Genma Speaks

Entrepreneur/ Writer/ Radio-Host

Friday, January 28, 2011

From Rages to Riches to Rehab: Lessons Learned From the Ted Williams Story

The story of Ted Williams captivated the hearts and imaginations of millions this month. The rags-to-riches story of a homeless veteran with a golden voice took him off the street corner begging for change to the sets of the Today Show, The Tonight Show, The Early Show, Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, and Dr. Phil. He had a tearful on-air reunion with his mother and a public talk-show-inspired meeting with his children.

Lucrative voiceover contracts with Kraft, MSNBC and others were given to him within days of his story going viral. The video of him being interviewed by a local reporter has been seen by 15 million viewers and counting. His rise to stardom in less than two weeks was remarkable. The glare of the spotlight showed us his talents but it also showed us his demons, which made the media, who took him to the high heavens in one swoop, quickly throw him back to earth with a crashing thud.

There are several lessons that can be learned from the Ted Williams story. Most comeback stories are filled with ups and downs. There are many Ted Williamses in Nashville and cities around the country waiting to be "discovered," looking for an opportunity to prove they can earn a living and leave the life of the streets behind. They may not have a golden voice, but many have skills and abilities that have been buried under the hardships of homelessness.

Homelessness affects a person physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Many are looking for a second or even a third chance to correct the mistakes of the past. For every Ted Williams who needs a break, a Pat Waggoner is equally important for guidance, support and long term stability.

In Nashville, Pat Waggoner is known as a quiet and gentle man who loves his family, his church, and his community. He volunteers at the Criminal Justice Center and is the go-to guy for the local men's baseball and basketball teams. He teaches fifth and sixth gradeboys on Wednesday nights. In the world of real estate, Pat Waggoner is known as the realtor who sold Donald Trump Trump Towers.

In a community where generosity and serving others are part of our DNA, Pat Waggoner serves with a human touch. When I first read about Ted Williams, I immediately wondered if he had a support system in place that would go beyond the splashy media headlines. I prayed that Ted Williams had a Pat Waggoner in his life, more so than an agent. Pat helps many who have fallen on economic hard times by helping with housing needs, serving meals, and keeping extra clothing in his sales office “just in case.”

Known for housing, feeding, and clothing the homeless, he also helps find them jobs so they can become independent and self-sufficient. Pat is a strong advocate for rehabilitation to make sure that individuals stay drug- and alcohol-free after they leave the streets. He keeps a list of individuals he knows from his real estate transactions, various networking and civic groups, and church members who aid him in his passion for helping others.

Pat initiates help with such deeds, but he makes sure that for long-term wellbeing he mentors men and families about financial literacy, and makes sure sure they have someone to call when stressful situations occur that can push a person over the edge. He encourages group therapy and spiritual counseling and believes strongly that counseling is one of the greatest keys to personal growth. No, Pat Waggoner is not Superman, but he is dedicated to deflating homelessness one person at a time. That takes dedication, and the understanding that getting a Ted Williams off the streets does not stop the struggles instantly. Unlike our culture's demand for instant gratification, Pat is patient and believes that with faith, perseverance, and hard work, lives can change for the better.

Being around Pat is contagious. You become an advocate for the homeless without realizing it. He recruits you with one story at a time about individuals he has met over the years. He shares the goodness of men and women who just needed a break. His stories are filled with hope, compassion, and hurdles that were overcome in order to stay sober or drug-free.

Not every story ends on a high note, but he does not allow disappointment to deter him from reaching out to others. All too often when a very public rags-to-glad story falls short of our expectations, it has a chilling effect on us, and cynicism can creep into our giving and serving others. Pat’s actions can teach us to give to those in need and step out on faith and build relationships with individuals who may stumble and fall on the road to recovery. Leaving a life on the streets can happen with just one fateful encounter, but the emotional scars can follow one into one's new dwellings or lifestyle. We must not allow national scrutiny of one person's circumstances to affect the work we do in a city like Nashville known its generosity, or anywhere. If you come across a Ted Williams today, help him find a Pat Waggoner before he finds an agent. A life can be changed for good.

