Senate Sketches #883

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Senator Hank Sanders


She said, “How could you reveal so much about your deepest fears, your greatest needs and your daily struggles?”

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It is a question I have faced many times about something in Sketches or a speech.

Many times the question is followed by a statement such as:

“I could never share my feelings and experiences that way.”

Now I am hearing similar statements for another reason.

I do not feel that I share things that should not be shared.

In fact, I feel I share things that should and must be shared.

When I share my fears, my needs, my hopes and my struggles, I lift weights off my spirit. I hope that I help others lift weights off their spirits.

I discovered years ago that admitting things about myself that might be negative was powerful in and of itself.

I learned to admit even the worst to myself and then to admit it to others.

Then I accepted it as a reality.

The moment I admitted and accepted something, it lost its power over me.

Moreover, if I handled it right, I transformed that thing so that it lifted me and others. It was a wonderful and powerful discovery.

In the Senate, I try to admit to myself and to others when I have fallen short.

When I speak, especially to young people, I try to admit in concrete terms the many ways I have fallen short.

As I write Sketches, I try to do the same.

Sometimes such admissions elicit responses which say,” How are you able to share that way?”

Sometimes it is said with a tinge of admiration.

Most often there is just incredulity, as in “I can’t really believe you do this!”

A new development has caused such responses to arise more frequently than ever.

I have written a novel entitled “Death of a Fat Man.”

I shared the first and second drafts with friends in various walks of life.

One widespread response was, “How do you share things that are so personal?”

Some said, in various words, “You are so courageous.”

One just said, “You are a brave man, Hank Sanders.”

I did my best to assure them that this was a novel and should be taken as such.

No matter how I tried, these readers perceived me in every personal and painful detail.

They also perceived others connected to me in real life.

This development has complicated perceptions of and reactions to Sketches. Some are reminded of certain of the nearly 900 weekly Sketches I have written over the last 17 years.

To be exact, they are not reminded of specific incidents, but rather the sharing of matters that are personal and or painful in my struggle to serve.

I try to make Sketches personal.

I try to share struggles inherent in serving.

I also try to write in story form because we draw far more lessons from stories. I try not to write about personal matters except as they impact my struggle to serve.

Even then, I sometimes withhold certain Sketches.

For example, I have written but not published at least two Sketches exploring the impact of obesity on my public service.

(A life and death struggle growing out of obesity is one of the themes of the novel).

I did not publish those Sketches because it just did not feel right.

I accept the fact that Sketches sometimes causes readers to wonder how I share matters that are so personal and painful. My further response is as follows: “I could write a column only about my perceived successes.

However, it would be little more than bragging. More importantly, it would not be me.

Finally, you probably wouldn’t read it as often.”

When I started writing Sketches in early 1987, I was writing just to help my constituents understand a complex and complicated political process.

Over the years, I realized that such writings helped me better understand the varied issues we face on a daily basis as well as the political process.

As a result, Sketches now reaches way beyond my constituents.

Finally, I try to share that which is important in the struggle to be a public servant.

I recognize such a position sometimes leads me into areas others might hesitate to tread.

I just hope and pray you are half as informed and lifted by Sketches as I am.

I also hope and pray that you only say,

“How do you share matters so personal?” rather than, “Why do you share matters so personal?”

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday – I worked on the Education Budget, Sketches and other matters into the night.

Sunday – I did Radio Sunday School and Radio Education.

I presented a resolution for the 100th Anniversary of Mt. Moriah #2 in Mosses, Lowndes County and spoke at the 14th Anniversary of Rev. Darryl Moore at Second Baptist Church in Selma.

I worked on Budgets, Sketches and other matters into the night.

Monday – I spoke to students at the Selma Middle CHAT Academy for Career Week and handled numerous matters including Finance and Taxation Education Committee issues.

Tuesday – I finished Sketches and traveled to Montgomery for the following: a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting; an Alabama Black Legislative Caucus meeting; and a meeting with Bill Canary of the Business Council of Alabama, Russell Davis of BATC (Business Association Tax Council), Tom Dart of the Automobile Dealers Association of Alabama, Senate President Lowell Barron and Senate Rules Chair Senator Jim Preuitt.

I met with Sharon Calhoun, Ginger Avery Buckner and Amy Herring about a special effort.

I participated in a Senate Rules Committee meeting and a session of the Senate where we continued with a filibuster on the Teacher Tenure Bill.

I talked with a group of students from Marengo County and met with various persons about the budget.

I shared a moment with Senator Phil Poole, Sharon Wheeler and Tuscaloosa attorney Ginger Buck.

I attended a dinner with a number of senators before returning to Selma.

I participated in a night conference call with Alabama New South Coalition leaders.

Wednesday – I was in Montgomery for a small meeting concerning a proposed operation of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses.

It was the first of three such meetings this day.

I attended a Joint meeting of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses where I made remarks.

I attended a pre-marriage dinner for Senator Phil Poole sponsored by Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley at her home.

I returned to Selma.

Thursday – I attended a 7:30 a.m. Chamber of Commerce Breakfast where Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley spoke beautifully.

I then dashed to Montgomery for a 9:15 a.m. meeting of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee. I attended a Senate Rules Committee meeting. I handled the Education Budget in the Senate session where we concurred with the changes passed in the House.

I had a number of budget related and other meetings before returning to Selma.

Friday – I had an 8:00 a.m. meeting.

I later met with Joann Bland and Pat Paige about the National Voting Rights Museum.

I met with Linda Lowery about the American Cancer Society.

I worked with Toni Smalls on Alabama New South Coalition concerns.

I had lunch with Rita Lett and Edna Bryant to discuss a special project.

I began writing Sketches and handled many other matters.

EPILOGUE – I rarely read what is written about me whether good or bad. I do this because it affects me too much and, if I am not careful, it will derail me from the tracks leading to my vision. That’s the power of the written word.

That’s why I try so hard to be careful with my words in Sketches and elsewhere.