Ted Williams’ Redemption Metaphor: People, Not Government, Make America Work


Is there anyone among us who, by now, hasn’t seen or heard of the miraculous turn of events for radio voice-over artists Ted Williams? Williams, who was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY, had worked in Radio as a disc-jockey and voice-over artist until (by his own admission) cocaine, crack, and alcohol took over and cost him his career and home leading to 10 years of homelessness and his eventual redemption recently.

For those who have somehow not seen or heard  his story, the below video will bring you up to date…

But there’s a second, even more significant story that is, perhaps being overshadowed by Williams’ own story. And while it is directly related, it could well-define the future of this country.

Ted Williams

As Williams himself has pointed out, there have been a number of people who have been instrumental in making his chance at redemption possible.

  • Doral Chenoweth III, of the Columbus Dispatch who made the video of Williams pan-handling on the street corner that went viral on Youtube
  • the various radio and TV shows (including “Today”) that have featured him
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team who has offered Williams an announcer’s job
  • Kraft Foods who has selected Williams as the voice of their new promotion

Think quickly: What do ALL of these groups, people and companies have in common? Give up? The two principal things that come to mind for me are:

  • All of these people believe in helping a person who is struggling for redemption.  True, some may have also been motivated by ratings for their shows perhaps, but the bottom line is the extended hand was there when they recognized the need.
  • Not one of them is part of – or connected to – the U.S. government or any government-run program or entitlement.

It’s that last piece that is, perhaps, the most significant point we need to acknowledge: Americans are the most charitable people in the world. We have been for as long as I can remember. While many of us succumb to greed in our daily lives, there are those of us, especially at the “Middle Class” level that understand more than any other, the words attributed to John Bradford: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

For generations, whenever a tragedy occurred to one member of a community,  friends, church-members and communities stepped forward without hesitation, grateful to have the chance to help a neighbor.

Organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army bring a more formal approach to the spirit of giving on a larger scale whenever needed, but they do so with the support of individuals and corporations rather than a government run pr0gram using tax dollars.  Meanwhile, local communities, social and church groups continue to provide the kind of help and assistance that have made the difference between life and death in many cases, including Williams.’

So while I hate to politicize Williams’ story,  it needs to be noted that it wasn’t a government run program that saved Williams. It was a middle-class effort by community groups, homeless shelters and, ultimately, an employee of a local newspaper who believed in a second chance for the recovering drug user and alcoholic with the voice.  It’s the everyday American (often a middle-class individual him or herself) that digs deepest and most often to help their fellow man.  It’s what we’ve done for generations. We still do.  And we don’t need government programs to do it.  Communities know how to help their own and, if left alone by the government, will have the money necessary to support their own programs.

Yet with our government’s “bigger government” mentality and policies threatening to eliminate the middle class altogether,  each of us must ask the question:  Who will be there to lend that hand when the middle class becomes the ragged, desperate people standing on the side of the road?

With the new Republican-led House of Representatives now in session, they must acknowledge that it’s “We, the people” (NOT the government) who are best qualified to respond to the needs of our communities, not endless entitlement programs. If they are unable to make that stand now, God help us and the generations to follow.

I wish  Ted Williams the best of luck, but with this caveat: Use your redemption wisely. I would like to extend the same message to the new Conservative members of Congress.

Gerry Ashley

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