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These are our editorials and columns.

Friday
Apr102015

Have Something to Say? Tell Us About It.

Are you interested in being published in the Anderson Observer? Great! We accept submissions, but we ask you to read (carefully) a few simple guidelines before you send us your pitch.

1. Choose your subject wisely.

We are happy to hear ideas from anyone on any topic, but remember that you’re submitting to an Anderson newspaper, so the topics should be of direct importance to a large number of Andersonians.

2. Put the topic of your opinion piece in the subject line of an email.

Send to commentisfree@andersonobserver.com

In the body of the email, please offer specifics about your idea. It’s much easier for our editors to discover timely and important submissions if the topic is the first thing we see. 

3. Briefly explain who you are.

We don’t want your resume, but – especially if you’re not a full-time writer, which is perfectly fine – it’s helpful to know why you have the specific expertise or experience to write about your subject. We are committed to showcasing a range of issues, stories and voices on the Observer; it’s just difficult to get to know you from an email address. (You must disclose any conflict of interest, financial or otherwise. If any individual or group with an interest in the topic you are pitching has compensated you, tell us.)

4. Be concise and specific in your pitch.

We’re usually looking for 600-800 word opinion pieces that are traditional persuasive pieces (i.e., it has a thesis, supporting evidence and conclusion) or first-person stories tied to a news topic. Either should mean that you can easily summarize what you’d like to write (preferably with links) in about 3-5 sentences. But please don’t just send us completed pieces, as we will have less time to review them in full; we would much rather work with you to shape a good pitch into a great piece than have a good idea arrive, pre-written, in a way that doesn’t quite fit.

Please note all pieces are subject to editing and review by our editorial staff, and we cannot publish pieces that do not meet our editorial standards. 

Sunday
Dec212014

Saying Goodbye to Late Night's Brightest Mind

From Where I Sit

By Greg Wilson

I said goodbye to an old friend, Friday night. Makes little difference I never met the man.

Craig Ferguson signed off his final “Late, Late, Show” on CBS Friday night with the same tv-is-not-to-be-taken-seriously attitude that marked his 10-year run. You can catch it on cbs.com if you haven’t already heard the payoff.

But while Ferguson was the master of silly, his approach to deconstructing the format to which he was attached was unmatched.

“I do a show,” Ferguson once said. “It comes on late at night on TV. And if that means I'm a late-night talk show host, then I guess I am, but in every other regard I resign my commission, I don't care for it.”

As someone who started watching late night televison when Jack Parr was a year away from handing over the reigns to Johnny Carson, who (even though his wishes were ignored) passed the torch (if not the tonight show) to David Letterman 30 years later, there is no one I will miss more than Craig Ferguson.

It was Letterman’s brilliant, snarky, mocking of the talk show format that built the platform from which Ferguson launched the neutron bomb which blew up completely up.

From tearing up the screener’s questions on air before every interview, to his never-ending stream of consciousness monologues which generally reached the desk afterward, he was never a part the joke machine fraternity that even the best of the others who populate the format have not overcome.

During the last weeks he got a haircut (he called it “more mohawk, less anchorman”) which he asked the audience if it made him look more Samuel Beckett or Adolf Hitler. Actually, his resemblance to Beckett was striking. All the while he engaged in conversation with Geoff Peterson, his gay robot skeleton sidekick (and his dozens of spot-on celebrity voice impersonations) who shared the spotlight with Ferguson across the stage from two guys in a horse suit for the last half of the shows run.

Don’t get me wrong, Ferguson is wickedly funny. I have seen most of the top-tier stand ups, from acts at the Comedy Cellar in New York City and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, the high dollar tours of legends like Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart. None of them can match the raw energy and diamond precision madness of one of Ferguson’s live shows. At one 90-minute set, I was astounded that he managed to get funnier and funnier as the night went on. Think Robin Williams channeling Steven Wright and Sam Kinnison with Dick Cavett as a writer and you might pick up some of the energy Ferguson generates on stage.

And he brought a lot of that to his CBS show. But what always set him apart from the others with a monologue, a desk and guests, was how he was never shy about injecting thoughtful quotes, ideas and sometimes even serious guests into the madness.

