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Affirmative Opportunity


Robert Woodson provides the forward-thinking leadership necessary for a better future. (

While Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide many social, political and logistical challenges, they also provide an opportunity for Americans to reconstruct the face of race relations and score a real victory in the failed "war on poverty." 

Lack of opportunity and training has been the major complaint I have heard from the minority community for the past 25 years. Despite the rhetoric of a few self-appointed, media-propelled minority representatives, most Latinos and African-Americans are not looking for a handout. They don't want to live as slaves to a welfare state. They simply want the education and opportunity to work hard and reap the rewards.

Now is the time for all of us to "love our neighbors" in the proper way -- not simply to put our hands out to those in need, but to truly join hands. 

The policies and practices behind the Gulf Coast reconstruction can make us or break us. We will either learn to cooperate at a higher level or we will waste record amounts of money. 

While we clean up the streets of New Orleans, we must also clean up the dysfunctional political system and rotten ideology that enabled the welfare state of much of Louisiana. The decades-old problems revealed by the storms can help launch an action plan for Affirmative Opportunity. 

Here are the tenets of an effective plan:
  • Enablement always proves move effective than entitlement.
  • Government must use wisdom, discretion and restraint in providing public funds. Strong financial oversight and accountability must be in place to protect honest workers and prevent abuse.
  • The benefits of private home ownership far outweigh those of public housing; therefore, reconstruction efforts must make private home ownership a priority.
  • Cooperation between strong businesses and contractors must be encouraged, providing that they train small business partners and share profits fairly.
  • Private-sector participants should receive tax breaks and other incentives based on actual productivity.
  • As with the Bush-Clinton fund, the private sector must continue to partner with the faith community in relief efforts and effective mentoring programs.
Governments on every level must bring in new advisors from the minority community and inspire new, bold and effective spokespersons who are willing to take the heat from their own communities while promoting new programs and possibilities. Of course, there must be a willingness to hear from the present representatives, but they have failed to provide the effective solutions and the inspiration necessary for legitimate change. Past minority voices may help identify problems, but new leadership will be necessary to provide answers.

The times demand new and better approaches. Taxing the rich to subsidize the poor only fosters resentment and stagnation. Penalizing the wage payer or gouging the wealthy will never help the wage earner or the poor. Common ground must be found and built upon in the spirit of mutual benefit. If we will abandon the failed ideas of the past and implement a plan that has proven to work, we can provide an opportunity that will affirm everyone who works hard to earn an honest living.

The armies of compassion must be motivated to action in both the community of faith and the private sector. Party lines must be crossed, new business relationships must be built, and faith-based organizations must be allowed to fulfill their role. This is the time for us to truly be "a city set on a hill" and now become a "million points of light."


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 575

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at

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