Governor should lead in resolving flag dispute

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 8, 2001

“Educating our children must be our first priority.”

The quote above is from Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s State of theState Address, which he delivered at the state capitolWednesday.

While we agree that education is a top priority in the state,the governor’s speech and his actions regarding the state flagleave us wondering about his priorities.

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The very first topic of the governor’s address, which heentitled ‘An Agenda for Opportunity in America’s State of Promise,’was the embattled state flag.

“Members of the Mississippi House of Representatives and thestate Senate, I implore you to hear our people. . . Listen to them.Give them an opportunity to determine the destiny of Mississippi’sstate flag. The people of Mississippi are waiting. The world iswatching. I urge you to put this issue on the ballot and let usmove forward . . .”

Certainly, the issue of the state flag needs to be resolved, andit needs to be resolved quickly. That became evident during theseries of racially-charged town meetings conducted last year by thegovernor’s Flag Commission. The statewide election set for thisyear will only make the situation worse. Neither side is going tobe happy with the outcome, and the problem will remain.

If Gov. Musgrove wants to demonstrate true leadership ability,he will stop straddling the political fence and take a real standon the flag issue. He should listen to his own words:

“We must not be distracted by the rhetoric on either side ofthis emotion-laden issue. . . let our attention return swiftly tothose matters of our common interest, of our common concern, and ofour common destiny.”

Yes, the state’s focus should be on the interests that willbenefit our state and its people; issues that the governormentioned Wednesday: quality schools, quality jobs, qualitycommunities.

It should not be on an issue that threatens to rip our stateapart along racial lines.