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'O' for Time's Person of the Year

Alton H.Maddox | , Jr. | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.

I wrote about Melvin Tolson several years ago. He headed the debating team at Wiley College in Texas while Charles Hamilton Houston et al. were racking up legal victories in dismantling Jim Crow. Some of Houston's plaintiffs were Tolson's students. Others would become forceful advocates in the Black struggle.

Oprah had the audacity to tell this story on the big screen. "The Great Debaters" was released in December 2007, and it was playing at local movie houses at the start of the presidential primary. It said, "Yes, we can." President-elect Obama would become the beneficiary of "The Great Debaters." The Black community would become primed for prime time.

No Black person can ever expect to receive keys to the White House without mastering critical thinking and debating skills. But for his philosophy, Malcolm would have been a great presidential candidate. The absence of these skills can also spell doom to a presidential debate. The Speech and Debate Clause is also the central provision in the U.S. Constitution for legislative action. History has well documented the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois involving slavery and its future. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were also chasing the same woman. Lincoln won Mary Todd's heart and ultimately, the White House. Many times, politics involves more than a political philosophy.

By 1980, the United States was facing galloping inflation and a crisis in Iran. Jimmy Carter occupied the White House. At a presidential debate on October 25, 1980, Governor Ronald Reagan would ask the American public if they were better off today than they were four years earlier. Carter would receive only 49 electoral votes to Reagan's 489. cells. The presidential debates would also doom the re-election bid of Bush 41, who would debate Governor Bill Clinton and Ross Perot three times. During one of these debates, Bush 41 was caught looking at his watch. People already suspected that Bush 41 had a pompous attitude.

In another debate, the moderator, Carol Martin, would, sua sponte, rephrase a question from a member of the audience. Bush 41 was tied-tongued. This Black anchor woman for ABC News was summarily demoted. Bush 41 blamed her for his campaign debacle. Clinton won the White House. Martin would be shipped off to "Siberia." Obama has inherited the debate skills of Frederick Douglass, Melvin Tolson, Houston, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Black women, led by Harriet Tubman, are steering the Underground Railroad. Hopefully, the White House will become a stop for reparations. The cover of Time magazine must tell the story of how enslaved Africans went from Dred Scott to Mr. President despite the three-fifths provision of the U.S. Constitution and from slave ships to Air Force One. This is the real story of the Obama presidency. In the past, Time has repeatedly deviated from honoring a person to acknowledging a phenomenon. The honorees have included American Fighting Man (1950); Hungarian Freedom Fighter (1956); U.S. Scientists (1960); Twenty-five and Under (1966); The Middle Americans (1969); American Women (1975); The Computer (1982); Endangered Earth (1988); The Peacemakers (1993); The Whistleblowers (2002); The American Soldier (2003); and

You (2006).

December 3--UAM weekly forum at the Elks Plaza,1068 Harriet Tubman Avenue (Fulton Street) near Classon Avenue in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. Take the "C" train to Franklin Avenue and Harriet Tubman Avenue. Dec. 6--Alton Maddox and Dr. Leonard Jeffries will conduct two full days of an "Advanced Seminar on Critical Thinking and Systems Analysis" at City College in the NAC Building, 141st Street and Convent Avenue in Harlem. For admission information, call (718) 834-9034. This is a must-attend seminar. See: www.reinstatealtonmaddox.net for "Cong. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and His Seventeen Point Program."