Saturday, February 25, 2012

Red, White, Blues, and Progress

On February 21, 2012, the White House, along with PBS, hosted a blues concert in the East Room as part of their ongoing “In Performance at the White House” concert series—a series that actually began in 1978 during the Carter presidency. “Red, White and Blues” included performances from some of the biggest blues musicians around.

The concert itself was amazing, especially the rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago” performed by all the invited performers with a little help from POTUS himself. But beyond that, what hit me was watching the legendary 86 year old B.B. King, a native of Mississippi and son of the segregated South, performing for President Obama. Throughout his early career, KIng played many a club where he was not even allowed to dine because of the color of his skin. And yet, in 2012, here he was playing his guitar for the President of the United States, also a man of color. Though I know this country has a long, long, way to go regarding race relations and basic civility, seeing B.B. King perform for the President in a building once built by slaves, I realized that we have indeed made progress.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jammin' Out in the East Room

Sorry...this White House is cool. And that's not a partisan assessment. It's a musical assessment. The concert series the First Family hosts from time to time is awesome. Broadcast live through the White House website, tonight's concert, Red, White, and Blues, was dedicated to blues, blues, and more blues. B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger and more adorned the stage in the historic East Room in a concert that will be broadcast on PBS February 27. The "Sweet Home Chicago" jam session that finished the concert was freakin' amazing. POTUS even showed off his singing pipes again.

The "In Performance at the White House" series didn't actually start with President Obama. It actually started during the Carter years in 1978 with the famous pianist Vladimir Horowitz. But the quality and quantity of musical acts has been kicked up a notch under 44. Now how do I get an invite to the next one???

Here's some "behind the scenes" clips from some past performances:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From Congress to Campus: Tim Ryan

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) visited with University of Akron students taking Political Science Insight, a political science course run by the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. As always, Ryan was candid, funny, and willing to tackle all topics thrown at him including: earmarks, civility, energy, and the environment.

The topper of the day was when his old football coach, Jim Tressel, The University of Akron's new Vice President for Strategic Engagement, popped in for the last twenty minutes to offer his thoughts on Ryan, civility, and energy. It was a great day to be on campus if you like politics and sports.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Too Early for Romney Campaign to Pop the Champagne Corks

Politico Arena Topic: Is Mitt Romney the Republican Nominee?

There is no question that Mitt Romney had a good night. He resumed his status as frontrunner.

But before the Romney campaign starts popping the champagne corks, there are some troubling clouds gathered over the Florida landscape. Though Romney swept most of the CNN exit poll categories, Newt Gingrich was the first choice among evangelicals, tea party folks, and those that identified as “very conservative.”

These people have always been Romney’s Achilles heel and that pattern continued in Florida. Turnout was also down significantly - about 10 percent or 280,000+ GOP voters - from 2008. These factors indicate that the conservative base has yet to warm to Romney. Yes he has a huge advantage in money. Yes the outside groups supporting him also have deep pockets and are clearly willing to unleash the negativity on Gingrich and other rivals. However, until Romney solves his problem with conservatives, particularly those on the Religious Right, the GOP primary will last for several more weeks - especially heading into Super Tuesday and beyond where a number of Southern states will hold primaries - the kind of political landscape Gingrich should do well in.

More importantly, should he be the nominee, unless Romney solves his conservative problem, he will struggle in the general election where you must turn out your base in order to have a chance at winning. The fact that Florida GOP voters stayed home in droves yesterday indicates a base that has yet to warm - any may never warm - to Romney or his fellow GOP candidates.

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