Don’t Kill the Messengers. Listen to the Message of Professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley

Clarence B. Jones – Scholar in Residence,  Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University – Posted: 8/15/11 01:00 PM ET

Dr. Cornel West, author, professor of Princeton University, and TV and radio talk host Tavis Smiley have generated a lot of controversy in the media arising from their criticism of President Obama’s leadership, or lack thereof. They are currently on nationwide “poverty tour” that will take them to 16 poor communities across the nation. They started off in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

According to Dr. West, “it is not an anti-Obama tour.” They seek to draw attention to and highlight what they believe is lack of effort by both the president and Congress to address the needs of the Americans hardest hit by the recession.

Some persons in the media and defenders of the White House criticized them not only for the content of their message, but their style and language. Some have even imputed ego motives to their criticism of the president, alleging that it all is because they have been “snubbed” and not invited to the White House by the president.

Before proceeding further, a note of personal disclosure. I know both Professor West and Tavis Smiley. I considered them to be friends. I have been a guest on Tavis Smiley’s TV interview show. They both know me, and my history of not hesitating to speak my mind, even if it means criticizing of some of my friends. In their case, my criticism is limited to some of the acerbic word references Dr. West has directed toward President Obama. Otherwise, my criticism of the both of them can be stated simply by asking: “Why did you wait so long to embark upon your tour?

In a prior blog in June, captioned “Canaries In the Coal Mine of Obama’s Reelection“, I wrote “Canaries have been used to warn miners digging for coal underground of the danger of toxic gases. As long as the bird kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary signaled need for an immediate evacuation.”