Just last week, after being censored for cursing about some news story, he tossed out “the more humanity advances, the more it is degraded,” a quote from Gustave Flaubert and maybe the most acute analysis of our age.

In 2013, after asking Stephen King to autograph a book live on the air, Ferguson proceeded to discuss the Jungian nature of King’s work and ask him about Jung’s “Red Book.”

My personal favorite quote, though was after a beautiful dissecting of why this generation is the first society that worships youth, or in his words, why everything sucks:

“I’ve figured it out. I’ve figured it out What? Everything. Why everything sucks.
Here’s why. In the 1950s, late ’50s, early ’60s, a bunch of advertising guys got together on Madison Avenue and decided to try to sell products to younger people. We should try to sell to younger people because then they will buy things their whole lives. We’ll try to sell them soft drinks, or bread, or cigars — or whatever the hell they were trying to sell them. It was just an advertising thing, they didn’t mean any harm by it, just a bit of market research.

So they told the television companies, and the movie companies, and the record companies — and everybody started targeting the youth. Because the youth was the place where you were going to be able to sell things.

What happened was, in a strange kind of quirk of fate, youth began to be celebrated by society. This was in a way that it had never been at any time in human history. What used to be celebrated was experience, and cleverness. But what became valuable was youth — and the quality of youth was being a consumer.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying “but wait a minute, Craig, in Ancient Greece they deified youth.” No they didn’t. They deified beauty. Different.

What happened is youth became more important and became more important. Society started to turn on its head. Because youth has a byproduct — inexperience. By the nature of youth you don’t have any experience. It’s not your fault. You’re just kind of stupid.

So the deification of youth evolved, and turned into the deification of imbecility. It became fashionable to be young and to be stupid. And that grew, and that grew, and that grew, and now that’s what all the kids want to be. “I just want to be young and stupid!” But you know what? That’s not what you want to be. You do not want to be young and stupid.

Then what happened is that people were frightened to not be young. They started dyeing their hair, they started mutilating their faces and their bodies in order to look young. But you can’t be young forever, that’s against the laws of the universe. To try to make yourself younger is to buy into the idea that young people are somehow better, and they’re not.”

Amen. When I heard this rant, I wondered where were the other voices that should be shouting this (until I remembered they are all getting facelifts and dyeing their hair to look good for the next campaign cycle.)

But Ferguson himself trended mostly toward modesty. He once said: “I'm a terrible interviewer. “I'm not a journalist - although I have a Peabody Award - and I'm not really a late-night host. What I am is honest.”

He was only partially right. His Peabody was for a stunningly strong interview with Bishop Desmond Tutu, one which he introduced with the the most amazing summary of what had happened in South Africa over the past 500 years. And he did it in five clever minutes. No monolog that night, no cue cards, telepromters, just passionate conversations with one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

He also managed to put any guest willing to be honest at ease. And so many were. Those who were not, he forced to think on their feet. He talked about what interested him, and pulled them into conversations.

And Ferguson was never afraid to talk about his own battle with addiction and his 25 great years of sobriety, his divorces and career struggles. He also was never one to pile on to those in trouble for some of the same things.

In 2007, while the rest of the late night world tore Britney Spears apart for her breakdown, Ferguson dedicated his monologue to defending her, opening up about his alcoholism, drug abuse and near suicide. He spent a whole episode each to eulogize his parents after their individual deaths. A man so enthusiastic in his patriotism that he reminded us every day that it was, in fact, a great day for America, he dedicated his first show back after being granted United States citizenship to his new status, including a taped segment on the ceremony and a pipe and drums performance by The Wicked Tinkers, which Ferguson joined in on to prove he was still just as Scottish as he was American.

And yet, after 2,058 episodes, Ferguson and what he did still defies an easy definition. It’s not something that makes talking point conversation around the water cooler. And that is exactly the point. Those of us who discovered Ferguson and his brand of brainy, compassionate insanity and have made it a part of our late night (or dvr) lives, are left with great memories and a nagging hope that he will return again soon, reinventing the talk show format yet again. Until that time, Beannachd Dia dhuit, Craig.

