At the risk of being called naive during this age of widespread political cynicism, I acknowledge that I believe in the inherent value of democratic government. Although a reasonable dose of cynicism is good, cynicism erodes the democratic fabric of society when it becomes intensely hostile toward government.
When I speak of cynicism, I'm using this dictionary definition: "Showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, especially by actions that exploit the scruples of others."...
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK — The health of Florida's environment never should have become a partisan issue, but we keep electing officials who make it partisan. As a result, we see the continued degradation of our water and land and serious threats to many plants and animals.
Many ecologists and other experts argue that as the health of the natural world diminishes, the quality of human life diminishes in equal measure....
As researchers continue to unearth remains in Marianna at the closed Florida School for Boys, also known as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, I'm transported back to the fear I experienced as a boy in Florida during Jim Crow.
The notorious reform school had two campuses, one for whites and one for blacks. We referred to it simply as "Marianna." We knew many of the horror stories about boys who went there and never saw the free world again. Our parents and other guardians used Marianna to keep us in line and out of trouble with "the law.''...
I'm really angry at the black residents of Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and set off days of protests and disturbances.
The tragic events in Ferguson underscore the failures of the police department and magnify the city's dangerous racial divide between whites and blacks. But they also reveal how Ferguson's black residents failed to exercise their most precious right as citizens: the right to vote, the power of the ballot....
In just three weeks, college football will cast its powerful spell on millions of Americans. Packed in stadiums and glued to TV screens, we will become obsessed with the performance of elite Division I teams and star athletes.
Most fans only see what the players do on the gridiron. Off the field, players live under extreme pressure, most devoting up to 50 hours a week preparing for game day, virtually giving up all other parts of their lives. If they are severely injured, their long-term career goals may be altered....
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that has been reporting on climate science since 1988, gave the world an unequivocal warning in March: If destructive human activity — especially greenhouse gas emissions — is not brought under control soon, mankind's future on the planet is bleak.
"Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people's livelihoods," according to the report. "The striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest."...
Around the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa, students, staff and visitors are reminded that it is an institution that promotes and exemplifies human rights.
The words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, for example, are inscribed on a building: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." In other places, the campus community is told it has an obligation to "respect the dignity and intrinsic value of all persons."...
Two weeks ago, I was driving from Gainesville back to St. Petersburg, and I stopped for gas on State Road 200 in Ocala. After I got out of my truck and started pumping, a late model Honda Accord sedan with a Canadian license plate parked at the pump next to me. A white family — a man, a woman and three preteens — were in the Honda. The man got out, we spoke simultaneously and he started pumping....
University Preparatory Academy, the new charter school in south St. Petersburg, opened last August with lofty promises.
From the start, it had serious problems, most notably failing to establish a board of advisers in a timely manner and using a bus company not yet approved by Pinellas County School Board. Daily management was so chaotic that at least 77 pupils withdrew, and four teachers and the curriculum director left. To change the school's direction, the governing board hired Darius Adamson as principal. Adamson is a founding partner of the Solomon Group, a North Carolina-based corporation with a proven record of transforming troubled schools into high performers. I talked with him about his objectives and long-term vision for the school....
One of the first campaign promises new St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman kept was to hire an administrator to oversee economic development for Midtown, the predominantly African-American community south of Central Avenue.
He chose 40-year-old St. Petersburg native Nikki Gaskin-Capehart for the job. Her official title is director of urban affairs. Kriseman also hired 38-year-old Kanika Tomalin, another St. Petersburg native, as deputy mayor. A large part of her job will be to work on projects to improve Midtown. Kriseman has hired two women with proven records of solving problems....
During the early 1970s when I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, one of my two roommates was a Jew. We became close friends and beer-drinking buddies, and many late nights we studied together in Regenstein Library. We still correspond on issues that concern us.
He introduced me to the University of Chicago Hillel, the Jewish student group. He was a member even though he was, as he said, "an agnostic Jew from Boston" who spoke his mind. He said the Chicago chapter, even with its problems, was one of the most tolerant in the country. I accompanied him to several functions that were open to the public, and I was impressed with the sophisticated, uninhibited debate on many controversial issues, including Israel....
Duck Dynasty, the so-called reality show on A&E, is not on my menu of TV watching. In recent weeks, though, I've learned a lot about the show because of comments that Phil Robertson, the cast's patriarch, made during an interview with GQ magazine that led to his suspension from the show. • Here's what Robertson said about African-Americans: "I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field. … They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' — not a word! … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."...
I used to be a terrible last-minute procrastinator about buying Christmas gifts. I would find myself on Christmas Eve searching store shelves trying to figure out what material things to buy for this or that person. I had a particularly hard time buying for the older people in my life.
A few years ago, an acquaintance taught me how to give the perfect last-minute gift — a meaningful, lasting gift — to friends and loved ones of any age....
Desperation seems to be the new guiding force in many of Florida's public schools as they try to improve the performance of students struggling in the classroom.
Tutoring, both after school and on Saturdays, is one of the popular trends to emerge from this desperation.
The Pinellas school district has set aside $4.5 million this year to boost its enrichment programs for students who are behind academically. Officials apparently believe that if students are in school more hours each day, they will learn more....
I am certain that as she did in 2008, Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016. But presidential politics can change in a flash. • When I read the New York Times' recent article, "Eye on 2016, Clintons rebuild bond with blacks," I realized that Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are repeating a failed strategy of the 2008 campaign: They are aggressively wooing the support of black leaders, including elected officials, heads of civic and civil rights organizations, celebrities and, of course, black ministers. • And once again, they apparently trust these leaders, especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to keep their word, perhaps delivering the black vote, an important bloc in presidential elections....