SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

September 17, 2009

My response to Mark Davis Dallas Morning News September 16, 2009 Opinion Editorial Concerning the Arlington ISD’s President Obama/President Bush Cancelled Education Speeches. (“A Missed Teachable Moment”)

While reading the Star-Telegram editorial on Friday,  September 4, regarding the Arlington schools denying the students an opportunity to hear President Obama’s proposed education speech scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, 2009, I found myself in full agreement with the entire editorial entitled, “Teaching Students to Fear Obama’s Speech Is the Wrong lesson.”  The closing statement of this op-ed speech resonated deeply with me and drove me to deploy my spirit and resources into action to create the opportunity for the students to hear President Obama’s speech:  “For the first U.S. president of African-American heritage to tell students-especially those who get a different message from other sources- that they should take responsibility for their futures, well that’s not leftist or socialist or propagandistic. It’s a message worth listening to and applauding.”

My wife, Vera McKissic, who is a former AISD teacher and Minister of Education at our church, later informed me that when she taught in the Arlington classroom they were allowed to show students presidential speeches delivered on television by President Ronald Reagan and President George H. W. Bush.  Upon learning this, I asked myself, why wouldn’t the ASID allow President Obama to speak?

After consulting with staff members at my church and being assured that we were technologically capable of presenting President Obama’s speech, I decided Friday morning, September 4, that we would show the President’s speech at our church on Tuesday, September 8, so that any student who wanted to hear it could experience it live with the vast majority of American students.

I left a message on Superintendent Jerry McCullough’s home phone on Friday evening, September 4, after 6:00 p.m., requesting that he return my call.   Mr. McCullough promptly returned my call after arriving home from a local high school football game.  We held a brief conversation, mutually cordial and respectful.  I requested that he give the students an excused absence if they chose to attend the Obama speech the following Tuesday.  Mr. McCullough without hesitation said, “Yes,” provided the parents contact the school and make the request.  I thanked Superintendent McCullough and hung up the phone with a deep sense of relief, appreciation and respect for him, because I internally questioned whether or not he would oblige my request.

In my conversation with Mr. McCullough, I never introduced the thought of him reversing his public position of not showing the Obama speech, realizing at that late hour, even if he were so inclined to change his mind, it would have been logistically, technologically and virtually impossible for him to reverse his course.  Now in hindsight I regret not asking him to consider showing the speech within the school district, which was an option I had pondered sharing with him.

We released a press statement over the September 5, weekend inviting students to attend the speech the following Tuesday and announced it in our church, Sunday morning September 6, 2009.  Approximately one hundred fifty students showed up and fifty parents.  We were surprised and pleased with the 10-12 media outlets present to cover the story.   The students and parents were thoroughly engaged and inspired by the Obama speech.  I sensed it had a strong impact on the students and the parents.  Our church provided 130 free box lunches to the students and some parents.

Because I was scheduled to be out of town, and she is more qualified than I to address education issues, I asked my wife to host the gathering and handle any media inquires.  Initially I was scheduled to be in Memphis, Tenn. attending the National Baptist Convention on Tuesday,  September 8.

However, I delayed my trip to later that evening, so that I could be here to affirm and encourage the students who wanted to hear the Obama speech. Mrs. McKissic still hosted and presided over the Tuesday gathering and handled the vast majority of the media requests.  I refused all interviews asked of me except two.

Monday night, September 7, I learned that the AISD had planned to bus the 5th grade students to the Cowboy Stadium to hear President Bush on September 21, 2009.  I must admit that I was completely baffled and disappointed when I learned this news.  I was not disappointed because the students were going to hear President Bush- I proudly voted for George Bush twice, therefore I had no problem with them hearing him. However, this added to my bewilderment over why the students would not be permitted to view the Obama speech.     My trepidation was that if I granted interviews to the media I would express too vigorously my disappointment regarding the Obama speech, risking injury to the cause of Christ and the ministry of   our church.  However, when Chris Hawes a news reporter with Channel 8 in Dallas and a KCBI radio reporter asked for interviews, my positive history with these two media outlets, gave way to my concerns and I granted them interviews. In these interviews, I clearly expressed my disappointment that the AISD saw the Bush speech as a great opportunity while denying the Obama speech.  I was merely seeking an explanation.