Wednesday
Oct152014

Candidates Struggle to Overcome Poorly Done Debate

By Greg Wilson

The jack-o'-lanterns are on the front porches. Plastic skeletons are hanging from doors and fence posts. It can only mean one thing - election day is getting closer.

From Where I SitAnd nothing says elections like a good debate. That's why there were a variety of reasons to be disappointed in Tuesday night's South Carolina gubernatorial debate. The problem was not as much with the candidates, but with the over-wrought format and C-Span's truncated coverage snafus.

The debate, scheduled for a 9 p.m. start, was delayed 10 minutes while C-Span aired expanded coverage following the Arkansas Senatorial debate, including television commercials from each of the candidates. When the poorly lighted, poorly staged event actually began, things did not get much better.

Some of the issues were a result of the fact the debate was sponsored by The Charleston Post and Courier, WCIV-TV in Charleston, WACH-TV in Columbia, WPDE-TV in Myrtle Beach and WLOS-TV/WMYA-TV, created some of the problems.

Too many representatives of sponsors, each with questions for the candidates, made for an awkward and unsatisfying debate both for the candidates and viewers.

Each candidate was given 60 seconds to answer a question, and offered 30 seconds for rebuttal. Few got the opportunity to use their rebuttal time during the 40-minute debate.

The candidates and voters of South Carolina deserved better.

The five candidates handled the poor format and time restraints as well as can be expected.

Here is are the essential messages and performance rankings from each candidate, based on a rating scale of 1-5:

1. Independent Tom Ervin - 4

Ervin stayed with his talking points of improve the economy, improve wages for citizens and repairing the state's crumbling and aging road system. 

2. Democrat Vincent Sheheen - 3.5

Sheheen hammered away at citizens of South Carolina paying for Medicaid expansion in other states, due directly to the fact that Haley spearheaded the rejection of the federally funded expansion of the program in our own state, a move which is costing South Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars, which comes out of the pockets or working citizens in the state. 

3. Rebulican Nikki Haley - 3

Haley maintained, in very broad terms, the state had added thousands of jobs during her first term and accused Sheheen of wanting to expand Obamacare by suggesting Medicaid expansion was good for South Carolina. Haley seemed a bit detatched and distracted during the debate, and missed opportunities to challenge some of the criticisms leveled at her.

4. Libertarian Steve French - 2

French was consistent in his Libertarian views promoting less taxation and essentially no restraints on personal choices by citizens. But his comments on jobs made Reeves ramblings seem almost sane. Criticizing Haley on incentives for businesees, French said: "I look at jobs like I look at sex. You shouldn't brag about it if you have to pay for it."

5. Green/United Citizens Morgan Bruce Reeves 1

It is hard to take any candidate seriously who finds a way to imply that all of the state's problems would be solved by legalizing hemp and marijuana. His implications that supporting full legalization of the drug was a spiritual matter just made him seem plain weird. I confess I don't like the fact this guy can run on the ballot twice, which garnered him 20,000 votes in 2010. 

A second gubernatorial debate scheduled for Oct. 21 at Furman University in Greenville will focus on education and health care.

Monday
Apr152013

County Leadership: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Last week’s announcements that two out-of-state companies are bringing nearly 400 jobs - and millions in investment - to Anderson County is something to celebrate, but for reasons which go beyond the economic impact of new jobs and investment.

By Greg Wilson Editor/Publisher Anderson ObserverAnderson County Administrator Rusty Burns said it best: “Every single person who works for Anderson County should get credit for the announcements this week." Burns said the county’s various departments are making a concerted effort to work closely with the economic development folks and county council to ensure that any business considering locating in Anderson has met with every entity whose help they will need - from permits to roads and infrastructure to quality of life issues - when considering a move to Anderson. 

Making it easier on relocating companies is both wise and good for both those looking for a place to do business and for the county. It is a direction that just makes sense, and Anderson County leadership should be commended for embracing such an approach. It is also why yet another announcement of new jobs and investment is likely in the days ahead. 

Those involved in making it happen should be commended. For almost a decade, Anderson County has lagged in job growth, but under the current leadership things are indeed changing.  

