President Barack Obama surprises Military Aide Major Barrett Bernard with a birthday cake aboard Air Force One during the flight from Seattle, Wash., to Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 17, 2010. Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke look out a window at Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier during a flight aboard Air Force One from Los Angeles, Calif., to Seattle, Wash., Aug. 17, 2010. Photo by Pete Souza
Alan Schwarz: With Clemency From Obama, Drug Offender Embraces Second Chance
Rudolph Norris walked out of Morgantown federal prison two weeks ago carrying a duffel bag like no other. First, he had spent six months hand-stitching it himself from dozens of mottled leather scraps, symbolizing the shards of his life he longed to piece back together. Then he unzipped it and pulled out his invitation to try. “Dear Rudolph,” the letter began, “I wanted to personally inform you that I have granted your application for commutation.” It was signed “Barack Obama.” Mr. Norris’s 22 years behind bars over with the stroke of the president’s pen. Mr. Norris, 58, was one of 22 federal prisoners released on July 28 through a continuing bipartisan push to shorten the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders who, during the war-on-drugs fervor of decades ago, received punishments far lengthier than they would have drawn today.
Mr. Norris immediately called his parole officer to learn his responsibilities and pledge to follow them. (His clemency does not vacate the eight years of probation to which he was originally sentenced.) He applied for food stamps and, because all he had was his Morgantown inmate card, pursued a more marketable driver’s license. His commitment to playing by the rules was so strong that he avoided a day-labor landscaping opportunity because it paid in cash, and he wanted to pay taxes like everyone else. “As I navigate my way back to society and begin a productive life,” he wrote to Mr. Obama in April, “one of the first and foremost thoughts on my mind will be my solemn commitment to prove to you that your faith in me was not at all misplaced.”
Julian Bond personified the Civil Rights Movement, and more broadly, the history of the twentieth century iteration of the Black Freedom Struggle. His death will leave a gaping hole in national leadership on the question of civil and human rights in American society. As historians, we need to recognize the many ways he led during his long—although it feels like it wasn’t long enough—life. And as Bond’s life continued, he never stopped being an exemplar of African American achievement and intellect. He taught at several universities and authored books.
Bond served as a Georgia state representative and senator for twenty years, before losing a controversial Democratic primary race for U.S. Congress seat to John Lewis—a race that included accusations of drug use against Bond and was an ugly episode in the post-Civil Rights Movement legacy of two icons. A consummate Southerner who worked his entire life to change the South, and the nation, into a better place, Bond was a founder of the Institute for Southern Studies in 1970, and later led the Southern Poverty Law Center from 1971 until 1979. He served as Chairman of the NAACP from 1998 until 2009, and also wrote a syndicated newspaper column, Viewpoint, as well as hosted seventeen seasons of the political commentary show, America’s Black Forum.
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, right, listens as President Barack Obama holds a round table discussion with local small business owners during a stop at Grand Central Bakery in Seattle, Wash., Aug. 17, 2010. The President met with the group to discuss strengthening the economy and creating jobs for the families and businesses of Washington State. Photo by Pete Souza
Galesburg Senior High volleyball players join in a cheer after meeting President Barack Obama during an unannounced stop in Galesburg, Ill., Aug. 17, 2011, as part of a three-day bus tour in the Midwest. Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama participates a discussion on poverty at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Georgetown hosted the Catholic Evangelical Leadership Summit on fighting poverty in America
President Barack Obama participates in a discussion on poverty with (L-R) moderator E.J. Dionne, Jr., Robert Putman Professor at Harvard University, and Arthur Brooks President of the American Enterprise Institute
Cindi Leive: Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kerry Washington: The Important Cause Bringing Three Powerhouse Women Together
First Lady Michelle Obama and actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Kerry Washington are sitting in the Blue Room at the White House. This trio of female forces, who know one another through their work on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, aren’t here just to catch up on life. They’re here today to spread a crucial message: This Memorial Day, America’s servicewomen, veterans, and military wives—courageous women—need our help. Over a decade ago, during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, our servicemen and -women were constantly in the public eye, in newspapers, music videos, car commercials. Today, most of the more than 2.5 million men and women who deployed are home safe—but they deserve just as much attention as when they were braving IEDs and insurgents.
During this reentry period, advocates point out, many veterans face hardships (from homelessness and unemployment to post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of sexual trauma), and we can’t underestimate the support they need. MO: One thing I want to clarify—that every service member, veteran, wants us to remember—is that the vast majority of people returning from service come back completely healthy…. But when we do come across someone who is struggling…we have to develop a culture of open arms and acceptance so that they feel comfortable saying, “I’m a veteran. And by the way, I need little help.” Think about the amount of training the average veteran has received through the military—physical training, project management training, public relations work. Think of an average tour of duty in a foreign land, the money we put into developing that, and then they’re discharged, and what, we let that investment go? Absolutely not. These are some of the best-trained people in our society.
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the unveiling of the Maya Angelou Forever Stamp, at the Warner Theater in Washington. From left are, Eleanor Traylor, English Professor at Howard University; poet Nikki Giovanni; Mrs. Obama; Postmaster General Megan Brennan; Oprah Winfrey, and artist Ross Rossin
I have no idea how much Starbucks pays their employees, but can you imagine having a job where you have to engage customers in conversations about race? You work two jobs just to keep a roof over your head and some billionaire with nothing to do sends down a fucking edict from on high forcing you to talk about something that he or she doesn’t have to worry about, let alone talk about.
@washingtonpost “There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy, hypocrisy, fraud, and tyranny.”