Article first published as From Rags to Riches to Rehab: Lessons from the Ted Williams Story on Blogcritics.

Also seen in The Nashville Contributor February Edition.
Photos Credit: Ted Williams AP
Nashville Contributor Vendors

Is Being In a Movie on Your Bucket List?

Ever wanted to be an extra in a movie?

If being an extra in a real movie is on your bucket list, you can check it off this weekend. Deadline needs unpaid extras for several pivotal scenes on both Saturday and Sunday. Our lead actors Steve Talley and Eric Roberts will be on set both days. The weather will be beautiful, so bring a carload of friends for a once in a lifetime experience!

On Saturday, January 29 we’ll be filming a major crowd and protest march scene at 4366 Skelley Road, Santa Fe, TN 38482 (Between Leipers Fork and Highway 7, at the intersection of Leipers Creek Road and Skelley Road). The location is approximately 35 miles from downtown Nashville. Extras for the morning scenes need to arrive at 9 a.m. Extras for the afternoon protest march need to arrive at 12:30 p.m. We’ll be finished before dark. Extras can be in either one or both scenes.

On Sunday, January 30 we’re filming the climactic courtroom scene in the beautiful, historic Giles County Courthouse in the heart of downtown Pulaski, 75 miles south of Nashville. Extras can arrive at either 8:30 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. and will be needed until dark. Extras who are with us all day will be provided lunch and memories that will last a lifetime!

If you’re interested, email Please provide your age, race and contact information.

Please help us spread the word by forwarding this announcement to any friends and family who might be interested.

Thank you very much!

The Deadline Team

The updates will keep you posted on the film's progress, including when Deadline will be released in your area. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Michael Steele's Coonery Tour Has Ended

Michael Steele was elected as the first African American Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) in January of 2009. He was elected shortly after President Obama became the first African American President of the United States. Many believed that Mr. Steele would be the Republican’s answers to President Obama. Mr. Steele could attack the President without it appearing racial. Mr. Steele promised that during his reign of the RNC, he would make sure the Republican Party reached out to more ethnic minorities across the country.

But Mr. Steele’s leadership seemed to cause more division among conservatives and was not inclusive of minorities. The RNC lost a chuck of its base to the Tea Party. The Tea Party organizations from around the country ran candidates against not only incumbent Democrats but Republican as well. The Tea party members called Republicans out in many races and promised that once they got to Washington they were not only going to hold the President accountable, but Democrats and Republicans to their vision of how they want the government work.

Down South, my grandparents used a term to call intelligent Black folks who played down their abilities and mocked their communities coonery. In many conservative circles, Michael Steele’s coonery was blamed for helping topple the RNC. Nothing prepared Republicans for his antics and out of control foolishness that came out of Steele’s mouth often. Not only was he an embarrassment to old school Republicans but many Black folks did not know what to make of Steele’s constant ignorant outbursts. His love of self-promotions made in him a comedy routine regular on The Daily Show. A Muppet like character was created to depict Steele using his street slang. His made up homeboy sayings had even people from the streets scratching their head questioning what he was talking about. Nothing from Steele’s background would have predicted how badly he would lead the RNC.

Steele was adopted by a Democrat leaning working class family as a baby. He lost his farther at an early age but his mother later remarried and had a second child. His half-sister, Monica Turner, later married and divorced Boxer Mike Tyson. Steele attended Catholic schools and even studied to become a priest. He graduated from John Hopkins University with a degree in International Studies and later received his law degree from Georgetown University Law School. Steele was employed as a corporate securities associate at the Washington, D.C. office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, & Hamilton. From 1991 to 1997, he specialized in financial investments for Wall Street underwriters, working at Cleary's Tokyo, Japan office on major product liability litigation and at its London office on corporate matters. He left the law firm and founded the Steele Group, a business and legal consulting firm. He was active in politics.

