targeted by police.

But there are other systemic issues, like the revenue states and local jurisdictions rely on by issuing fines. Or the length of time for the same type arrests that Blacks are held or detained.

Ferguson shed light on its department, but this has gone on, too long in the US.

What are the next steps to be taken?

President Obama last week in an Immigration Town Hall in Florida said that only 1/3 of registered voters voted in last year’s midterms.  And that much of the gridlock in Washington could be avoided if more people voted.

In light of the historic anniversary tomorrow of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, it is important that everyone regardless of political affiliation recognize, acknowledge and do their part in elections simply by casting their VOTE!

Let us remember that many men, women and children died so that we have the right to vote.  Rev. Jesse Jackson said shortly after Ferguson, that if 5,000 more people were registered to vote in Ferguson, they could effect the outcome of their mayoral election.  Guess who picks the Chief of Police?  The Mayor!!!

We speak often of the gridlock in Congress.  Well those who marched in Selma did so 5o years ago so that we could all Vote.  In Ferguson and other reaches of the country, we can continue to complain or we can exercise the right to Vote and elect representatives who best serve the interests of the many not the few.  Selma and Ferguson are now!

We the People can change the gridlock and complexion (pun intended) of the Congress and other elected offices around the nation, if we all VOTE!

Atiba Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow @atibamadyun or like on Facebook Atiba Madyun

That is Patriotism!

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By Atiba Madyun

You’ve heard by now, that Rudy Giuliani who led NYC through 9/11, said that President Barack Obama is unpatriotic and doesn’t believe in America.  This led me to wonder, how do you define the President of the United States as unpatriotic?

How is a President, who led the nation out of its worst recession since the Great Depression, from double digit unemployment to 5.7%, unpatriotic?  How do you call the President unpatriotic, when he made the decision that led to our troops killing the mastermind of 9/11?

Mr. Giuliani’s comments were given on the heels of President Obama’s speech at the White House Summit on Countering Extremism.  In his speech, he referred to ISIL and other terrorists as “violent extremists” instead of linking terrorism directly to Islam.

As an American, raised in a Muslim family, I appreciated the President distinctly differentiating between violent extremists and Islam even when, some inside the White House wanted the President to link Islam with extremism. Instead, the President said to the nation and the World that, “We are not at war with Islam.  We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Imagine what the world would be like if a man like Giuliani was President, perverting the issue for political reasons?  It would divide us as a nation and separate us from other good Muslims in the world.  That would be irresponsible and unpatriotic.

Mr. Giuliani, the President is the leader of all Americans.  He has a responsibility to protect Americans here and abroad.  Had he done what you wanted him to, it would have added fuel to the fire and helped ISIL recruit even more people.

I am glad the President didn’t cave to hysteria and Islamaphobia.  Instead, he called on the entire world and religious community, in particular Muslim clerics to work together to combat “violent extremism.”

It scares me to think of a world where Giuliani or someone like him was President.  There is a reason you failed to secure the GOP nomination.  A President’s tone in this day and age has to be patriotic and resonate with the American majority.

Last month, when President Obama gave the annual State of the Union address, I was appalled when members of my party, the GOP failed to stand and applaud when the President said that the “State of the Union is strong.”  This was unpatriotic Mr. Giuliani, but we didn’t hear you call out the party!

Lines are drawn by Democrats and Republicans, as if we were at war with one another.  This week, the GOP is threatening to shut down the government over the President’s executive actions on immigration. Patriotism should always rise above partisan divide.  That’s why we came together when our nation was attacked on 9/11.

This nation is 150 years removed from slavery, an institution that nearly tore our nation apart.  It took the life of one of our most beloved Presidents.  Today, a majority of Americans are coming together around issues that we used to be far apart on.  Mr. Giuliani, it should be unpatriotic to be against raising the minimum wage.  It should be unpatriotic to close pathways to prosperity for many, so that a few can succeed.

I see things every day that show the President’s love for this nation.  It can be seen in his manner and decisions to make America a better place for his children and all children.   Is that not patriotic?

