Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Harold Keller / L’Observateur / December 29, 1999

This article is in response to a letter to the editor by Gloria Jackson that appeared in the Dec. 25 issue of this newspaper. It reminded me of howblessed we are to live in a free nation – free to express ourselves, regardless of how brutal the attack, free to worship as we choose and, under our democratic system, free to vote for whom we choose.

The headline of the letter read: “St. John will grow, despite Monica.” Iagree with that. America has prospered in spite of Bill Clinton. Closer tohome, New Orleans has prospered in spite of Marc Morial. The reason St.John is bigger than Nickie Monica, like America is bigger than Clinton, and New Orleans bigger than Morial.

The letter also stated that St. John voters sent a clear message that weare plagued with ignorance. I disagree with that, but I do believe thatignorance is alive and well in St. John, just like in every other place inthis country.

The people who voted for Nickie Monica, and especially those who live north of the Airline Highway, were attacked as casting their votes down color lines. I’m proud to say that I voted for Nickie Monica, and I alsohappen to live north of the Airline Highway.

Does that make me prejudiced? Come to think of it, I guess we all have a little prejudice in us. If 10 black African-American boxers were fighting10 white Russians in the Olympics, I’d pull for all 10 of the black fighters.

Yes, I’m prejudiced toward America.

Getting back to the election of Mr. Monica, I think the majority of thepeople who voted made an excellent choice. The reason I voted for him isbecause of his childlike, humble spirit, his enthusiasm during the campaign, and his ability to mix with large groups of people, always looking comfortable and enjoying the crowd.

I also voted for Nickie Monica because I saw him grow up. I was impressedat the love he showed for his family. I also looked at his record as acommunity leader before he ever ran for public office. I guess it all boilsdown to what I learned from Martin Luther King, an African-American hero, who said that we should judge people not by the color of their skin, but by their character. I voted for Nickie because of his character.Is he qualified? Under our democratic process, if you meet the resident requirements, fill out an application to seek office, and pay the qualifying fee – you qualify.

We had four people who qualified to run for Parish President. That’s right!All of them qualified. Were all of them capable? Only Nickie will have theopportunity to prove if he is.

He promised a new St. John. If he follows through with his promise bymaking changes and surrounding himself with good people, he will be a good parish president. If he doesn’t he’ll get beat in four years.I have to admit that the reference to blue-collar leadership really disturbed me. My dad was never an elected official, but he was a blue-collar worker and proud of it. He was the leader of our home. I thank Godfor his blue-collar leadership.

Getting back to talking about voting down color lines. Yes, lots of peopledo, including blacks. I, however, am reminded of a few elections wherewhites made a difference in St. John electing African-Americans. JudgeMadeline Jasmine is one example. She was elected parish wide with morethan 60 percent of the registered voters being white. I also remember afriend and gentleman, Harry Robottom, being elected to the School Board with white votes. Recently, Cleveland Farlough got elected Councilman-at-Large. I realize that it is a majority black district, but he receivedmany white votes.

To Mrs. Jackson I say, thanks for your letter. Even though I didn’t agreewith most of it, I respect your right to express yourself. I ask that yourespect mine.

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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