Posts Tagged ‘Public Affairs’

Questers! Reignite your Resolutions & Thrive!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

What do a beat boxing cellist; a college president who was the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic; the first African American international chess grandmaster and a double-leg amputee who climbed the highest mountain in Africa have in common? They’re all Thrivals. They don’t just survive, but thrive in odds-defying conditions and quests.

Exhibit A: 23-year-old Kevin Olusola, from Owensboro, whose five-member electro-pop a cappella group Pentatonix won season three of NBC’s “The Sing Off.” Olusula was a musical prodigy at age four, playing complicated melodies by ear without any training. By age six, he was well on his way to mastering the cello. Listen to how he makes those strings sing in this video:

We met up with Olusola at the Thrivals 5.0 event during the Idea Festival in Louisville last fall. The term “Thrivals” was invented by futurist, thinker, and University of Louisville professor Nat Irvin who wanted to redefine “out of the box” thinkers and doers; those who embody the ingenuity of the human imagination, often in the face of tremendous obstacles and menial expectations.

Last year, Olusola was in the company of Tori Murden McClure, an athlete with herculean determination to row across the Atlantic Ocean; Maurice Ashley, the first black international grandmaster of chess; and Spencer West — who despite losing both legs at age 5 from a genetic disease — climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro,  the highest mountain in Africa.

The road to wisdom and courage isn’t traveled in a featherbed, and Spencer West knows that axiom all too well. Listen to him describe his quest to redefine what’s possible for those deemed impossibly limited.

In 2008, Spencer West took a volunteer trip to Kenya where he helped build a school in a rural community and from there began his quest to advocate for human rights,  poverty eradication and education.

If you need to reboot your New Year’s resolutions – these questers featured in last week’s ‘Connections’ provide more than enough inspiration.

We all need to recharge every now and then and be reminded of those among us who answer mammoth calls to adventure to redefine what’s possible for us all.

The Poor Among Us

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

This weekend will be marked by celebrations large and small honoring the most revered revolutionary in the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Heralded as the God-led, citizen prophet for nonviolence dedicated to building a beloved community, King helped expand the franchise of liberty and equality for African Americans.

His pursuit to elevate the plight of the economically disenfranchised in all of humanity’s stripes is part of his legacy as well.  King understood that success in getting to sit at lunch counters, once off-limits to people of color, was blunted by one’s ability to afford to dine there.

The evolution of a new agenda led by King in the autumn of 1967 called the “Poor People’s Campaign”  included demands for a multi-million dollar anti-poverty package from Congress. This would be short-circuited just months after its inception by an assassin’s calculated silencing of King. It was in the course of that fight for better wages and treatment of black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, that King’s life was cut short at age 39.

Many people tell me how perplexed they are by the muted conversation about poverty by today’s national leaders and policymakers. Mention of poverty during the last election cycle was non-existent, other than ill-conceived characterizations of those below the line. No anti-poverty agendas were brought forth or even intimations made that they’re forthcoming. Poverty is treated as an intractable problem that we feel sorry exists, and we quickly concede to political impotence.

While we remain trapped by the political morass of poverty, those sinking in it expand to greater numbers. Kentucky –  a state with more than one in four children in poverty and nearly 800,000 citizens in poverty overall — can ill afford to refuse a solutions-based dialogue.

James Ziliak, an economics professor at the University of Kentucky and founding director of the U.K. Center for Poverty Research says the Bluegrass state has the fifth highest poverty rate in the nation. He says the boom and bust cycles in manufacturing and resource extraction leave Kentucky particularly vulnerable to sharp economic downturns — such as the one from which we’re trying now to rebound.

Then there’s the issue of the “persistently poor” counties in Kentucky, of which almost two dozen are situated in eastern Kentucky. By federal definition, these areas earn that classification when they’ve been economically distressed for at least 30 years. Michelle Tooley, a religion, social ethics, and public policy professor at Berea College, says there are “scarce resources…isolation, often poor transportation, sometimes not the access to utilities. But you also have this resource gap that is more than just money.” Professors Tooley and Ziliak frame the issue further in this report.

Poverty is a multi-dimensional problem. But, it is not without solutions, as I’ve learned while producing/hosting (with Bill Goodman) a KET special that airs Monday at 8 pm ET. Community leaders, anti-poverty advocates, educators, and economists share their insights and lend recommendations on how — in the words of Dr. Martin L. King — “to make the invisible visible.”

“The Price of Poverty in Kentucky” airs Monday at 8/7pm on KET.

Striding ‘Right’ for Black GOP Strategist is a No-brainer

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Charles Badger is not your typical 23 year-old. His tersely stylized, self-description on Twitter provides little insight into what he thinks. In the maximum allowed character length below a picture of a jubilant dude in line dance formation, Charles fonts the following:  “NY-baked-Southern glazed inquisitive Cosmopolitan. Foodie. Bourbonist. Art-Jazz-Hip-Hop lover w/ a change-the-world complex.”

Okay. None of that seems peculiar. And, most of us are down with those having a can-do spirit to make a difference. But, what he doesn’t text out near his cyber avatar that you quickly gather from his Twitter feed is that he’s ‘say it loud, he’s black and he’s proud’ … to be a Republican.

What? Come again? That last part?

It’s a question he’s asked often: ‘why are you, a black man, a Republican?’ Given African Americans’ historic patronage to candidates with the parenthetical ‘D’ flanking her/his name – he understands folks’ curiosity.

Reporters seldom like to look like they’re asking obvious questions, but when I pose it to him in our upcoming interview, his answer provides real insight into his political paradigm. Charles’ urban upbringing in conditions that he says government failed to make better, has a lot to do with his view. He says he lived in a breeding ground for generational poverty that never improved no matter how much public assistance, programs, and services were piped in to help. That’s why he’s a Republican. He’s witnessed – in his words: “the failure of big government.”

Not content to watch from the sidelines and driven by his “change-the-world” complex, the Berea College graduate became a political operative, even before he’d graduated. Charles has already worked for half-a-dozen political campaigns, including the recent 6th congressional district contest that unseated Democrat challenger Ben Chandler. Did I mention Charles is 23?

If you looked carefully at our election night coverage on KET last month, you saw a glimpse of Charles’ brown dome making a cameo behind the night’s new political star, Congressman-elect Andy Barr, who won that 6th congressional district race.  Barr lost to Chandler by less than 700 votes in a match-up two years ago. This time around, Barr scuttled Chandler’s return to the Beltway by more than 11,000 votes. It was a victory he cinched with an arsenal of pro-coal ads, Chandler’s burden of sharing the ticket with a president unpopular in Kentucky, and a tight ground game.  Charles Badger had a heavy hand in Barr’s victory. It wasn’t the first rodeo for either and it showed.

Judging by the way things look now, Charles has a long time ahead in the saddle of politics. When you tune into our interview you’ll learn why. He has a strong command of the issues, a sharp articulation of message, and is trying to change the face we typically associate with the Grand Old Party in Kentucky and beyond.

Check out Charles Badger on Connections — Sunday at 1:30pm on KET. You can watch a preview.

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