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Columbus Dispatch...
In emotional speech, Kasich talks of faith, civil rights
By Joe Vardon
Wednesday January 18, 2012 

WILBERFORCE, Ohio — Tears rolled down Gov. John Kasich’s cheeks yesterday while the choir belted out Amazing Grace. As How Great Thou Art wound to a close, he urged the mostly African-American crowd at historically black Central State University to its feet. 

Wiping away tears and humbly telling the audience, “I don’t really know what I’m going to be talking about today,” Kasich launched a nearly 30-minute speech delving into issues of faith and perseverance and how they related to him, Martin Luther King Jr., the students in the audience, and his approach to governing. 

“As we say, he’s ’bout it ’bout it when it comes to doing something,” said Zhelma Kendrick, 52, of Xenia, a sophomore at Central State. Kendrick said she typically leans Democratic “when it comes to politics,” but Kasich “just came across as being caring and concerned about change.” 

“After listening to him, I have a different perspective on some of these politics issues,” she said. 

The setting for Kasich’s speech was a Central State convocation. University President John W. Garland said Kasich was the first sitting governor to speak at such an engagement during Garland’s leadership tenure, nearly 15 years. 

Kasich has discussed his own faith before, and at times during yesterday’s speech he returned to familiar themes of job creation and policy initiatives, but perhaps never before as governor has he stitched those themes together like he did yesterday. 

Of King, the slain civil-rights leader whose birthday the nation celebrated on Monday, Kasich said: “It was the grace of the Lord empowering him to do what he did to change the face of our country.” 

“He not only touched the hearts and the souls of African-Americans, he touched the soul of white folks who lived in the suburbs and said, ‘This is not the America that I love,’ ” said Kasich, who grew up in a small, blue-collar town near Pittsburgh. 

Kasich said his message to the student body was, “deep in your soul, you can figure out your purpose,” and he encouraged the students to pursue that purpose vigorously. 

“As an African-American, you still have obstacles that are unique, in my opinion, to your race,” Kasich said. “Why not admit there are some people in our society that you have to go the extra mile for? I don’t like that, I don’t look at it that way, but it happens in our society. But you know what, when you are of excellence, when you produce, when you know what you’re doing — oh, they can deny you a few times, but they can’t deny you forever.” 

Jackie Ruffner, 19, a freshman from Cleveland, was impressed: “He just has so much energy,” she said of Kasich. 

Michael Colbert, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and one of two African-Americans in Kasich’s cabinet, introduced the governor. Colbert is a Central State graduate. 

Read this and other articles at the Columbus Dispatch

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