Progress is on the horizon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2003

&uot;If the horse is dead, dismount.&uot; This is just one of the clever sayings Dr. John Ed Mathison, minister of the largest Methodist church in America, shared with us at a Sunday morning prayer breakfast honoring incoming Gov. Bob Riley.

Dr. Mathison was expressing the feelings of many of us that Alabama for too long has &uot;ridden&uot; the same methods and approaches to solving our multitude of problems. We need to &uot;dismount&uot; from this ole, dead way of doing things and make some changes to improve the quality of life in this fine state.

Gov. Riley set the tone for these changes in his inaugural address on Monday, which was entitled &uot;The Spirit of Alabama.&uot; It was a pleasure to be in the audience and hear him call for meaningful reforms in our tax laws, our Constitution, our prisons, our bid laws, the Medicaid system and many other areas that need to be addressed.

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Most important to me was his emphasis on honesty and integrity in government. We seem to have an excess in Alabama of wrongdoing and political favoritism at the highest levels of office. I sense a change coming and a welcome one it is.

Gov. Riley opened his inaugural address with one of my favorite stories. It was that of Benjamin Franklin and his remarks before the Continental Congress when our nation was in its infancy. Ben Franklin stated that if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God's notice then surely a nation cannot rise to greatness without His aid.

I sense that Bob and Patsy Riley will put God back in government and the decisions that they make in our behalf. Like them, I feel that our destiny, both as individuals and as a state and nation, rests in the sovereignty of God's hands.

Speaking of Mrs. Riley, I met her for the first time this week at the governor's prayer breakfast. She makes a wonderful impression and my take is that she will be an outstanding First Lady.

The inauguration was a special event, as it always is. I believe this is the 10th one I have attended in person. My first one was in 1958. I was a youngster &uot;in the crowd&uot; as a young John Patterson took the oath of office. My parents had actively supported Jimmy Faulkner of Bay Minette for the governorship but he lost in a close race between Patterson, George Wallace and himself. Four years later I was in attendance as an employee of the House of Representatives and watched the famous George Wallace inaugural speech n &uot;segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.&uot;

Twelve years after that (1974) I was in attendance as a newly elected member of the State Senate. I watched a calmer, more subdued George Wallace deliver a brief but powerful message on inauguration day. All things considered, I think Gov. Riley's address will be considered among the best. His attitude about change and reaching his goals are important parts of why I make that conclusion.

There are many challenges ahead of us but with great challenge comes great opportunity. Bob Riley has the opportunity to be the most progressive governor in my lifetime. I believe he has the ability and foresight to achieve that goal.

There were a host of friends seated all around me at the inauguration, including Prattville Mayor Jim Byard, Crenshaw County Probate Judge Jim Perdue, Bill Newton, brother of State Representative Charles Newton of Greenville, State Representative Alan Boothe of Troy, John and Barbara Harrison of Luverne, Dr. Rod Herring of Opelika, and Mayor Bobby Bright of Montgomery. I have the highest regards for all these individuals.

I will have more to say about this later but I don't want to close this column without congratulating John Harrison on his appointment to the Riley cabinet.

Until next time, remember &uot;I'll go with you or I'll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government.