Mr. Steele severed as Lt. Governor of Maryland and was the first African American to hold that title. He was instrumental in helping establish Minorities Business Enterprise program and made education a priority.

Several minority business owners that I know personally from the DC area have credited Steele for helping them establish their businesses. But they quickly point out did not recognize the Steele that was chair of the RNC. Steele, a bright and intelligent person prior to becoming a national political figure, became someone who played up the worst stereotypes of Black in mainstream media. He became a caricature from the hood that put on a suit and a bow tie that made white folks chuckle with glee and Blacks folks hold their breathes in dismay. Watching him tell his humorless jokes on TV would leave me baffled but hearing him in person left me wondering why I was even trying to comprehend his logic on the occasions I heard him speak. He truly reminded me of an Amos and Andy routine. He attacked the President as his paycheck required him to do but rarely did any of his attacks stick.

Steele could have used his talents from his previous careers to convert independents who became disillusioned with President Obama. But he could not even get ants to an outdoor picnic. He allowed racial rhetoric go too far too long. Steele’s justified statements that he knew were inflammatory nightly on cable news. He only countered it when RNC members started complaining about his lavish spending, questionable nightclub outings, and how he seemed to pocket money from his book tour instead of giving the money to the RNC. When he came under scrutiny, he ran to Black radio crying racism in the RNC. Hmm, how convenient.

Steele had no shame. Folks on Coonery circuits usually don’t. Being the head of the RNC, Steele showed us classic coonery. Right out the bat he tried to bring hip-hop to the RNC in order to reach the youth. Who say hip-hop anymore? Publicly feuded with Rush Limbaugh only to back track and kiss Rush’s Ring. And other parts. Didn’t know pro-choice did not mean pro-life. All Catholics know the difference. Swore that white folks were afraid of him. Really? In January 2010, predicted that the GOP would not win very many seats. They won 63 House seats. Said he wrote his book before he was Chairman of the RNC. Lied. Claim Afghanistan 'Was A War Of Obama's Choosing. Nope, President Bush took us to war. Twice.

Steele ended his gaffe filled two year coonery tour this month with a response to a question at the RNC chair debate. The candidates were asked what their favorite book was. Steele said his favorite book was War and Peace by Tolstoy, and then quoted: "It's the best of times and the worst of times," triggering laughter throughout the hall at the fact that Steele had in fact quoted A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. Shameful. Thankfully, the tour is over!

Article first published as Michael Steele's Coonery Tour Has Ended on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Since Loughner didn't have a prayer rug...the Media refuses to call him a Terrorist

The tragic shootings in Tuscon, Arizona have left our country shaken to the core. I sat glued to my television on Saturday afternoon, flipping channels as I soaked up the coverage. Representative Gabby Giffords was originally pronounced dead by several media outlets but she miraculously survived a gunshot to the head by gunman Jared Lee Loughner. Representative Giffords was holding her regular “Congress on your Corner “ with her constituents at a Safeway grocery store. Six were killed and 13 wounded on Saturday.

The dead identified by the Pima County sheriff's office are: U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Dorthy Murray, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; Christina Greene, 9; Phyllis Scheck, 79; Gabe Zimmerman, 30. Ironically, 9 year old Christina Greene was born on September 11, 2001. She was excited about the political process since the election of President Obama. Christina was newly elected to her school’s student council. She went with her neighbor to meet Rep Giffords’ to learn more about the political process. Along with Rep. Giffords, 12 others are still hospitalized.

