Who is this person and what is he doing in The Blackshear Times?

Well, that person is me and I am here at the invitation of the editors with specific instructions to inform, entertain and occasionally exasperate you on a weekly basis.   

This is a third career for me.  After several decades in the business world – first with Southern Bell and then BellSouth – I retired as corporate vice president and then joined the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games as a managing director.  Once the Games were over, I was headed for permanent retirement.

Or so I thought.

I was asked to write a guest editorial on how the City of Atlanta had handled the 1996 Olympic Games.  I wasn’t kind.  I said the city blew the opportunity to show itself as a world-class city.  The local media coverage was juvenile and unprofessional.  The business community was timid.  The city’s ill-conceived and traffic-snarling sidewalk vendors program made Atlanta look like a Third World flea-market on steroids.  I ended the column by saying Atlanta wasn’t even the Next Great City as it likes to claim.  Charlotte had taken that title along with all of Atlanta’s bank headquarters.

The column got national attention and I was asked to write another one and then another one.  I am now in my 21st  year and still swinging from the heels.

You may as well know at the outset that I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation and that I bleed red-and-black.  I am past president of the National Alumni Association, have been named the university’s outstanding graduate and have a room named in my honor at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications.  

I am a strong supporter of Georgia’s public school system.  I have two teachers in my family and one just retired.  My son is a high school science teacher in Bartow County.  My grandson teaches International Baccalaureate Physics (whatever that is) in Forsyth County, is a cross-country coach and has just earned his PhD.  My son-in-law retired this past year from the Fayette County school system after 31 years in the classroom.  He, too, has his PhD, was a coach and was Georgia’s Teacher of the Year.  

Sadly, public schoolteachers are too often at the mercy of self-serving politicians, meddling school boards, make-work central offices, apathetic parents, and more bureaucrats at all levels of government than a yard dog has fleas.  I tell my boys constantly that in spite of the frustrations and red tape and lack of appreciation for what they do, they are making a difference in young lives.  Not many of us can say that.

 One thing you won’t see in this space is a hyphen.  I’m still trying to figure out who decided we should hyphenate everybody’s nationality.   We aren’t African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, etc.  We are Americans.  Period.  No hyphen.  How does it strengthen our country to emphasize our differences?  I’ve never heard anybody overseas referred to as Mongolian-Chinese, Austrian-Germans or Welsh-English.  

I do have some favorite targets.  While they are a disparate group, they fall in the general category of humor-impaired.  They include self-important politicians of both parties; know-it-all Yankees who tell us we talk funny but wouldn’t think of moving back North where it snows ten months a year and all their buildings are rusted; wingnuts on both sides of the political spectrum and narrow-minded Bible thumpers who pull arcane verses out of the Bible to prove they are theologically-correct and that the rest of us are going to Hell.  There are, of course, others seriously lacking the humor gene who are too numerous to mention and I will get to them all in due time.

You will hear about my family occasionally.  I love my family. 

I respond to every email and letter I get – and I get a lot.  Some can be quite fussy. All are appreciated.  We may or may not agree on the issues, but we can all agree we are blessed to live in a great country that allows us to freely express our opinions without fear of reprisal.  That right is not available in many parts of the world.

It is an honor to be “here” with you in Blackshear and I look forward to the opportunity.  Buckle your seat belts and let the fun begin. 

•Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.