Our nation is on a better course than it was six years ago.  At times, I have questioned the President’s leadership and policies.  But, I have never questioned his patriotism.  As an American, it is my patriotic duty to voice concern, just as it is my duty to vote and give whoever is the President, an opportunity to lead and succeed.  Today, six years into his Presidency, with no more campaigns to run, he is free to lead his way and I like what I see!

In light of violent extremism, Mr. Giuliani, I wholeheartedly appreciate the President’s decision to take out this enemy.  To do this successfully, he will need to build a large coalition.  I believe him when he says, we will defeat them.  So we should give the President a chance and if he is wrong, then come back and criticize that, but not his patriotism.

His record as Commander in Chief has earned him that privilege.  The President is doing his patriotic duty, by seeking ways to destroy an enemy like ISIL, without putting more young men and women in harm’s way, as we did in the last decade.  Isn’t that patriotic and commendable?

Our President has ushered in affordable healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans.  He seeks policies that provide greater mobility for the middle class.  Why?  Because he knows that this will strengthen the economic stability of our nation.  Leveling the playing field, so that every American has an opportunity to prosper in the world’s richest nation is good for our national security and it is patriotic!

Mr. Giuliani, we are grateful for the leadership you displayed on September 11, 2001.  We would be more grateful if you did one more patriotic thing.  Get out of the way.  Let our nation, fulfill its destiny and the course our nation’s founders set us on, to become a more perfect union for, WE THE PEOPLE. That is patriotism!

Atiba Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP).

State of the Union Priorities: A Path Forward

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By Atiba Madyun

This week, I attended a White House briefing on the President’s initiatives addressed in his State of the Union address.  His staff spoke on Cradle to Career education initiatives, My Brother’s Keeper, criminal justice reform, minimum wage and family sick leave.  They emphasized a sense of urgency and that the President has 22 months left to move an agenda focused on strengthening the middle class and investing in America’s future.

On education, the President believes no young person’s zip code should determine his/her future.  While the nation has its highest high school graduation rate ever (80%), it can link its high school dropout rate to 1,300 of the Nation’s schools. Therefore, the President has a new national goal to prepare the next generation(s) for high quality education and a bright future.

To achieve these new goals, it will require greater participation and accountability.  Like the old African proverb, It Takes a Village to raise a child, every child’s grandparents, parents, communities and schools should work collaboratively in this effort.  The President wants to increase America’s rank in providing high quality Pre-K access to high risk children.  Currently, according to Early Education for All, the U.S. ranks 28th out of 38 industrial nations that provide Pre-K and “the achievement gap between low-income children and their affluent peers is growing.[i]

By creating better pathways, students will have a better chance to graduate high school putting them on a pathway to college and enhanced career choices. To close the access gap, we have to address cost and make college more affordable for students that work hard and get good grades.  Opening access and making the first two years of community college free is a way to help students attain a higher education without going deep into debt before starting their career.

Increasing the minimum wage will help many Americans including some college students.  In 2017, 7 million Americans will benefit from minimum wage increases.[ii]  Making family sick leave available so employees working full time get at least seven days of sick leave a year makes sense for the employee and employer.  It can help businesses maintain low turnover while allowing employees to stay home when they are sick so they don’t get coworkers sick.  It also helps employees care for sick loved ones during episodes of illness.

Additionally, protecting and promoting family values also leads to success for America’s youth.  Each day, an average of eight children and teens are killed by guns.  Last year, we heard one too many stories of young men killed by police officers that set off a firestorm of protests.

Recognizing that too many young men are off track, the President one year ago this month, introduced My Brother’s Keeper (MBK).  Later in the year, a month after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, the President issued a challenge to cities, towns and tribes to become “MBK Communities” to implement coherent cradle to college and career strategy to improve outcomes for young people.  It addresses serious concerns in the African American, Hispanic and Native American tribal community.

MBK is seeking to find ways to save young people from a pathway that leads to prison. These are tied to his initiatives for education.  As early as pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, some 4 and 5 year olds have been suspended for negative behavior that can be typical of a child who is developing social-emotional skills. This is not how we should be supporting young children in their early years.  Data shows the nation’s greatest challenges dropout rates, crime, health-care costs, competing in the global marketplace – can be met by focusing on the development of all children, beginning at birth.