The attempted assignation of the Representative Giffords is very similar to the Fort Hood, Texas mass shooting that took place on November 5, 2009. A gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, killed 13 people and wounded 30 others. Both shooters were struggling with mental issues. Automatic weapons were used to shoot innocent individuals. Both men were loners and many stated they acted weird and express anti-government sentiments. Thankfully, Jared Lee Loughner was denied acceptance into the Army because of drug use and Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was becoming increasing agitated by an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Both men committed unthinkable acts but one glaring difference between the two is the how the media has depicted both men. Major Nidal Malik Hasan was called a terrorist from day one. Terrorist experts and military talking heads saturated the networks discussing Hasan minutes after the shootings were reported at Fort Hood. Jared Lee Loughner has been painted as a “troubled youth” who did not get the mental health he needed. Every mental health care professional and parents of mental patients have discussed mental healthcare issues while the media has pondered what could have added to his “stressful” life. Not one cable talking head has called him what he is; a deranged terrorist.

According to the United States Law Code, terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” New evidence alleges that Loughner possibly planned for years to assassinate Gifford. But a whole host of major media outlets seem to disagree.

Cord Jefferson helps us take a look at what other media outlets are reporting and the language that is noticeable absent.

The Wall Street Journal stated Loughner “raged against the government” and “discussed terrorism,” which, when you actually think about it, is a vague, nearly meaningless sentence. (Since 9/11, everyone has talked about terrorism.) In The Atlanta Journal Constitution, the main story is that Loughner was denied entry into the military because he failed a drug test, while the only talk of terrorism comes in a confusing quote from a blog posting from Loughner himself: "If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is ad hominem.” And, in The Los Angeles Times’ lead story on Loughner on Tuesday, the word “terror” doesn’t appear once.

Compare this nebulous coverage to that on Nidal malik Hasan in November 2009. Hasan is Muslim, a fact every news outlet would not let you forget while speculating about his terrorist ties.

Four days after the attack on Fort Hood, the Wall Street Journal published two stories suggesting that Hasan was a terrorist, one of which included the assertion that it was a terrorist act because Hasan spoke Arabic while he shot. The Los Angeles Times spoke to counter-terrorism experts for an article on Hasan. And, in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, blogger Kyle Wingfield actually gave credence to a Forbes argument claiming that Hasan “went Muslim.”

Some will argue that Hasan’s terrorist intentions were proved by communications he had with radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, but, in fact, experts who reviewed the pair’s e-mail exchange deemed it totally innocuous.

It should be noted that the FBI Director Robert Mueller has said he's not ruling out terrorism charges against Loughner, but nothing's certain yet. In Dubai, Hillary Clinton called Loughner an "extremist," though, like the media, she stopped short of calling him a terrorist. From the sidelines, the message this sends is pretty obvious and very insidious: When a white man executes a political attack, he’s likely crazy. If he’s black, he’s a dropout from a single mom home with an incarcerated father. When it’s a Muslim doing the shooting, he’s a terrorist.

Folks must call the Arizona shootings exactly what they are; acts of terrorism. Whether the shooter is white, black, or brown equal scrutiny should be given to a person who commits crimes of this nature. A person’s religion and the length of his name should not determine how the crime is reported. A terrorist is a terrorist. Because many allow the media to shape their thoughts and drive the conversation, the media helps facilitate racial flames at its leisure. The political pundits are carefully picked for their skills at stroking the audiences depending on what outlet you watch. Dumb pundits are chosen to play down a point and hateful pundits are picked to create more intolerance. They play us like puppets. People of color must not allow the media to soft ball crimes contributed by white terrorists. White people must see that Jared Lee Loughner is what he is, a terrorist, and should be discussed just like Nidal Malik Hasan or Nene’s son who robbed the corner liquor store. As a country, we should take a serious look at the actions of the media and the political atmosphere that they profit from that may have fueled the actions of a crazed man’s terrorist acts.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mattie Bates: Cancer Survivor and Community Role Model

Nashville is a city of community leaders in action. Most of those leaders are women on divinely inspired missions. They are determined to fight for causes that impact not only our city and region but our country. One of those leaders is Mattie Bates. Mrs. Bates has been a warrior on the battle field in the fight against cancer. In the Nashville community, she teaches women to take charge of their health and to be strong advocates for cancer awareness. Ms. Bates uses her personal battle with cancer as a catalyst for her mission to educate women to be survivors by early detection.

