DiazDiaz is a former mayor, attorney and business leader based in Miami. In addition, 500 plus mayors of large, small and moderate size cities selected him as president of the US Conference of Mayors when I was mayor of Atlanta.

“I am happy for Alan Gross and extend my best wishes to him and his family on this first day of Hanukkah. It is my hope that the end of Mr. Gross’ five-year ordeal will lead to change within Cuba. I am thankful for the intervention of His Holiness Pope Francis and all the diplomats who worked for Mr. Gross’ release. His Holiness also deserves great credit for his courage in furthering talks and relations between the United States and Cuba.

As a Cuban exile whose father was held as a political prisoner by the Cuban regime, I have experienced the oppression of the Cuban government firsthand. However, for more than 50 years we’ve tried it one way.  The time has come for a different approach.

I agree with the White House that the ‘decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.I am optimistic that the actions taken by President Obama today will serve to advance the cause for freedom in Cuba.

“Ultimately, we continue to share the common goal of bringing openness, democracy and respect for the human rights of the Cuban people. Today marks a positive step toward that end.”

Manny Diaz,

Former Mayor of the City of Miami and

President of US Conference of Mayors

Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t change the results!

It is time to change the state’s leadership.

NunnCarterAs Election Day, November 4 nears the pressure is on Georgians to distinguish fact from fiction. My intuition tells me even with Politifact Georgia and media exposure too many Georgians might miss a few of the important facts surrounding this year’s elections.

Georgia’s economic recovery lags the nation in almost every measure. Even the most recent federal reports confirm what thousands of Georgia families know…. our unemployment rate is awful. Georgia has the HIGHEST unemployment rate in the US. That means 49 governors are doing a better job than our governor in creating jobs, retaining jobs and employing its residents. On Governor Deal’s watch, his economic recovery plan of corporate tax cuts, refusing to expand Medicaid and balancing the state budget at the expense of education hasn’t worked! It is time for a change. Jason Carter has the guts to advocate for refocusing Georgia on investing in education. This is the surest method to improve Georgia’s growth in business opportunities and economic expansion. It will insure Georgia’s long-term economic health.  The days of starving education and expecting economic growth are over. In the 21st century a first-rate innovative education plan from cradle through college including technical school are essential to meet the educational needs of Georgia’s children. We all benefit when our neighbors are working too. Those who are unemployed need more than the Governor’s quarrels with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lip service that “statistics don’t matter” is a disservice to unemployed Georgians. They need job training and access to education.

In the U.S. Senate race to replace Saxby Chambliss, too many attack TV ads make it seem as if President Obama is running to be Georgia’s next senator. He isn’t. In fact, Michele Nunn’s career has been far from partisan. She is on a first name basis with four former presidents, George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as President Obama. She is a bridge-builder who has worked to break down barriers that keep us from working together. In 2009, she worked with Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to pass the Serve America Act, which gives small grants to volunteers for service projects in their communities.  From her Hands on Atlanta experience to CEO of President’s Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, Michelle has worked to seek full civic engagement of everyday folks that empowers neighborhoods to help themselves. Nunn’s experience and record reflects her ability to work with Republicans and Democrats, which is why her donors also include both Republicans and Democrats. Her top priority is to create jobs and economic opportunity in Georgia – and not outsourcing Georgia jobs to China.

It is time for change in Georgia – it is time to vote for Jason Carter for Governor and Michelle Nunn for the U.S. Senate!


Honoring Veterans on this D-Day Anniversary

President Obama along with other world leaders commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing Normandy invasion in northern France.

USArmy“What more powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom than the sight of wave after wave after wave of young men boarding those boats to liberate people they had never met?” Mr. Obama asked. The president continued, “We say it now as if it couldn’t be any other way. But in the annals of history, the world had never seen anything like it.”

Millions throughout Europe and the United State are reminded of that day years ago when young men in service to their countries gave all they had for a more peaceful world. The American soldiers were on average just 24 years old and the graves of 9,387 Americans who died that day are marked in where they gave their lives, in France.

