I was born in Louisiana and growing up I couldn’t have been prouder. We went to the local theater, attended a local church and after lunch on Sunday drove around the streets of our town in a car loaded with friends.
During hunting season we would take the rifle out of the back window of our trucks and went hunting. In summer we would swim in the local bayous, and those of us who were Boy Scouts would be camping and canoeing.
If you wanted to play baseball you get on a team and play all summer. I was probably the worst player to ever don a uniform. I still played and was accepted by friend and foe as a player; tolerance was present. Louisiana, especially rural North Louisiana, was magical, and I thought the rest of the world was just like it.
We all have to grow up and for many we relocate outside the boundaries of our state. Whether it is military service, a job, education or for whatever reason, people leave their home state. This is where a naïve young man’s dilemma began. As I traveled around the world I not only was proud of my home state but I espoused how great it was.
Due to the political history of the state I was quickly rebuked by some. There were times that love of the state could have degraded to a physical altercation. Then while in Seabee school several of us went to the base theater to see the blockbuster movie “Patton”. In the opening scene Patton gave a speech and ended it by saying, “when your grandchild crawls up into your lap and says, what did you do during the great war; you won’t have to say ‘Well, I shoveled sh__ in Louisiana”. I ended up with a new nickname in my unit, not to mention a deflated ego.
I discovered as I traveled that much of what I was proud of about North Louisiana – our superstar athletes like Terry Bradshaw and Karl Malone, and our world class engineering school at Louisiana Tech – were largely unknown to the outside world. The name Huey Long and the corruption associated with his time as governor, on the other hand, seemed to be all anyone recalled about our state.
Long was indeed corrupt, but the idea that one currupt politician means the entire state is forever corrupt is not fair or even logical. Furthermore, corruption is a part of the politics of every state. Sadly, it comes with the territory.
In November 1991, decades after the Huey Long era had ended, TIME magazine published a lengthy story, “Is Louisiana Amercia’s Banana Republic?”. The reputation for political corruption, entirely unjustified, had stuck.
For my part, I continued to sing the praises of Louisiana over the years and was so proud when I joined a local Louisiana company that would become a leader in the telecommunication industry.
Years before I went to work for the company, I would proudly tell my friends that the success of the enterprise came from good men and women that walked out of the hills of rural north Louisiana, got some education, rolled up their sleeves and went to work with a great work ethic and moral fiber.
Then a catastrophe propelled one man from Louisiana into the spotlight. Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot while practicing for a friendly congressional baseball game. He was paralyzed. Months later he would enter congress on crutches for the first time since being shot. The numerous standing ovations from both sides of the house echoed a theme of unity that so desperately is needed today. Through his later leadership plus respect for his accomplishments, Steve Scalise has risen to a high leadership position in the Republican party and is the House majority leader making him the second highest position in the United States Congress. As notable as this is, Louisiana is not finished.
Last week a young, charismatic, highly religious leader of immense integrity was elected to be the 119th Speaker of the House. The new speaker of the house is the honorable Mike Johnson of Shreveport. When his name was first mentioned it was said that he was unelectable. The reason being that it was not realistic that the two highest positioned members of the United States House of Representatives would come from the same state. It happened and it is with so much pride that we in Louisiana can hold our heads high as we see so much national leadership coming from our noble state. Louisiana has arrived.
God Bless America, Pray for the Ukraine and God save Israel.