Archive for Saturday, March 3, 2001

Mr. Bill’ can seek redemptionin Harlem

March 3, 2001


Now that Mr. Bill has decided to let Mary Jo White's feds look at the list of donors to his $200 million presidential library, one might assume he either has nothing to hide or has decided it would be best to get it all over with, take a few more lumps for the greasiest of his pardons, then kick back and plan an opulent historical future.

This makes plenty of sense. The longer the pardon scandal drags out, the harder it will be for Mrs. Bill to flap her wings on her virgin flight in the Senate, free of hard questions and recriminations.

But there will have to be a reckoning for the pardoning of the four Hasidim from New Square in Rockland County, N.Y., convicted of ripping off $40 million. Mrs. Bill won 1,400 votes and her opponent only 12 there. But given the landslide victory that put her in the Senate, I'm sure she thinks a lot about that one. Still, she might want that community and similar ones throughout the state in her pocket when it comes time to run again.

Mr. Bill could take a lead from some rap moguls who have figured out something very important: Good deeds, or money connected to those who do good deeds, can scrape plenty of tar off of one's reputation.

One of the reasons the leaders of churches and civil rights causes have remained largely silent on controversial rap content, so the word goes, is that the performers are starting to learn the power of philanthropy. This is how Mr. Bill could make a very strong comeback over the next decade or so.

He could take on the status of a saint if he were to put his influence into raising funds for things going on in Harlem, the city and the nation that are important. All that charisma and eloquence could pull him up out of the dumps. He'd have a second wind in the eyes of the nation.

After all, who could argue if Mr. Bill were to be instrumental in raising $10 million or so for the always strapped Dance Theatre of Harlem, or if he were to be essential in landing an endowment of fat proportions for the Studio Museum of Harlem, or if he used his influence to bring more investment to Harlem and, perhaps, even see if he could do something about the redlining of that community?

What would happen if he were to take a tour of the most successful schools in Harlem and bring them national attention? In short, what if he did much, much more than open an office on 125th Street?

Those among us who are never less than cynical would be missing the point altogether, as usual.

What matters in the overall attempt to better the quality of our civilization is getting good things done, finding the models necessary for broad overall strategies and moving from the world of talk into the world of action.

So, if Mr. Bill strongly supported the things in and out of Harlem that are inarguably good, he would probably remove most of the tar and feathers from his reputation.

Then, once more, he would have it made in the shade.

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