We are filled with emotion by the courage and fearless actions of those men on that day and are forever thankful for their sacrifice. As we remember D-Day, we can put into action our community will by supporting all of our veterans including recent veterans who are struggling to transition back to their lives at home. Some 57,000 veterans are homeless, many suffer mental fragility from trauma or need substance abuse treatment, 40% are African American and Hispanic. Homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30, and 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. And it is reported that about 1.4 million other veterans are at risk of becoming homelessness because of poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

As we celebrate the service of our military men and women, we can’t just be satisfied with the personal commitments they have made without realizing the daunting challenges that face them when they return home.

Breaking Barriers to Fulfill America’s Promise

AP photo credit

AP photo credit

What does it really mean when those who were never considered leaders become leaders? Or Pioneers? Millions of Americans were captivated by the movie 42, the story of Jackie Robinson who signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and became the first African-American to play on a major league team. And while the story obviously focused on racism and his individual battle to break a major barrier, it also created a generation of new baseball fans.

Some 50 years after Robinson stepped on the field as a Brooklyn Dodger in a game against the Boston Braves while the entire country watched and gathered around radios to follow the game, inning-by-inning, and minute-by-minute. Many people were baseball fans and others were simply curious about what would happen when Robinson made his debut. Others became baseball fans because it was exciting to witness this moment in history.

There have been other sports moments like the rise of Billie Jean King in tennis and Tiger Woods in golf, both had similar cultural impacts on increasing interest in their respective sports. In politics, President Obama is the first African-American President and Nancy Pelosi was the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives. Now, Janet Yellen who was sworn in yesterday as the first woman to head the Federal Reserve breaks through another barrier. Hopefully, Yellen’s rise to the pinnacle of the finance world will have a history making affect on generations of women.

These breakthroughs serve as a reminder that barriers have to be broken if we are to fully realize the promise of an America that exclaims equality for all.


Immigration Reform is Not Dead

Vice President Biden came to Atlseiuanta yesterday to celebrate the Administration’s commitment to passing common sense immigration reform. Last week immigration advocates were exercising civil disobedience at the Capitol and  immigration reform is back in the headlines but it seems unlikely that activism will translate to a “great compromise” on immigration this year.

We really don’t need any new examples of the GOP leadership stalling or blocking responsible legislation. Speaker John A. Boehner speaker has said he would not bring Senate “Gang of Eight” bill to the House. The Gang of Eight (Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-IL, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY) have proposed sensible immigration reform that includes,

• A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States that would be contingent on certain border security and visa tracking improvements. The plan provides for permanent residence for undocumented immigrants only after legal immigrants waiting for a current priority date receive their permanent residence status and a different citizenship path for agricultural workers through an agricultural worker program.

• Business immigration system reforms, focusing on reducing current visa backlogs and fast tracking permanent residence for U.S. university immigrant graduates with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math also known as the STEM fields.

• An expanded and improved employment verification system that would confirm employee work authorization.

• Improved work visa options for low-skill workers including an agricultural worker program.

While there is not likely be any action this year, a recent poll shows that 70 percent of voters support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, 80 percent approve of implementing a better electronic worker verification system and 78 percent support passing DREAM Act legislation. These healthy numbers reflect broad based public support for Congressional action on immigration. If you agree contact your Congressman and Senator.


Civility in Civil Discourse is Not Too Much to Ask

cruzThe “Million Vet March on the Memorials,” rally this weekend in Washington, DC was more protest than March and more Obama hate speak than rally cry.  The protest focused on the national war memorials closures because of the government shutdown. Some well-known Tea Party speakers included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Cruz hijacked the occasion to politicize his Tea Party agenda by asking, “Let me ask a simple question. Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?”

Speaker Larry Klayman of the Freedom Watch conservative organization went even further.  He said,  “I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up,” said Klayman.

While we support the significance of free speech to balance the discussion of ideas in our democracy there are still times when we are shocked by who says what, when they say it and who stands with them when they speak.  Some protesters at the march carried “Impeach Obama” signs and casual observer could catch a glimpse of the Confederate flag in the foreground of the war memorials.

