Friday, September 15, 2006

Farewell To One Of The Greats

There's so much that could be written about today. In fact, it's a veritable cornucopia of topics ranging from Republican Representative Bob Ney's guilty plea to corruption charges (get in line, Bob), to prominent Republicans such as John McCain and Colin Powell coming out against the President's proposed detainee bill. Yep, it's a treasure trove, for sure. But these weighty topics will have to wait.

This one belongs to an American original, Ann Richards.

It was with great sadness that I heard about the passing of the former Texas governor, this past Wednesday. Most of us were introduced to Ann Richards during the 1988 Democratic convention, where she delivered a memorable keynote speech. She wasn't governor yet but when she uttered the line, "Poor George Bush. He can't help it if he was born with a silver foot in his mouth," we knew that she was a force to be reckoned with. She was real, with both grace and a disarming humour that let us know she was one of us. She used her humour, to affirm the rights of women and stand up for equality when she reminded us that Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, "only backwards and in high heels."

But Ann Richards was so much more than a quip and a well placed punch line.

Ann Richards walked the talk. She was a champion of human rights and of the human spirit. As governor, she appointed the first black University of Texas regent, the first crime victim on the state Criminal Justice Board, the first disabled person on the human services board and the first teacher to lead the State Board of Education. She pinned stars on the first African-american and female officers in the history of the Texas Rangers. As governor, she vetoed legislation that would allow people to carry concealed handguns, automatic weapons and "cop-killer bullets." She preserved the environment by vetoing a bill that would have allowed the destruction of the environment over the Edwards Aquifer. The last two items it's been postulated cost her re-election.

Still, when she left office, it was with a 60% approval rating.

Ann Richards never stopped working for the greater good, never lost her keen sense of humour, or willingness to tell the truth. She was a democrat and American of the Harry Truman variety: A type that comes along all too rarely.

Sadly, her passing reminds us that in times like these, we need her and those like her, more than ever.


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