As you are reading this column, the National Urban League is holding it’s annual convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. The League’s convention’s are always a place where movers and shakers, thinkers and worker bees all gather to discuss the plight of urban America and to plot an agenda that is inclusive, forward thinking and non partisan. I’ve always admired the stewardship of the Urban League, and have always felt comfortable being around League convention-goers who are about rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done and not afraid of hearing from unconventional sources.
This is why I applaud the League’s decision to invite Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Republican National Committee Chairman Rience Preibus to address the convention. We all know that many of the convention-goer’s are most likely of a different political persuasian. We also know that many of the people at the convention are deeply skeptical of Republican policies — that in their view are either the cause of the current economic and social woes — and or are just opposed to the Republican’s vision for America. And that’s OK since we all have different viewpoints and perspectives about how to solve our country’s problems, but what’s not OK is for organizations not to allow other perspectives; and under the leadership of Marc Morial, that’s certainly not the case.
Sen. Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, is unabashed about his message of inclusion to young and minority audiences. Some think his only objective is to win hearts and minds for a presidential run in 2016. Others think it’s a suicide mission from a bleeding heart idealist who is naïve about racial, and rough and tough politics. I beg to differ. I am of the belief that it’s savvy politics mixed in with a genuine belief that his ideas are not necessarily better, but they offer a third way of thinking. Sen. Paul cares and he’s a deep and passionate thinker on public policy in the mold of a Daniel Patrick Moynihan or Jack Kemp. In other words, he’s not afraid to challenge the establishment and to offer up a solution that goes against the grain of his party. He’s an independent thinker, like his father former congressman Ron Paul who constantly throws you curve balls and is highly unpredictable. Those types of politicians in my experience have always been an enigma. Remember Arlen Specter? Christie Todd Whitman or Bill Roth? All of these former politicians were known for thinking outside of the box, reaching across the aisle if they sensed a better solution to a problem, and they also showed up in areas where either they weren’t welcomed and/or where no one thought they would go.
Rand Paul is not afraid. He’s not afraid to challenge conventional thought, and he’s not afraid to push the envelope. He is coming up with innovative ideas and solutions to our very real and complex problems. I’m not saying it’s right, but what I am saying is that he has the courage to show up in our community and to articulate his ideas to a skeptical audience. The Urban League also has the courage to listen to ideas that force them to think differently as well. That’s what we want in America: A celebration and forum to think differently and creatively about our problems. It’s not about accepting the ideas; rather it’s about listening to them — and kudos to Paul and the League for doing just that.
Follow Robert Traynham on Twitter @roberttraynham.