Mrs. Bates is a ten year breast cancer survivor. She retired from BellSouth after 34 years of service and now describes herself as “semi-retired.” She is the coordinator of Davidson County’s Witness Project, the first in Tennessee. The Witness Project® is a culturally sensitive breast and cervical cancer outreach effort presented by cancer survivors and lay health advisors to increase awareness, knowledge, and access to screening and early detection among the African American population in an effort to reduce cancer incidence and mortality.

Mrs. Bates'work with the Witness Project® programs are presented in churches and community organizations by Witness Role Models (WRMs) and Lay Health Advisors (LHAs). Witness Role Models are African American women who are breast or cervical cancer survivors. Their presence as survivors is seen as a blessing and proof that cancer is not a death sentence. Lay Health Advisors are not cancer survivors themselves, but are women who want to work with the project to organize and publish programs, network with community people, give facts about breast and cervical cancer and available resources, teach breast self-examinations (BSEs) and encourage preventive services (mammograms, clinical breast exams (CBEs), pelvic exams, Pap tests and breast self-exams (BSE).

During a program session, the WRMs witness by talking about their experience with cancer, stressing the importance of early detection and answering questions about their personal experiences, fears and concerns. The educational session addresses the fears and beliefs many women hold about cancer, demonstrates that the diagnosis of cancer is neither a death sentence nor a punishment. Following a session, LHAs teach BSE using breast models.

Mrs. Bates work does not stop with her advocacy in churches and the faith base community. She is seen often at major cancer walks and events, health initiatives, cancer awareness seminars, and survivor celebrations promoting women health. The cancer community is a very close nit community in Nashville and Mrs. Bates’ work, heart and determination are known throughout every corner of Davidson County.

In addition to her work with the Witness Project, Mrs. Bates is also a member of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s Cancer Queens. The Cancer Queens are a group professional educators and cancer survivors who perform A Cancer Prevention Musical Revue. The shows are 45 minutes of skits and song and dance routines set to popular music with new educational lyrics that are consistent with the educational messages of the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute.

The performances inspire women to treat themselves like queens and take care of their health. Audience members laugh and tap their toes while they learn about the importance of breast and cervical cancer screenings and the healthy lifestyle habits that can help reduce the risk of developing certain cancers as well as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Since their October 2008 debut, the Cancer Queens have entertained and educated more than 3000 women of all ages in Tennessee and delivered 15,000 individual cancer prevention and risk reduction messages. Often attendees leave asking about future dates to bring back family and friends. The impactful performances have sold out quickly. Many come to see Mrs. Bates become her stage persona "Miss Patty"! Mrs. Bates said, ”Since joining the Witness Project and the Cancer Queens, it has been an interesting journey and I feel that I have embarked on another career—sharing my story to let others know you can be a survivor if cancer is detected early. Being part of the Cancer Queens allows me to share that message.” Mrs. Bates aka “Miss Patty” biggest fans are her husband and her son and daughter. They are usually on the front row cheering her on!

Mrs. Bates' work through The Witness Project® is made available through a grant from the Greater Nashville Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to promote breast cancer screening. The Witness Project® in collaboration with the Bridges to Care program provides mammograms to clients who do not meet the criteria of the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program through the Tennessee Department of Health, who are uninsured. Specifically, the program will target 150 Davidson County women age forty to sixty-four that are asymptomatic. The Cancer Queens! A Cancer Musical Revue is funded by Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center.