The President asserts a child’s future should not be predetermined by his/her zip code.  The Ounce of Prevention Fund research shows that at-risk children who don’t receive a high-quality early childhood education are[iii]:

  • 25% more likely to drop out of school
  • 40% more likely to become a teen parent
  • 50% more likely to be placed in special education
  • 60% more likely to never attend college
  • 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime

Early childhood programs are the most cost-effective way to ensure the healthy development of children in poverty and offer the greatest returns to society.In DC, where Pre-K is offered in every elementary school, Councilmember David Grosso recognized this and introduced legislation to positively address this growing trend to protect our 4 and 5 year olds and find better ways to promote positive social and emotional development.

MBK can be a vital instrument in impacting the lives of young American men.  To sustain and create greater opportunities, it is securing corporate, advocacy and community partners to better engage young men.  It is identifying long term solutions to their growth and prosperity in American society.  And all of the President’s cabinet agencies with focus on domestic policy are engaged in this effort.  More importantly, the President has expressed his and the First Lady’s commitment to work on MBK long after they leave the White House.

Mandatory sentencing laws have hurt families for too long.  The President’s staff and the Justice Department are looking for better ways to address re-entry, so that people can re-enter society better equipped to find employment, stay out of prison and empower them with the right to vote.  His Task Force on 21st Century Policing is looking at how billions of dollars are being spent in the militarization of police departments.  Body cameras and collaborative reform are great.  Here is not only a need, but an excellent opportunity on Capitol Hill for bipartisan support.

What the Administration and Congress might also consider is a national database to track the number of times police officers fire their weapons, injure and kill as well as kill unarmed individuals.  While body cameras are a great first step, it is vital to have policy guidelines defining when an officer turns them on and who views the footage.

As Americans, we can study the President’s proposals and look at like a shareholder of a company would.  Whether it is increasing the minimum wage, creating seamless pathways to attaining higher education, protecting our young men and law enforcement officials, providing greater upward mobility opportunities, they all look to strengthen our nation and our economy.  That’s a win-win as an American shareholder and a great way to invest in America’s future!

Atiba

Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group, a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.

Learn more about My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) www.whitehouse.gov/MBK or visit www.mbk.org.

[i] Early Education for All –  http://www.strategiesforchildren.org/docs_research/14_International.pdf

 [ii] The White House – www.whitehouse.gov/raise-the-wage

 [iii] Ounce of Prevention Fund – http://www.ounceofprevention.org/about/why-early-childhood-investments-work.php

Swagger!

SOTU

By Atiba Madyun

Did you see the President get “jiggy” with Republicans last night?  If you missed it, you missed a speech blended in off the cuff entertainment, as the President highlighted his Administration’s agenda.

Republicans sat when the President said the “The State of the Union is strong” instead of standing with the Democratic minority as is the customary tradition.  At one point, Republicans sat silent as the President looked in their direction saying with a smile and a wink, “this is good news people.”

When he said “I have no more campaigns to run,” Republicans clapped. He responded on cue and off script, “I know because I won them both.” (Click to view).   Democrats erupted with cheering so loud, it seemed they were in the majority.

Calm and loose as quarterback Russell Wilson leading his team last Sunday to a late game winning touchdown, Obama with swagger and confidence laid out an agenda for “middle class economics.”

He jabbed at Republicans on the minimum wage debate “to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The President talked about tax relief for the middle class, jobs for veterans, affordable child care for working parents, equal pay for women, paid sick leave and two years of free college tuition to those who work get good grades and work hard.

His swagger gave the impression that he is not a lame duck and will not go silently into the night.  He ended his speech with a unifying message “My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.”

The President assured us that he is working to turn the page and complete the job he started six years ago.  We can sit on the sideline and wait two years for another President to take office. Or we can come together, regardless of political party and work with the President and pressure Congress on both sides to work together.  Which will you be?

View the President’s #SOTU speech here.

Read the President’s #SOTU speech here.

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG) a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.