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· Dr. Richard Williams came to Hagerstown from Rochester, N.Y., last Friday to speak to the No Smoking Youth Club's "Friends and Family Banquet" at the martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. His appearance was all the more poignant because his wife Sharon had just passed away.
He began by asking his audience to consider the beauty of the rose, then reminding them that "someone had to get their hands dirty and get their hands pricked by the thorns" to produce such beauty.
Changing a community for the better is hard work and will be met by resistance, he said. For the black community, it begins with looking at what the legacy of slavery has done to African-Americans.
After a long study of the experience of slavery, Williams said he had turned up evidence of systematic efforts to break the spirit and the familial bonds blacks enjoyed in Africa.
Without that, healthy attitudes and good nutritional practices are not reinforced. As a result, blacks die of stroke at a rate twice that of whites and diabetes is running rampant in that community, as is high blood pressure. All of these are preventable and treatable with good nutrition and health practices, he said.
What must also happen, he said, is the restoration of the father's traditional African role in the family as its educator, nurturer and protector.
Both whites and black must work together to change the society, he said, so that American can become the "salad bowl" of cultures it was meant to be. That doesn't mean giving up one's heritage, he said, but bringing it along to improve the whole country.
Hearing the 70-year-old Williams speak reminded me that in regard to race relations, it's been a long time since the idealism of the 1960s, when many envisioned a truly integrated society. I thank him for evoking that time and hope someone of this generation will pick up his banner.
· Elsewhere on this page is a letter that argues that the answer to handgun violence of the type we saw recently at Virginia Tech is to allow more people to carry concealed weapons, even on college campuses.
Writing for the CATO Institute in 1999, Jeffrey R. Snyder lamented the fact that Missouri voters had turned down the repeal of an 1875 law that bars concelead weapons.
"In the end, Missouri citizens decided that the same people on whose care, judgment, and sense of responsibility they rely every day to serve them food in restaurants, to watch their kids in day care centers, to assist them with their taxes, and to drive safely on their streets, could not be trusted to exercise sufficient care and responsibility with respect to carrying handguns in public," Snyder wrote.
Call me un-American if you must, but I'm not sure the same people who can't seem to figure out how auto turn signals work should be encouraged to tote around heavy-duty handguns.
· The Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial and the county Health Department on Monday issued the 2007 Community Report Card, a look at trends and events in the community.
Its introduction says the report is done to compile information useful to citizens and government agencies, so they can measure the effectiveness of the efforts being made to improve life here.
There's plenty here. For example, the county's population has grown by 20,000 since 1990, but fewerthan 5,000 of those new residents came to the City of Hagerstown.
The average price of housing dropped by $10,000 from 2005 to 2006, but that average price is still $254,293, pricing out many would-be buyers.
Other areas include everything form crime statistics to educational achievements in local schools. The 60-page document is now posted on The Herald-Mail Web site at www.herald-mail.com.
Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.