For more information about volunteering as team member or to schedule a program with the Witness Project, Mrs. Mattie Bates can be reached at (615) 340-5680. To schedule a performance with Vanderbilt’s Cancer Queens you can contact Jennifer Murray at or visit or

Photo Credits: Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center and Mrs. Mattie Bates.
Cancer Queens
Mattie Bates in the community
Genma Holmes, Mattie Bates, and Navinta Gunter

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The College Trust Fund To Host Fundraiser for Nashville's Four HBCUs

The United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) President and CEO, Dr. Michael L. Lomax, will speak at the MILLENNIUM MAXWELL HOUSE on historic Rosa L Parks Blvd., January 14, at 7:00 pm for the College Trust Fund. The College Trust Fund is celebrating its 29th year raising funds for Nashville’s four Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Fisk University, Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical School and American Baptist College.

Since 2004, Dr. Lomax has been President and CEO of UNCF, the nation’s largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to minority and low income students. Prior to UNCF, Lomax served as President of UNCF-member institution Dillard University in New Orleans and was a noted literature professor at UNCF member institutions Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. Dr. Lomax was also the first African American elected to serve as chairman of the Fulton County Commission in Atlanta.

Throughout his career, Lomax has worked to provide educational opportunities for underrepresented Americans. As UNCF’s leader, he oversees UNCF’s 400 scholarship programs, including the UNCF Gates Millennium Scholars Program, a 20-year, $1.6 billion program whose 14,000 low-income minority recipients have a 90 percent college graduation rate. He also launched the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building, which helps UNCF’s 39 member HBCUs become stronger, more effective and more self-sustaining in such critical areas as fund-raising and building strong academic programs that prepare their students for careers in the global economy.

A leading advocate for the importance of cradle-through-college education for all Americans, Dr. Lomax is co-chair of the Education Equality Project, a member of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind and a member of the governing board of Teach for America, the KIPP Foundation and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. Dr. Lomax also serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of African American History and Culture and the Studio Museum of Harlem. He is the founded the National Black Arts Festival.

In addition to his numerous board duties, Dr. Lomax is also a published author and educational columnist. He is the author of the widely read, The Morehouse Man and he contributes frequently to the National Journal’s Education Experts blog.

The College Trust Fund has raised nearly a million dollars since its inception for Nashville’s youth. Your attendance and donation would be greatly appreciated. Monetary donations are accepted year round to support this worthwhile endeavor.

The Reverend Marcel Kellar, Chairman
Bishop George W. Price, Jr., Secretary
The Reverend Dr. Norman Reed, Treasurer
The Reverend Dr. John G. Corry, General Counsel,
Mrs. Rosetta Miller-Perry,
Dr. Sheila Peter
Mr. Robert S. Poole,
The Reverend Edward L. Thompson,
Dr. Jayme Coleman-Williams.

$75.00 Tickets can be purchased from
College Trust Office
Tennessee Tribune Bldg.
1501 Jefferson
Street, Suite 103
615 321 3268

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 Will Bring New Challenges and Opportunities for Tennessee

2011 will bring new challenges and opportunities for many. All too often, the challenges are emphasized and the opportunities are minimized when we view circumstances through old lenses. Past missteps should be revisited only to learn from them while embracing the future with a positive attitude. Many have expressed concerns about what is next for Black folks with several new leadership roles all beginning at the same time; a new Governor, a new Chancellor for the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) and an Interim President for Tennessee State University (TSU). All of the new leaders will have a profound effect on Tennessee, especially the state's community of color.

