Monday, December 29, 2008

Far fewer members of the GOP are like Chip the Stupid Republican with his racist, Obama CD

The most compassionate and effective advocate for children most at risk -- and already in very serious trouble with the law -- was chairman of the Warren County(TN) Republican Party.

Linda Gilbert worked among and championed children who had committed the worst criminal offenses and were incarcerated at the state's most secure detention facility north of Chattanooga. I visited her there earlier this decade, and she moved about the boys who had committed adult crimes without fear.

Her husband was a member of the professional staff. But she blazed her own path. She got the boys to write essays for the late Sir John Templeton's "Essays of Life" competition. And one boy, Terrence McLaurine, won the entire national contest and had his essay published. He wrote of what he had learned since being a murderer at 12 years of age in a Nashville drug deal gone bad.

McLaurine -- shockingly tried as an adult in Nashville -- reconciled with the family of his victim, all thanks to Gilbert and his transformation. The family pleaded with the state parole board for the youngster not to be sent on to adult prison after he turned 18. The board turned them down.

That did not deter Gilbert. She got uniforms so they boys could learn team and unity skills on the football field. And she raised money for a scoreboard so these youngsters could finally play at a place called "Home". For some of them, that was the first decent. disciplined home they ever had.

I lost track of Terrence because of my leukemia. He even had cooperated with a meeting I arranged with children at risk to gangs at a Metro school. I thought he could lend credibility to the message of just say "no" to organized criminal activity.

Unfortunately, I was not notified of Terrence's scheduled appearance so I could moderate the session. And Terrence said some things that detention center staff at a Nashville facility saw as negative about the center and purported gang activity there. So Terrence's effectiveness as a speaker to young people could not be used to influence the parole board.

I still feel bad about that. And I've lost track of Gilbert's heroics also. But no matter when or where, they still deserve to be recognized as inspiration to the rest of us to get involved.

And when someone as prominent as Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman casts all the GOP under a racist pall, light must be sought. And it is there you'll find a lot of Republicans such as Linda Gilbert.

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