Haven’t we learned intense and heated debate is one thing, spewing hate and prejudice is another. The march was a tribute to our war veterans we should expect civil behavior from the gentleman Senator from the Lone Star State.



Oh the Places You’ll Go!!! In Honor of Senator Cruz

Yes some placDrSeusses are safe, definitely among the safest cities in the country – Austin and New York. Others are grounded in smart city planning and embrace innovation like Portland and Seattle. Some are forward looking and optimistic, Greenville, SC among the best. Some have learned from past mistakes and seized the new day to never ever repeat the mistakes of the past. Try Nuremberg for lessons in human rights.

Sadly not all places understand lessons unlearned repeat generation after generation. Facing the lessons of the past is essential to building a community sustainable for the future. For instance, if Georgia and Atlanta don’t face the lessons of unsuccessful attempts to create great schools then chances are we won’t have great schools for most school-aged children. Or if we don’t understand Ivan Allen’s courage to stand up for civil rights legislation or Robert Woodruff’s courage to celebrate the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. rather than succumb to supporting the prevailing business opinion of the day, then we will fall further behind in developing as an emerging global city of excellence. If we allow missteps in ethics to be a sidebar conversation and honesty to be compromised in our public and private sector leadership we will not gain or maintain the public trust needed to tackle tough 21st century issues. Everyone suffers when we sweep evidence of wrongdoing, lying, cheating and dishonesty under the rug because weak ethical standards, low aspirations and acceptance of less than the best in word and deed undermine the fabric of our communities. People lose faith, lose hope and lose trust in their leadership.

The places we want to go require more than getting along because it is easier or because it is too unpleasant to disclose our weaknesses or to embarrass someone.

The Committee for Better Atlanta ranks candidates and as a footnote mentions candidates’ ethics isn’t considered. Really? Nothing else matters in my book. Ethical behavior and honesty are the first requirements to a healthy democracy.



A Test of Will Gone Wrong

policymicThe government shutdown is not about strength of will but unwillingness to execute the will of the people.

The complex issues of the US debt rating, the Constitutional budget process, state health care exchanges, the 1995 shutdown, political favorability polls, federal employee furloughs and how Americans will be impacted by the shutdown are being discussed ad nauseam on news shows. 

The budget impasse does not derail Obamacare; today if you are uninsured, the health care marketplace is open for enrollment; Like Social Security or Medicaid; Obamacare is not subject to annual funding by Congress. It is the law of the land, it was signed by the President in March 2010. As millions stand to gain healthcare coverage, millions more still need improvement in the federal minimum wage and extended unemployment benefits. Yet Republicans are fighting too the end it seems. According to some reports half of the Republican Caucus in Congress has been in office for less than three years. The Republican-controlled House has passed a spending bill that maintains spending levels but does not provide funding to implement the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Democratic Senate insists that the program be fully funded and that Congress pass what they call a “clean” CR (continuing resolution).

Before coming to Texas I’d heard big hat no cattle which translates to she thinks she’s all that. Or my mother’s favorite “don’t get too big for your britches”. Watching the Tea Party, Senator Cruz and a few others reminds me of those age-old sayings. This impasse and shutdown reflects there is a need and a place for humility, authenticity, and respect for others…the American public is growing increasingly disappointed in public officials inability to get along well with others.

Maybe we should take a page from Senator Cruz’s reading library.

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Impromptu History

220px-Barack_Obama_Hope_posterBy Charles Cullen

A remarkable thing happened on Friday, July 19th 2013. Our President ambled into the press room, joked with reporters and then made a statement that, sadly, rose out of the heartbreaking aftermath of the theft of a young life.

I began to write an article addressing all the political ramifications of Obama’s speech; all the ways the media was getting the story wrong, how the other side would react. But, after two sentences, I stopped. I couldn’t do it. The speech was too personal, too beautiful and raw to soil with crass politics. I can, and will, do exactly that in a companion piece. But this moment in Obama’s Presidency was so unique that one has to acknowledge its strangeness, its humanness before beginning to theorize about what it will mean for anyone. To play politics now would be like watching the Moon landing and wondering if the first person to speak would be a Republican or a Democrat.