So if you get a chance, thank your council member for their efforts in opening the door to this change. And while you’re at it, send a note of support to Burns and Anderson County Economic Development Director Burris Nelson for aggressively working to build the kind of partnerships and cooperative efforts with other local institutions and groups necessary to attract the kind of stable, family-owned industries which offer decent wages and seem a good fit for our community.

If you know any county employee, also extend thanks to their willingness to continue their hard work despite years of no raises and increased insurance costs. As Burns said, every county employee had a hand in the current economic development announcements. Several council members have also publicly thanked county employees for their part in the success. Hope this provides potential impetus for discussion pay increases for all county workers the 2014 budget. 

Anderson County still has a lot of work to do in many areas, but today we can celebrate that for now economic development seems to be on the right track. Let’s hope such cooperation and leadership extends to other county efforts and concerns in the days ahead.

Wednesday
Mar062013

Council Should Consider Time Management on Agenda

County Council Needs to Add Shorter Meetings to Bloated Agendas

Not long ago, I wrote a column suggesting that overly long Anderson County Council meetings were not in the best interest of local government. County Council Chairman Francis Crowder, Councilmen Tom Allen, Tommy Dunn and Ken Walker all agreed with my assessment, saying that the time had come to reign in overly long council meetings. Last night Councilwoman Gracie Floyd joined the chorus, but saying council needs to act on keeping meetings shorter. 

Greg Wilson, Editor/PublisherThen came Tuesday night’s 5.5 hour meeting, which took longer than a drive to Myrtle Beach. It was an agenda-heavy marathon that on the best night included far too many complex ordinances and resolutions for a single public council meeting. With storm water compliance reports (and attempts at much-needed compliance clarification) from DHEC, the annual audit report, the annual report from the Appalachian Council of Governments and a pair of contested zoning change proposals making up less than a quarter of the agenda, whoever is charged with making sure agendas contain the appropriate amount of content for a single council meeting must have been as drowsy as those still around at the end of Tuesday night’s meeting.

A representative from a company bringing 250 new jobs and a $22 million investment to the county sat patiently in his hard, uncomfortable, wooden seat with the rest of us until 11:40 p.m., and difficult as it might be to comprehend, the meeting would have lasted well past midnight had council not voted to conclude most of the rest of the business on the agenda at a special called meeting next week. 

Time management is key. Volatile issues such as zoning changes which include public hearings, should be treated as potentially substantial blocks of time and council meeting agendas adjusted accordingly. Citizen participation in such issues, which was spectacular Tuesday night, should not be relegated to a time slot leading well past 11 p.m. Tuesday night’s agenda, which can be viewed here, was clearly too much business for a single session of local government.

Long meetings are difficult for everyone. Guests, such as the business representative, the team for DHEC which drove up from Columbia; citizens who like to be active in local government; county employees required to attend the meetings; and council members themselves, who are at risk of making less than stellar decisions as the night wears on and when the agenda is overstuffed. 

In addition to the need for someone to become the county council champion of making sure meetings have a reasonably sized agenda, again it is time to revisit the idea of not using regular council meetings for honors and awards. A special quarterly meeting paying homage to Anderson’s brightest and best would better serve those receiving the awards and council. Such a meeting would allow more time to honor these people and for photos with the council members, instead of wedging them into the front end of a regular county council meeting. 

Shorter meetings would also attract more community leaders, busy men and women who would be far more likely to attend meetings if they knew there would be home before 8 p.m. 

Council members pledging to read all materials and discussing any agenda questions/issues among themselves in the days before Tuesday night meetings - the agenda is available on Fridays - would also do wonders to keep meetings shorter and more effective. Communication between council members leading up to the meetings might also lead to more effective communications during the actual meetings, thus cutting a few more precious minutes.  

There was never an intentional decision by Anderson County Council to hold meetings lasting to the near six-hour mark. But also there has not been a commitment to the discipline of preparation and agenda monitoring to assure meetings are effective and timely, and thus more accessible - and attractive - to all the citizens of Anderson County. Let’s get this on the agenda.

