I started Herman Cain’s This Is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House.
I didn’t care much for the introduction because it came across to me as pompous chest-thumping on the part of Herman Cain, as Cain portrays his performance in a debate as a dramatic redefinition of campaign history and dogmatically foretells that he will take the oath of office as President in January 2013. I had to laugh when he said on page 5 that people told him that they were impressed that he didn’t pretend to “have all the information—-that [he] didn’t pretend [to] have a plan for Afghanistan.” Yeah, but it would be nice if a candidate for President at least knew something about Libya or the Right to Return, and did not regurgitate the banal line of “I’ll surround myself with the right people and make a decision.”
I loved the first chapter, though, when Herman Cain talked about his family, particularly his father. His father comes across as a likable, intelligent, hard-working guy. I particularly liked the story about how Herman’s father challenged his sons to a race. Herman says that he doesn’t remember who won, but that “It was just so much fun—-my brother and I running as fast as we could and my dad just chugging up the street” (page 19).
I’d like to make a comment on Herman’s story and how it relates to his political philosophy. On page 18, Herman Cain says: “And both of our parents taught us not to think that the government owed us something. They didn’t teach us to be mad at this country. They would always say to us: ‘If you want something, just work hard enough, focus on it, and guess what? You make it happen!” That appears to be Herman Cain’s philosophy: self-reliance and personal responsibility. And his advice on looking forward rather than backward, being a CEO of Self, and working to come up with a plan to make your dreams a reality is probably sound.
But, from Herman’s story, I read that his father Luther got help from others. The Cains lived in “the Projects” before they moved into a house. Luther Cain’s boss, R.W. Woodruff of Coca-Cola, generously gave Luther some Coca-Cola stock. And Woodruff helped other people, as when in 1961 he told the University of Gerogia to admit two African-American students, and he had the clout to do so because “Coca-Cola was probably the largest corporation in Atlanta at that time” (page 16).
This is not to suggest that Luther did not advance through hard work, for, as Herman says on page 15, “Dad worked all three jobs until he could make it off two jobs; then he worked those two jobs until he could make it off of that one job.” But, in my opinion, it should not be considered shameful to receive help from others, including the government.
In my latest reading, on page 25, Cain talks about the Civil Rights movement. He says that he was too young to be involved in the Freedom Rides and sit-ins, and that he focused on going to school and staying out of trouble, rather than going downtown and engaging in the sit-ins. Cain says, “Dad always said, ‘Stay out of trouble,’ and we did.”
Lawrence O’Donnell grills Herman Cain about this in his interview here. Herman says there that he probably would have participated in the sit-ins had he been a college student, but he was a high-school student at the time and his dad didn’t want him to be arrested. O’Donnell then says that Cain was a college student during the Civil Rights movement and sat on the sidelines.
I can’t judge Herman Cain over this (as if it’s even my place to do so). Granted, I admire those who put their lives and careers on the line in their fight for equality, but I can understand why there were African-Americans who chose not to do so and focused on going about their everyday business to support themselves and their families.