Much was said about New York Congressman Charlie Rangel’s assertion that Mississippi gets way too much from the federal treasury, and his flip question, “But who wants to live in Mississippi?” Well, as a Senator charged with getting federal support for my state, I appreciate the compliment. But as Thanksgiving approaches, his remark actually reminds me how thankful I am to live here.
Charlie and I go back a long way. We served in the House of Representatives together, and even though we’re from opposite sides of the political fence, we’ve actually worked side by side on several pieces of legislation. We usually disagree on most issues, but I can tell you from personal experience, he’s a good man. He loves our country and is a decorated Korean War veteran.
I’ve accepted Charlie’s apology. We all say things wrong sometimes and have to apologize. I’ve done it, too. But most Mississippians were taught that we’re called upon by God to forgive one another as He forgives us. Instead of being bitter this holiday season, let’s use the Rangel flap to remind ourselves of the many things we should be thankful for as Mississippians.
Radio legend Paul Harvey has noted that some belittle Mississippi for the same reasons they may snap at other individuals – to make up for their own shortcomings. Being a friendly, forgiving community, Mississippians tend to overlook this when we’re targeted, but we have every reason to stand up for our state and openly be thankful for it.
As Harvey pointed out, the International Ballet Competition, which came here earlier this year, rotates among only four artistic centers – Varna, Bulgaria; Helsinki, Finland; Moscow, Russia and Jackson, Mississippi.
Harvey stated what most Mississippians know: No state can match Mississippi’s reputation for arts and letters. William Faulkner, John Grisham, Willie Morris, Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams are just a few. Blues was born in the Delta, home of B.B. King. Elvis, the “King of Rock and Roll,” was a Tupelo son. The “Father of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers, came from Meridian. All three of these unique American musical genres trace their origins directly to Mississippi and Mississippians.
Now allow me to add to Paul Harvey’s list. In terms of quality of life, Mississippi has some of the nation’s most livable cities. Growing towns like Oxford, Tupelo, Ocean Springs, Madison. Southaven and Hernando are destinations for more and more people seeking good places to live and work.
As we enter the fall season, we’re reminded of Mississippi’s natural bounty. We have some of the best forests, lakes and streams around for hunting, fishing, camping, bird-watching and just about anything you want to do outdoors. Go down the Natchez Trace, and you’ll see leaves bright enough to rival Vermont’s famed fall. You may be surprised to know that the Pascagoula River and its tributaries make up the largest unobstructed free-flowing river system in the continental United States.
Mississippians have contributed and pioneered plenty, too. The world’s first heart and lung transplants took place here. A Mississippi hospital pioneered the use of metal pins to repair broken bones. Many wood products now common around the globe were developed here. Mississippi College was the first co-educational institution to grant a degree to a woman, way back in 1831.
Our state is quite industrious as well. Mississippians build most of America’s naval ships at the nation’s second largest shipyard, Northrop Grumman Ingalls. We’ve got the nation’s largest refinery. We’re home to one of the world’s largest automobile factories. The company that makes the best quality, most desired appliances in the world, Viking Range, is a Mississippi company. And the world’s top sound equipment company, Peavey Electronics, is headquartered here. Today, few states can boast of a growing aerospace industry, but Mississippi can. Overall, Mississippi is now seen as one of the top states for business expansion.
When it comes to federal support, Mississippians aren’t asking for anything we don’t deserve. Mississippi was “Ground Zero” for Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Yet, barely a year later, businesses are growing, people are rebuilding, unemployment has decreased and though there are many challenges ahead and problems to be solved, Mississippians are leading and setting the pace.
I’ve been to many countries and all but one of our 50 states. I’ll take Mississippi anytime, and I’m truly thankful to live here. Perhaps Congressman Rangel’s remarks had a divine purpose: to remind us all this Thanksgiving just how truly thankful we should be to live in Mississippi.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email