Wednesday
Jan022013

Time to Shorten County Council Meetings

By Greg Wilson

Editor/Publisher

There was a time when citizen involvement in county government was substantial. In the 1980s and 90s council chambers were often full or close to full with interested Andersonians. In recent years, council meetings have generally attracted maybe a dozen citizens (save for slight bumps in attendance for pubic hearings), and are generally outnumbered by the number of county employees and security for whom attendance is either mandatory or somewhat mandatory. 

There are likely a number of reasons for the poorly attended meetings. People continue to add to their busy lives, and are increasingly jaded when it comes to the political process. 

But one thing is certain, the three-hour-plus meetings which have become a hallmark of the current County Council is not helping attendance. This is particularly true given the actual time given to the business of running and leading the county takes less than half of this time. 

The extra hours could be trimmed with very little effort.

First, a lot of time is spent with council members asking questions concerning the agenda and agenda materials which could and should be reviewed and clarified earlier in the day. The agenda is generally available the Friday before the upcoming Tuesday meeting, allowing ample time for council members to ask questions of each other, the county administrator or county attorney prior to the meeting. 

There was a time when council did indeed hold a pre-meeting on Tuesday mornings prior to scheduled evening meetings. Why those are no longer a part of the schedule seems as mysterious to the council members I asked as it is to the rest of us.

Another, and often even more prominent reason for ultra-long county council meetings is the time allocated for recognition and giving of awards. Shining a spotlight on our neighbors who have contributed to our community or accomplished some milestone is important. But allotting most of the first hour of every county council meeting to such is not the most efficient way for such recognition. Council did attempt to restrict the bestowing of recognition and honors to once a quarter, but the attempt was soon jettisoned. 

Instead, a quarterly special meeting devoted solely to honors and awards would provide more time for attention to those honored and their families, including photo-ops with officials.

Finally, curtailing called executive sessions to a bare minimum, or scheduling such sessions at 5 p.m. as part of an early council start time, would also serve to trim long meetings.

Council is working in a variety of progressive areas to move Anderson County forward as a great place to invest, work and live. Making council meetings more accessible by taking action to curb very long meetings would be one more positive step in that direction.

Wednesday
Jun202012

Southern Baptists Show Their Blind Side, Again

By Greg Wilson

Editor/Publisher

At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans this week, the gathering of the world's largest Protestant denomination (nearly double the size of the second largest group), once again has managed to allow the spotlight to be hijacked by the kind of mindless minutiae which has greased the skids for five consecutive years of membership decline.

Following what should have been, and for a short time was, an amazing celebration with the Tuesday election of the group's first African-American president, New Orleans native and pastor the Rev. Fred Luter, the Baptists apparently could not help themselves and followed up with a move to ban the movie "The Blind Side" from their Lifeway Christian Bookstore in a resolution saying the film "contains explicit profanity, God's name in vain, and racial slur."

The movie, which tells the story of how an evangelical Christian family took in and eventually adopted a homeless young man (Michael Oher, who went on to play in the NFL), received Academy Award nominations for best picture and awarded the Best Actress Oscar to Sandra Bullock for the film in 2009. It has been reviewed and recommended for family viewing by a number of Christian websites, including the Focus on the Family site "Plugged In" which found the Christianity portrayed by the family in the film: "refreshingly three-dimensional, and we see into their souls just enough to know that faith in Jesus is a prime factor in their best, most generous tendencies."

Instead of finding redeeming value in a film which does not depict Christians as serial killers, pedophiles or toothless innocents, the Baptists instead chose to do a cherry-pick count of the number of profanities in the film, oblvious to the context or overall message of the film.

This is not a rallying cry to return the movie to Lifeway shelves. Anyone who wanted to see this movie has likely seen it by now. ABC has run it at least twice on broadcast television. What I am more concerned about is the continued expressions of moral indignation that make the work of Southern Baptist churches and pastors more difficult.

As the Rev. Jack Hayford once said: "There is no more room in the barns of righteous indignation. They are full. Shaking our heads at the ills of society does not change hearts." Somebody needs to put this on a t shirt and see if Lifeway will sell it.

