The ease with which Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page spoke last night in Toledo about political and national issues and answered questions on a wide variety of subjects never gave any indication that he grew up a stutterer.
Addressing a group of about 100 public officials and community leaders at a function sponsored by the Middle Passages Political Action Committee at the Toledo Club, Mr. Page shared the personal glimpse while tackling the subjects of race relations, the Iraq war, and President Bush.
Responding to a question after his speech, Mr. Page joked how friends and family patiently waited for him to get his thoughts out as a youth. He credited early intervention in public school for overcoming his stuttering problem.
"My dad said I just had too many thoughts for my mouth to handle," said Mr. Page, whose syndicated column appears in over 200 newspapers around the country, including The Blade. "I have to thank the people in Middletown [Ohio], where I grew up, for having patience with me."
The private peek offered by Mr. Page was part of a range of topics he discussed. He said the Iraq war will be one of the pivotal issues during the upcoming presidential campaign. He said what will occur over the next few months remains a mystery.
"I don't know what's going to happen after June 30, but I don't feel bad because the President doesn't either," Mr. Page said. "What we do know is that our troops are going to stay. I heard there was a group on a plane ready to come home and they had to be told to get off the plane and stay another two months."
Mr. Page said Mr. Bush's two African-American cabinet members, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, have been important figures for African-Americans. He said he didn't buy the notion that President Bush used the two because of their race as much as they seized the opportunity to serve with him.
Mr. Page said the paradigm of race relations has changed in the country to more of a cultural divide for all races. He said in the 1960s, 58 percent of blacks were living in poverty. He said by 1985, only one-third of blacks continued to live in poverty.
"That's something that's not talked about much," Mr. Page said. "I don't know of any other group that has made that much progress in that short of period. People tend to think in two different categories. There are the people who think we haven't made any progress, and those who think we've made all the progress we need to make.
"The truth is somewhere in between. We have made great progress, but you cannot deny that there's more progress that needs to made."
Mr. Page said the biggest gaps among the races are appearing culturally between well-to-do African-Americans and poor blacks. He said similar gaps have developed among whites, Hispanics, and other racial and ethnic groups.
Mr. Page, who appears on several national television talk shows, said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had even identified economic justice as his next great cause before he was assassinated in 1968.
He said while America has started to talk more candidly about race, it hasn't done the same with class.
He said former President Bill Clinton won two terms by pulling together a coalition of Southern whites, African-Americans, and Reagan Democrats, which he called the "Bubbas, Brothers, and Bunkers."
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