Last weekend I received a call on my voice mail from my friend Dick. Weve never met, but he leaves me early morning voice mails from time to time.
One of the things that sets Dick apart is that he doesnt leave anonymous pigeon droppings. He says who he is, although I recognize his voice by now.
Ill let you in on a little secret; many of the calls leaving anonymous droppings, I never hear. I recognize those voices, too. One push of the delete button and whatever they had to say goes into a digital file 13.
From what I can tell, Richard is a thoughtful and smart guy. He doesnt rant and rave like many others who call. We do, respectfully, disagree on any number of issues.
You might remember a column I wrote before the 2012 presidential election. Dick and I had a bet. We wagered a dinner on the outcome of the election. Dick guaranteed a Mitt Romney victory. He lost and sent a $50 check that still sits somewhere on my desk. I dont want the money. I was looking forward to having a meal with him and gloating just a bit.
So Dick leaves a voice mail concerning President Obamas comments on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin situation. Richard said he was stunned that the president of the United States, the president of black, white, green, purple and yellow, would come out and make statements like he did. I expect statements like that from civil rights leaders, but I really did not expect the president of the United States to make a statement like he was making.
Dick then compared Obamas statements to Robert Kennedys speech after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and that Kennedy presented a totally different thought on everything that goes on in this country. He went on to say repeatedly that Obamas statements were a stunning thing.
I wont dwell on the vast differences in situations between an assassination and the Zimmerman trial, but Dick continued to say that the president didnt do the country a good service.
So what did the president say that was so stunning in his 18-minute address? (to read the entire address, click here.)
The president first spoke of the incredible grace and dignity the family of Trayvon Martin displayed. Anything stunning about that?
He then said The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, thats how our system works. Hmmm, stunning?
The president went on to say, You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
Then Obama went into his professorial mode in an attempt to explain to people like Dick a little history: And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, theres a lot of pain around what happened here, I think its important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesnt go away.
There are very few African-American men in this country who havent had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
Those comments and others in the speech may have been stunning to those who have not experienced the circumstances the president described, but it is a fact of everyday life for most black men in America.
It would be stunning to me if some who dislike President Obama would find any value to his words about race or any other subject.
The black community would do well to read his entire speech, too. It wasnt just about Trayvon.
With all that said, Dick, I still want that conversation. You can bring reinforcements if you like. As Rush Limbaugh would say, I can handle it with one hand tied behind my back.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via email at email@example.com. Tweet@crichard1020.