August 1, 2003


The Price of Leadership is High

Hispanics across America are expressing outrage and disbelief over the actions of the Texas governor who inexplicably decided not to fund the American G.I. Forum to the tune of $300,000 this year.

Annually, since 1970, the American G.I. Forum in Texas has received discretionary funds from the governor’s office. This year, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), without warning or explanation, informed the Forum that they would not be receiving the monies they had expected. The Forum had earmarked those monies to continue funding their National Veterans Outreach Program. This action, naturally, caught the Forum off guard and now have to face the possibility of closing three offices across the state and have angered many within the Hispanic community.

While no explanation was forthcoming, to most political observers it is apparent that this action is in response to the Forum’s staunch opposition to the redistricting efforts in Texas, redistricting efforts that have drawn national attention. The Republicans are in power in Texas and are seizing this opportunity to redraw the political lines in order to strengthen their political hand. This movida is not unusual and is a part of political reality. The Forum however, sees this redistricting as a blow in the districts where Hispanics have made great strides in recent years and as such have opposed this redistricting effort.

The G.I Forum predicament is a classic case of how the power structure controls a community, not only in Texas but also across the country and in San Diego and should serve as a wake up call to all Hispanics.

Many Hispanic organizations are dependent on state and federal monies for their sole survival and function as “leadership” groups. These monies are not guaranteed and each year these social service agencies must apply to receive funding. The reality of this process is that these social service agencies need to tow the line. This means that these service agencies can act like leaders as long as they are leading in accordance with, and are not a threat to the power structure.

The G.I. Forum brings into focus this predicament that most of the Hispanic “leadership” organizations face. The redistricting issue in Texas is crucial to the Republicans and is about power and control. For the Republicans it is about who is going to control the state of Texas during this decade and beyond! By vigorously opposing this redistricting effort the Forum crossed over that line that they needed to tow and are now paying the price. The governor’s logic in this case is that he is not going to fund, thus strengthen, an organization that is fighting him on this very crucial issue to the Republican Party.

For the Hispanic community this should sound the wake up call that if we intend to attain political power we need to cut the cord from the power structure and start to develop our own support mechanisms. The Hispanic community and its organizations need to become self sufficient, independent, and once these goals are achieved, then and only then, will we/they be able to truly act as leaders and make decisions that are in the best interest of the Hispanic community without fear of retaliation. As long as we are dependent on the power structure for funds these organizations, “leaders”, will be beholden to those giving the monies — this is a simple fact of life.

Instead of being angry with the Texas governor we should instead thank him for clearly outlining the road that the Hispanic community needs to take. Political power is never given, power must be taken and if the Hispanic community hopes to achieve political power they need to act on this fact.

True leadership comes at a very high price, just look at the price leaders such as Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Kennedys paid. The question now, for the G.I. Forum and other Hispanic organizations that hold themselves up as leaders, is, are they willing to pay the price to provide true leadership?

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