Governor Bill Haslam has to govern all of Tennessee not just the folks that voted for him. By all assessments, Haslam ran a good campaign with very little competition. This past election cycle, the Democrats placated the fringe elements of voters and alienated their base. At the same time, Black folks played crazy and did not even show up to the polls to vote. Out of habit, color folks have often elected Democrats that are afraid to deal with them, let alone shake hands without sanitizer in their pockets. Those days are vaporizing. More voters are voting their interests and not party lines. To Haslam’s credit, he did not repeat psycho talking points from Arizona and feed into the dread and doom headlines that shaped many campaigns across the country. Most Tennessee voting Blacks voted for Haslam. (Quit pretending like folks did not). Governor Haslam was a successful businessman prior to public office. There is a natural assumption that he will run the state like a business. Haslam stated often on the campaign trail that he would make a “thousand small cuts” to the state’s budget while overhauling the state’s procurement process and wasteful spending. This should give more Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs opportunities to do business with the state. The previous administration embraced trips to China to do business overseas but had a hard time paying an invoice to a business owner on Jefferson Street five blocks from the state capitol. Folks need to get over their fear of a Republican Governor and visit the newly renovated Governor’s mansion that the Democrats left behind. Governor Haslam will shake your hands. Hopefully, his appointments as Governor will be as diverse as his Knoxville’s administration.

TBR, Tennessee's higher education governing body, new Chancellor, John Morgan, came to office with mess and mayhem in tow. He is a gift from Bredesen and he is not going anywhere anytime soon. Behind closed doors, many admit that the hiring process WAS ugly but Morgan knows what Morgan knows. It may be challenging to overlook how he got the job but with new found wisdom to the games that were played under Chancellor Manning’s leadership, Morgan appears determined to tackle higher education deficiencies that need attention desperately. Hearings and headlines have educated folks about the role of TBR and Mr. Morgan must be willing to offensively engage the public about our colleges and universities. At the state senate's education committee hearings, several Regents stated their role on the board was to show up to a few meetings a few times a year. Mr. Morgan may need more heart and soul from the Regents. A lot more. TBR is one of our most powerful boards in the state that is responsible for billions of dollars as well as thousands of students’ educational endeavors. That responsibility should not be taken lightly. After Tennessee won half a billion dollars in Race to the Top Funds, critical lenses have now turn to review how Tennessee educate students. All of our students, at every school. Everyone must invest in efforts to make education one of our top priorities in our state. Those investments will pay off by attracting more commerce to Tennessee because of a highly trained and educated workforce. College graduation rates are declining statewide not just at one or two schools. TBR should use private school marketing skills to promote Tennessee public higher education schools. TBR can no longer be viewed as a political appointment door mat. Regents attending college graduations would be a small effort to show that TBR is a partner not an enemy in educating students. Mr. Morgan is not only a new administrator for TBR but the new Cheerleader-in-Chief for higher education in Tennessee.

One of those schools he must cheer for is my boys' beloved Tennessee State University. TSU’s new interim President, Dr. Portia Shields, has her work cut out for her. The school is accredited but was denied reaffirmation. In 12 months, TSU must resubmit ongoing compliance and institutional effectiveness to SACSCOC. All the foolish diversions during the last few years have distracted the school from doing its main job, educating students. The students should be the focus and purpose. Recruiting the best and the brightest to attend and graduate from TSU and giving those who would not be given an opportunity elsewhere, the chance to get an education should be front and center. No matter who is at the helm at TSU, everyone need to be reminded that students are the beginning and the end of the road. Madame President is now leading the students. The TSU community needs to support that mission without distractions and commotions.

Sometimes, Nashville's social groups, clubs, and church folks can hinder leaders with a specific mission. In Nashville, social groups can take a simple assignment to help others and turn it into happy hour. Little ladies in clubs colors can behave as if they are the Crips and Bloods. And church folks will pull voodoo dolls out of their purses if you do not agree with them while quoting scripture. (Only speaking truth folks). Dr. Shields represents an opportunity to bring fresh thinking to the business of educating our students while honoring TSU's heritage of excellence in education. The focus should be what is best for the students who want to be educated at TSU. Governor Haslam, Chancellor Morgan, and the TSU community are all stake holders in the success of TSU educating students now and in the future. Let us look for ways to emphasize the excellent opportunities before us and begin 2011 with a new pair of lenses.
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