Mark Davis in an op-ed piece in the Dallas Morning News, Wednesday, September 16 stated, “The good reverend [ speaking of me] apparently viewed the AISD decision as an affront to black people, curable only by apology and atonement “ Mr. Davis further states that   I “ basked” in the apology  Mr. McCullough later made regarding the hurt caused by his decisions. From Mr. Davis perspective, it was hard explaining the differences between the Obama speech and Bush speech to “people unwilling to hear it, for whom the only issue is black Democrat vs. white Republican”

Mr. Davis is wrong on several counts.  I have never mentioned race in any statement regarding this matter, nor has my wife.  I don’t consider the speech matter and “affront to black people.”  I consider this a matter of right and wrong.  It would have been right for the students to hear President Obama as Mr. McCullough now agrees.  It would have also been right for them to hear President Bush as Mark Davis agrees.  It would be wrong to be able to hear one and not the other.  Moreover, my position has nothing to do with color or party affiliation. I forgive Mark Davis for making this false allegation against me without him asking for forgiveness.

I did not “bask” in Mr. McCullough’s apology, I was surprised, but I did think it was the right thing to do and I admire and appreciate him for doing so.

Mr. Davis this is not an issue of “black Democrat vs. white Republican”. Again, this is a matter of right and wrong.

Since Mark Davis introduced the subject of race in this discussion, I will be glad to oblige him. I have more in common with a White man who loves Jesus, than I do with a Black man who does not know Jesus.  I believe Jerry McCullough is a genuine Christian.  I respect the humility and sincerity he displayed in apologizing and attempting to right a wrong.  The apology and the cancellation of the Bush speech were never discussed with Mr. McCullough prior to his decision.  The decisions to apologize and cancel the Bush speech as far as I know were his and his alone. I provided no input relative to either decision. I departed from my meeting with Mr. McCullough believing that he was sincere and a Christian brother.  I bond with people who love Jesus, regardless of color.

My wife and I have voted Republican in presidential elections consistently since 1984.   We did not vote for President Obama. Vera and I proudly attended President Obama’s inaugural in order to witness and celebrate this historic milestone in American history.

We support the Republicans party commitment to pro-life, pro family (marriage between a man and a woman) strong defense, low taxes, personal responsibility and limited government. These are non-negotiable issues for us.  I must admit that I believe the Democrats are better at social and economic justice, racial sensitivity and inclusiveness and the equality of women in the workplace.  These are important issues to Black people.  Moreover, some would consider these issues equally important as the same sex marriage and abortion issues that drive Christian Republican voting.

Americans are incensed at the disrespect shown to the president most recently in the halls of congress. With the likes of outspoken Republicans like, Joe Wilson, Rush Limbaugh, and SBC minister Wiley Drake pleading and praying for the failure of the Obama administration and openly disrespecting him, my wife and I are finding it increasingly difficult identifying with the Republican Party.  We are beginning to feel we have no place in a party, which could treat any president with the kind of disrespect, and disdain that President Obama has encountered.  I spoke at a gathering of Republicans in Arlington where President Obama was referred to as “our teen-age president” — which is the 21st century version of “boy.”  Never before have, I heard of any President referred to by that kind of language.

When Michael Steele, African American and Chairman of the

Republican Party and a man I highly respect, felt compelled by his party to grovel at the feet of Rush Limbaugh to remain in the good graces of the party, I knew then that the Republican Party effort to reach many Blacks would be largely unsuccessful.  Why, because Black men with a back bone and strong convictions can not and will not  respect a party  requiring its leader to cringe at the feet of a radio and talk show personality. Not with standing that this “entertainer” has boldly and unashamedly wished for the failure of The President of the United States and his administration.

Finally, Mark Davis, do you really believe that the AISD students should miss school to hear Troy Aikman and Emmit Smith, but not President Obama?  Go figure!

God help me! Here I stand!