|“Man, there’s not enough hurdles on the planet to stop this guy.”
The University of Massachusetts-Boston honored a black hero last week with an honorary doctor of science degree. Edwin Moses may not be well-known to the younger generation of African Americans, but they should know his inspiring story.
Moses was a promising track star from Dayton, Ohio, who decided to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta on an academic scholarship. His decision to focus on academics created a problem: Morehouse had no track or coach.
Not to be deterred from developing his athletic abilities, Moses developed a training regimen and used the facilities at local schools in Atlanta. He trained himself, and by his junior year he was a world-class hurdler.
Moses won the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal with a world-record time of 47.63 seconds. In the more than nine years that followed, Moses won 122 consecutive races, every one he entered, earning a second gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.
Since he hung up his spikes, Moses has been an avid advocate of drug-free athletics and is chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, which promotes sporting activities around the world as an agency of social change.
J. Keith Motley, chancellor of UMass-Boston, had it right when he said, “Edwin Moses is more than an Olympic athlete — he is a visionary who leverages his abilities, education and understanding to inspire others.”
Dr. Moses is a black hero because he epitomizes for others how much can be achieved through self-effort and determination. With a plan and hard work, he became an Olympic champion.
No decisions by the president are more significant than his appointment of justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The decisions of this group of nine justices determine whether Congress and the president are exceeding the authority granted to them by the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of any interpretation of constitutional powers.
The nation can survive incompetent or corrupt members of Congress, or even a president who lacks vision; there is a constitutional mechanism to remove them from office after a term of years. However, an appointment to the Supreme Court lasts a lifetime. A bad choice can damage the wheels of justice for decades.
The judicial philosophy of each member of the court can have a great influence on the outcome of important cases. For this reason, there will be heated debate over the qualifications of nominee Sonia Sotomayor to influence the Senate’s vote on her candidacy. The advice and consent of the Senate is needed to confirm a Supreme Court justice appointed by the president.
The banter has already begun. Some have questioned Sotomayor’s judicial temperament. Conservatives have accused her of being racist because in 2001 she said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Others find her too liberal. This persiflage will undoubtedly continue.
The fundamental question is whether Sotomayor is intellectually qualified. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and was editor of the Yale Law Review. As a judge, among other women under consideration for the Supreme Court, her opinions were cited more by other courts and in law review articles. This is an indication of the level of respect her peers have for her. She also has 17 years of experience on the federal bench.
Those who believe in racial and ethnic diversity and the motto “E pluribus unum” should delight in the appointment of the first Hispanic justice to the nation’s highest court.