The Man in the Arena – Election Day Reflections

The Man in the Arena – Election Day Reflections

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”
Sorbonne, in Paris, France – 23 April, 1910

In the summer of 1983 I announced my candidacy for the Des Moines City Council At-Large seat. I finished last out of eight candidates in the primary.

As if it were yesterday I remember Marie Wilson sitting at my parent’s table seeking my support in the general election. When she left she commented she had a son my age and all he was interested in was girls and partying.

I was still a teenager.

A year later I was elected co-chair of the Polk County Democratic party. I wasn’t even old enough to drink with the party bosses who promised to groom me into a force in Iowa and party politics.

My first party meeting was not a Central Committee meeting held at the old Polk Senior Center on Carpenter. It was in the basement of the Hotel Savory. Two items were on the agenda, picking the next mayor of Des Moines and informing Archie Brooks if he ran against Jack Bishop on the Board of Supervisors they would expose his affair with Ramona Cunningham and destroy him professionally and personally.

That was my baptism into Polk County politics.

Soon after that meeting I went to Washington, D.C. to do an internship with the House D.C. committee under Congressman Walter Fauntroy. That was life changing. They asked me to stay after the internship was over and that was even more life changing.

I was in charge of the economic analysis for the State of New Columbia and researching the Dual Primary/Dual Registration impact on Black voters.

And then I turned 21.

Now I’m 51 and thirty years later I am 12 hours away from walking through one of two doors. One door, opened with 2% of the vote promotes me to an opportunity to shape and lead a movement. I’m excited about that because it means truly engaging young people on the ground floor. It also means we will take back our state. Yes, 2% makes that a when not an if.

When I launched our education initiative more than a decade ago it started with me and two Iowa State students. We were at a sub shop in Ames and I said we will change education in America. They said who is we? I said me and the two of you.

It wasn’t too long after that that BET was doing a week long report on our groundbreaking efforts. The White House was contacting us. And we were changing education in the state and the nation.

Then my marriage ended and I fell apart.

And then I got back up again.

It took a while for me to become a public player again. But, behind the scenes I became more focused than ever, more disciplined, more impactful. I remember sitting in the parking lot of Third Missionary Baptist in Davenport briefing the regional director of the U.S. Department of Education on key education issues in Iowa prior to Arne Duncan’s first visit to the state.

And now I’m 12 hours away from walking through door two if we don’t get 2%. I have no idea what’s behind that door. Will there be peace of mind, renewed focus on my business freed from the burden of public activism. I will remain active behind the scenes but a failure to get 2% will end my ability to be a public force in Iowa. At least for quite some time.

When I lost in 2005 I got whole – lost weight, made money, bought Cyclone Nation, was thriving and then I got drawn back into the fray. I was elected to the Des Moines School Board and the arena greeted me with open arms, sweat, tears and pain, and with satisfaction because I made a difference. I got real results.

Yesterday I contacted a man I have great respect for. A pastor who I believe is a sincere and potent man of God. I didn’t ask him to pray for victory or 2%. I asked him to pray God’s will be done and that I have peace with the outcome, regardless of what it is.

I believe if we get 2% we transform the state and that it’s no longer a question of if I will be governor, just when. If we don’t get 2% I will sleep good tonight knowing that I gave it all; that I left nothing on the table.

Was this a perfect campaign? Not hardly.

But it was an honorable one, supported by honorable men and women. Iowans I’m proud to call my brothers and sisters – my family.

Back to work.

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