This may seem like hero worship, but I can assure you it is not. Only twice in my life have I felt stunned in this way while listening to a politician. The first was a rebroadcast of John Kerry’s demand that the Senate answer an impossible question: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” The second was when President Obama described watching his daughters with their friends and, smiling, reminded us “They’re better than we are.”

This speech will be remembered as historic for many reasons—one being that no President has ever done anything like it—but what struck me was the President’s manner; the unflinching familiarity of the most powerful person in the world. He seemed to speak both as the President of the United States and as a dinner guest.

There were apparently no teleprompters or notes. Just the President asking us to make sure we are “wringing as much bias out” of ourselves as we can, while describing his own encounters with racial fear. The entire thing reminded me of a far less eloquent conversation with a College classmate, who in 2000 assured me that racism in the U.S. had been cured. To settle the issue we made a bet. We would ask the next 10 people who walked by (we were seated) whether racism in the United Sates was still a problem. If even one said that it wasn’t I would concede the point. Happily, I won. The victory is more impressive when you consider that I did not attend what one might call a liberal college.

The second moment of my life that springs vividly to mind as I think about the President’s words is the reaction to a question posed in 1998 by my High School history professor. “Would we see an African American President during our lifetimes?” he asked us. I remember maybe two people saying it was possible, though very unlikely. The rest, including me, said no. Perhaps our children would see it, but not us.

These answers were given by students at a high school so comically liberal that we are known worldwide (I promise this is true) as an Ultimate Frisbee powerhouse. It doesn’t change the fact that if you tried to tell me then that a man named Barack Hussein Obama would occupy the White House while I was still in my 20’s, I would have laughed in your face.

President Obama’s words remind us that there is still an unbelievable amount of work to do as we strive to achieve a “more perfect Union.” “Not a perfect Union,” he carefully put it “but a more perfect Union.”

It is my hope that Obama’s words will inspire us to do that work, to acknowledge our differences without hating them. The sentiment goes hand in hand with the hope that we will continue to push so that one day our daily lives reflect the sacred idea that “all men [and women] are created equal.”

I don’t think we’ll achieve that lofty goal during my lifetime, but fighting for a noble cause is always worth it. And, hey, I’ve been wrong before.

2014 Georgia Elections Are Worth the Attention

Twit-FacebookThere’s been some encouraging news for Georgia Democrats this week. On Monday, Better Georgia released polling data that shows Georgia Democrats being competitive in Georgia’s 2014 open United States Senate race. In addition, Roll Call ran a piece about the groundwork that right wing conservative groups are doing to drop money in those races. On its face, the last piece of news doesn’t seem positive, but we think it is.

Earlier this year when Senator Saxby Chambliss announced he wasn’t going to run for re-election next fall it kicked off frenzy inside and outside of Georgia about the Democrats chances to gain the seat. Nationally, party insiders are salivating at Georgia’s changing demographics and the outcome of the 2012 presidential election in Georgia. Without any money directed to winning Georgia,President Obama received 46% of the vote, which was the best showing by Obama in any non-targeted state.

On Monday, Better Georgia released a poll testing Points of Light CEO Michelle Nunn’s bio against several potential Republican candidates. In almost all cases, Nunn was within the margin of error against all potential competitors and was eight points up against former gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel.

Despite the rosy poll results, it takes a lot of money to run a competitive statewide campaign for major office. Some will say this total is upwards of $10 million for a Senate race. To that end, Roll Call’s piece on Monday untangled a web of super PAC money likely coming to Georgia next year. Republicans Newt Gingrich, the Koch brothers and Las Vegas mogul Sheldon Anderson appear to be setting up shop in Georgia.

The mere notion that Anderson and the Koch brothers are coming to Georgia will scare some people. But Democrats shouldn’t worry too much. Democrats have proven in the last two election cycles that we can match the money and strategies of the best of the third party groups. There will be no more swift boating of democratic candidates without response. If the big GOP super PACs enter Georgia next year, they will likely be met by democratic super PACs.

Next year should be interesting. Georgia Democrats are making a comeback and next year is just the start. Expect new ideas, new candidates, and the best of all competitive races.