Jack Kemp

Dear Kemp grandchildren -- all 17 of you, spread out from the East Coast to the West Coast, and from Wheaton College in Illinois, to Wake Forest University in North Carolina:

My first thought last week upon learning that a 47-year-old African-American Democrat had won the presidency was, "Is this a great country or not?"

You may have expected your grandfather to be disappointed that his friend John McCain lost (and I was), but there's a difference between disappointment over a lost election and the historical perspective of a monumental event in the life of our nation.

Let me explain. First of all, the election was free, fair and transformational, in terms of our democracy and given the history of race relations in our nation.

What do I mean?

Just think, a little over 40 years ago, blacks in America had trouble even voting in our country, much less thinking about running for the highest office in the land.

A little over 40 years ago, in some parts of America, blacks couldn't eat, sleep or even get a drink of water using facilities available to everyone else in the public sphere.

We are celebrating, this year, the 40th anniversary of our Fair Housing Laws, which helped put an end to the blatant racism and prejudice against blacks in rental housing and homeownership opportunities.

As an old professional football quarterback, in my days there were no black coaches, no black quarterbacks, and certainly no blacks in the front offices of football and other professional sports. For the record, there were great black quarterbacks and coaches -- they just weren't given the opportunity to showcase their talent. And pro-football (and America) was the worse off for it.

I remember quarterbacking the old San Diego Chargers and playing for the AFL championship in Houston. My father sat on the 50-yard line, while my co-captain's father, who happened to be black, had to sit in a small, roped-off section of the end zone. Today, we can't imagine the NFL without the amazing contributions of blacks at every level of this great enterprise.

I could go on and on, but just imagine that in the face of all these indignities and deprivations, Dr. Martin Luther King could say 44 years ago, "I have an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in mankind." He described his vision for America, even as he and his people were being denied their God-given human rights guaranteed under our Constitution.

You see, real leadership is not just seeing the realities of what we are temporarily faced with, but seeing the possibilities and potential that can be realized by lifting up peoples' vision of what they can be.


Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp is Founder and Chairman of Kemp Partners and a contributing columnist to Townhall.com.
 
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