The Baptists have a history of this sort of thing, one of many reasons the conventions themselves attract less than half the number of messengers (delegates) the meetings drew a couple of decades ago. I have watched the decline of the denomination over the last 35 or so years from a front row seat. I am the product of a Southern Baptist college and two Southern Baptist seminaries. I have both attended the conventions as a messenger and as a journalist.

The annual meetings were once a gathering of pastors, missionaries from across the globe, educators and laity to renew old friendships, get updates on missions, check out the latest literature and to join together in a combination of worship and business meetings all loosely connected by the concept of the cooperating to make spreading the gospel in a unified and more financially efficient manner. None of these meetings were ever perfect expressions, nor were the pre-conference pastors' conferences, but by and large the heart of the denomination was focused.

Not going to write a history of the the splintering off of the the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1990. It was clear that politics overruled mission at the San Antonio Convention in 1988 when Southern Baptists elected the Rev. Jerrry Vines president over the Rev. Richard Jackson, who despite having more baptisms, growth and giving to the denomination lost the office for lack of playing to the internal political parties. Things were never the same after that for Southern Baptists.

The years that followed featured such things as the much ballyhooed boycott of Disney, which did not seem to deter very many pastors or their families from the theme park during conventions held in Orlando. The issue was allegedly to protest Disney's perceived support of homosexual rights, but instead became a news story which created mostly derisive laughter and outright hypocrisy. It became the ultimate example of a failed boycott.

Meanwhile those who are not people of faith are avoiding the Baptist in record numbers. Even their own internal survey found that close to half of those survey who classified themselves as non-church goes had a negative view of Southern Baptists and their churches. This should be a very real concern to a church who has rallied behind the call to seek and save the lost.

This does not mean Baptists should be passive. But moral pronouncements do little to change hearts or help the local pastors, churches and lay people change their communities in meaningful ways. The mission and vision statements of the Southern Baptist Convention are full of statements proclaiming a purpose of spreading a passion for Jesus and other people and making it clear that Jesus is the only hope for the world.

But such lofty goals have been overshadowed in recent years by allowing allowing compassionate evangelism to take a back seat to the preaching to the choir messages of ineffective commentary on social issues which cannot be changed through proclamation or condemnation.

With still close to 16,000,000 members, the Southern Baptist Convention is not in danger of closing up shop anytime soon. But the do face a very real danger of being an irrelevant Leviathan if they continue down the path of using their increasingly bully pulpit to tell the world what's wrong rather than pointing to the source of that which is right.

Monday
Mar152010

Anderson County Leadership in Information Praiseworthy

By Greg Wilson

Editor/Publisher, Anderson Observer

Media outlets across the country are currently marking National Sunshine Week, a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

The rights of citizens to access of public information is crucial to effective government and sustained community growth. The days have past when citizens are willing to accept the paternalist notion that our elected officials “know best” about what information the public should or should not be allowed to access.

Anderson County government has come a long way in this process. Back in the 1980s when I covered the county as editorial page editor of the Anderson Independent, it more often than not took repeated requests, costly fees and even legal representation to obtain documents which they were clearly required to provide by law under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. Even then the information provided was often delayed until it was no longer relevant or edited beyond reason.

Fast forward 20 years. Last week the county was recognized as one of only 39 in the nation to receive a perfect score from the Sunshine Week group for their initiatives in openess and transparency in government. (Details here) The county took it a step forward by holding a public meeting Friday night asking for suggestions of what else can be done to make all county information more accessible to individuals and the media. Several suggestions were made and there were promises to act on those suggestions.  

Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns, Public Information Officer and Web Manager Angie Stringer, and members of County Council deserve credit for their efforts to make the county a model of transparent government.

There is still much to be done. The public needs to understand their civic duty to be vigilant along with the media to make sure the county continues to stay on the bleeding edge of this issue. County officials need to be given refresher courses every year on the mandates of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, and what it requires. Executive sessions in particular, need to be examined more closely in the bright light of that legislation.

Meanwhile, the county is holding an open public session at 2 p.m. Wednesday for municipalities, counties, school districts, etc., to demonstrate the steps taken to make county date available online and to offer assistance to any government/school entity.  The county is also offering to host web sites for local municipalities wishing to post their financial  or other information. The session will be held at the historic courthouse.

