Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal
After serving 18 years as mayor, Willie Herenton announces his resignation Thursday and reaffirms his intention to seek the 9th Congressional District seat held by Steve Cohen.
by Dr. Willie W. Herenton
Special to W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News
Many people have stopped and asked me that question, why would you want to run for congress and as a beginning to answer their question, simply stated I am better qualified to represent the Ninth Congressional District than the incumbent. I identify more keenly with the needs and issues facing the citizens in the Ninth Congressional District. Let’s keep it real. Many citizens will be concerned with race and representation. There is strength in diversity, but currently the Tennessee Congressional Delegation is not inclusive.
Dr. Willie W. Herenton
I am not interested in political power, but I am motivated by challenges that can improve the human condition in our nation and my hometown. To leave the Mayor’s office and serve in Congress is giving up political power but Congress offers a broader platform for stewardship and public service.
A large segment of the Ninth Congressional constituency is impacted by poverty. One in four children in Memphis and Shelby County lives in poverty. Six times as many of them live in Memphis than in outlying areas. I know what it means to grow up in poverty. Currently, there is no poverty abatement strategy on the national policy agenda and I will work hard in congress to challenge this neglect.
I know what it means to raise a family, educate children and implement national policies. Personally, I know that public schools can make a difference in our society. I have some ideas on how we can improve our schools, especially in urban areas.
My public service record is worthy of critical examination by the community that I have served for over 40 years. My leadership has made a difference in the city of Memphis.
Our children need to see as many successful African-Americans in positions of leadership as can be achieved. The allocation of opportunities for African-Americans have been few and far between in our city. We must capture every single opportunity to advance the interest of the future generation and most importantly our children.
Advancing opportunities for people of color, especially children, doesn’t mean that other groups should be denied leadership opportunities. But, the great disparities that exist among the various groups within our society should be addressed.
The current office holder has served two terms and the question should be raised, what has he done? Our community passed the race test by electing the two-term incumbent but what have the people in the Ninth Congressional District benefited from their vote?
I am not impressed with his apology for slavery. In fact, I felt offended with his condescending gesture. Our society needs to address the residual impact of slavery on the decedents of slavery and ignore apologies. We need better education, housing, healthcare and employment opportunities. We need support for minority businesses.
I am not impressed with his attempt to become a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. This, too, was an effort to play on the sentiments of an African-American constituency.
I am not impressed with the naming of buildings in honor of note worthy African-Americans. African-Americans need to own buildings and our children need to be inspired to achieve wealth.
In my opinion, to publicly announce his support of naming the Memphis International Airport in honor of Isaac Hayes was opportunistic. It is time to get real serious about representation for the Ninth Congressional District.
Every voting citizen in the Ninth Congressional District has a right to vote for any qualified candidate of his or her choice. I personally hope that voters will examine the issues, qualifications and determine which candidate best reflects their views, aspirations and needs.
I am grateful for the contributions of Harold Ford Sr. and Harold Ford Jr. to ensuring political representation for African Americans in the Tennessee Congressional Delegation for some 32 years. But today, we have lost that diverse representation.
I am disappointed that Harold Ford Sr. would ignore history and join the incumbent in a divide and conquer scheme. We can also anticipate that efforts will be made to attract other African-American candidates to enter the 2010 race. However, no scheme will be successful.
During the last 30 years, I have gained invaluable experience and knowledge by serving as superintendent of one of the nation’s largest public school systems and as Mayor of the eighteenth largest city in America. It seems clear to me that the nation and the Ninth Congressional District could benefit from my vast executive experiences and those are just a few reasons I am seeking the office of Congressman of the Ninth Congressional District in the United States of America.