Charles E. Richardson

Watching history being made — again

wmarshall@macon.com

I’ve lived through a lot of history, not as much as many of my elders, but as I sat on my this-is-where-I-always-sit couch watching the Democratic National Convention roll call last Tuesday (Yes, I watched most of the Republican convention, too), it occurred to me that I was watching history being made — again. Hillary Clinton, no matter what you think of her, is the first female nominated by a major national party in our nation’s history.

It was 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed giving women the right to vote. It took 42 years from the time the amendment was proposed to ratification. When the Founding Fathers said in the Declaration of Independence that “all” men are created equal, they didn’t mean it — or maybe they did.

I was too young to understand, in 1955, all of the ramifications of the growing Civil Rights Movement that would follow me into adulthood. Though still young, I was riveted to my television watching the funeral of President John F. Kennedy after his assassination in Dallas in 1963. Little did I realize that by 1968 his little brother Bobby and Martin Luther King Jr. would also be felled by assassins’ bullets. In 1969, about a month after I graduated from high school, I watched the grainy pictures beamed from the surface of the moon as a “giant leap for mankind’ was taken. And I stood silent shock the bright, clear morning of Feb. 1, 2003, when Space Shuttle Columbia exploded.

Almost eight years ago something happened I never imagined. This nation elected its first African-American president. A Harvard educated family man with a beautiful wife and two lovely children. Was I surprised at the amount of vitriol aimed at him? No.

As I reflect on what’s happened over my lifetime, I must admit I had put limits on what we could, as Americans, accomplish. I don’t mean limits on technology —which I’ve seen in just a short span of time convert from bag phones to smartphones and soon to cars that drive themselves — but limits on a more perfect union.

When looking at the two conventions I took a fairly straightforward approach. They are, after all, big showcases for their parties — productions for the party faithful and presentations to a prime-time, political junkie audience. But as I gazed around the two convention halls, one in Cleveland and one in Philadelphia, the differences could not be more stark.

No, I haven’t swallowed the Democratic Kool-Aid, but just as a matter of stage production, the Democrats did a much better job of managing their message. Case in point: Sen. Bernie Sanders’ speech when compared with Sen. Ted Cruz’s. You don’t let a party crasher crash your party in a prime-time slot for all of America to see and dominate the news cycle. You just don’t do it.

If they knew Cruz was not going to endorse Trump, if he had to speak at all, put him on at 3 p.m. Sanders, however, seized the moment, and during the roll call of states announced from the Vermont delegation, for the nation to see, that Clinton should be nominated by acclamation. What a difference in optics.

All conventions are works in progress with months of preparation and organization. To have everybody in place when and where they need to be in place is a monumental task. Let me give the Republican National Convention a little advice. When producing a prime-time television show, get the best producers of prime-time events. They missed the mark.

What stood out to me? Several things, but, I’ll narrow them down: Only 18 Republican black delegates out of 2,472 in Cleveland. There were more people of color in one TV shot at the Democratic convention. I ask: Which convention was a better reflection of 2016 America? That’s a problem for the GOP, and they know it and have doubled down on it. And there was no more poignant moment than when the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, killed in a suicide bombing attack in Baghdad 12 years ago, took to the stage to refute Donald Trump’s attacks on Muslims.

Will I see history made in November? No matter which way this election goes, I certainly will. Are the times ahead tough? Sure, but it’s not 1968.

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