I hope these groups will take advantage of this session.

Wednesday
Sep092009

President No Match for Teachers

By Greg Wilson

Editor/Publisher, Anderson Observer

    I watched the president's address yesterday with a bunch of third graders. Lights down, television on one of those raised brackets up in one corner. In the dim room, the volume was just right, the kids quiet and well-behaved.
    At the end of the speech, the teacher asked if there were any questions. There were three:
What is our math homework again?
Can I go to the bathroom?
Is it time to go?
    At least one boy finished his math homework during the short address, safe since all eyes were on the screen.
    I asked one girl, who appeared totally tuned in to the president's entire talk, what she thought of what he said and she replied: "I got kind of sleepy when they turned out the lights."
    Recognizing there is place for debate in all that is politics, and the right of parents to choose - and at least in this county, all parents were allowed to opt their youngsters out of viewing the speech - I walked away with a renewed belief that not much has changed since I sat in an old wooden desk in Mrs. Medlock's room back in the mid-sixties.
    We still had prayer in school back then, at least at my school. But the most passionate displays of prayer were those silent ones before math tests. So not much has changed there. My teacher worked hard to engage the classroom, much as the third grade teacher I witnessed yesterday, and we paid attention - to her. When anyone else, a substitute, the principal, a parent, anybody else talked, our eyes glazed over pretty fast. We didn't have television in the schools in those days, but we had film strip projectors, which more often than not would overheat and burn a spot on the film. When the lights went down and the scratchy record on the old hi-fi was synced to filmstrip, they all seemed to be about Bolivia in my memory for some reason, we got drowsy and our attention drifted to recess and lunch and going home to get out and play.
    I saw that same look in the eyes of those third graders yesterday. Which is why we need to worry more about making sure our teachers have the time they need to engage their students rather than getting a little too worked up about guest speakers in the classroom, whatever their political stripe.
    After the speech, I witnessed a teacher who had the captive attention of her classroom, a teaching assistant who they actually paid attention to, as if a brain switch had clicked "on" after the television was turned off.
    I can't help but wish the president had a video of that to show folks next time, one which shows how education is supposed to work.

 

Thursday
Sep032009

Sullivan's More than Great Food

By Greg Wilson

Editor/Publisher, Anderson Observer

        They had not been opened very long, when I first took my wife Deborah to Sullivan's Metropolitan Grill for an anniversary dinner. I had not been in the Sullivan building since the days of high shelves full of tools and screws and piles of all manner of hardware treasures stacked loose in open boxes.
        But new owner Bill Nikas somehow figured out how to keep the recognizable elements of an old hardware store while creating a downright elegant dining experience in downtown Anderson. I remember the El Dorado Steakhouse being elegant for the day, but this was something a notch up. This was the kind of restaurant hometown folks were accustomed to driving to maybe Vince Perone's in Greenville for, or even someplace toney in Atlanta.
        Sullivan's was fine dining, right here at home. Amazing creations in the kitchen from appetizer to dessert. Beautiful tables, courteous staff and owner, very fancy all around but not one highfalutin person or thing in the building.
        That night we had the stuffed pork chops and finished with coconut cream pie (something that became a Sullivan's siren call for me after that). Later the the lamb became my favorite dish, and I don't think I was ever in a conversation about food in this town where debates over the best food at Sullivan's did not play a major role. (Grouper, had the most fans).
        But serving as the place for special occasions was not all there was to Sullivan's. The owner, Bill Nikas, quietly supported community causes in a number of ways over the years, providing food and a place for local charitable organizations to meet, including Newspring church as its planned its first campus, other donations and an under-the-radar approach to community service which will be difficult to replace.
        Thanks, Bill, you are a great neighbor and friend to Anderson. I look forward to seeing what you will do next. In the meantime, know that those of us in Anderson appreciate what you and your family have given us and pray for you all as you plan your next adventure.
        Finally, I hope everyone who reads this will visit Sullivan's in the next week and savor one more glorious meal. And while you are there, thank Bill and the staff for all their amazing work bringing something truly special to this town.