William Bernbach, a titan of Madison Avenue who died in 1982, said, "If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic." The spinmeisters for Ram trucks must have taken Mr. Bernbach's admonition to heart. With a Super Bowl commercial on Sunday that used as its soundtrack a sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years earlier to the day, they got the notice they wanted. Much of the reaction, though, amounted to a richly deserved thumbs-down.
The sermon was Dr. King's "Drum Major Instinct" speech, given in Atlanta in 1968 two months before his assassination. Everybody, he said, had this instinct — "a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first." But it had to be harnessed, he said as he went on to equate greatness with service to others. Ostensibly, the Ram commercial was an appeal for people to serve. But who's kidding whom? The goal was to sell trucks, with Dr. King's voice as pitchman.
The sheer crassness led to instant condemnation on social media, including speculation about what might be next — maybe trotting out James Baldwin to hawk "The Firestone Next Time"? Critics were hardly mollified by word that Ram had the blessing of Intellectual Properties Management, the licenser of Dr. King's estate. The estate has not always been his staunchest guardian against posthumous commercialization.
In the sermon's finale, Dr. King said that he thought about his own death and funeral. It led to these ringing words: "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."
He did not ask to be a huckster for a line of trucks.
— The New York Times
Here is what is happening in Puerto Rico more than four months after Hurricane Maria slammed through the island: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still providing food and water, after mistakenly prompting fears it would stop. Tarps cover roofs across the island. Approximately a third of the population is still without power.
No power usually means no hot meals and no refrigeration. It means no air conditioning in tropical heat that is already breaching the 80s.
The island's disaster was more far-reaching than some of the worst ever seen on the mainland. More than three times as many generators were provided by FEMA to Puerto Rico after Maria as compared with Hurricane Katrina. For the 3.4 million people who call Puerto Rico home, it has been an unconscionably slow recovery. The federal government must extend the true helping hand our fellow Americans desperately need.
Meantime, the federal response has been scandalously inadequate. It started with early logistical stumbles like delayed opening of ports, slowing the delivery of supplies. President Donald Trump obscenely overstated the island's recovery when he visited in October and squabbled with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz as she and others asked for more aid.
The inadequate response continues today with an omnibus $81 billion supplemental disaster-relief package that is stalled in the Senate. It's hardly enough for Puerto Rico, but miserly when split with other disaster-struck areas such as Texas and Florida.
There is hope for Puerto Rico.
Many Puerto Ricans see the disaster as an opportunity to rebuild smartly. Better bridges can span rivers, roads will be cleared and improved, and tourism will again flourish with New Yorkers and others hopping on cruise ships and flights, sustaining the economy as Puerto Rico rises.
But to do so, the island needs more help, and more recognition by Washington that these are fellow citizens, too.
— Newsday, Long Island
The Assembly has passed the New York Dream Act which faces an uncertain future in the state Senate. As with any controversial issue, this offers the opportunity for enlightened debate and education or fear mongering and propaganda.
For New Yorkers, it offers an opportunity to understand the personal, political and public effects of our broken immigration system but only if those engaging in the debate and dialogue will stick to the facts.
Here are those facts.
The state Dream Act should not be confused with DACA, the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, even though they affect the same population. The federal debate concerns the threat of deportation faced by young people brought into the United States as minors without legal status or a path to citizenship.
The New York Dream Act is much narrower, allowing young people without documentation to be eligible for financial aid for college.
They would have to graduate from high school and have the grades and test scores necessary to get admitted to college. With the state Dream Act, they would be able to pursue the American Dream. Without it, they would most likely not be able to attend college.
Not everybody thinks that it a good idea. Among the opponents is one Republican member of the Assembly, Brian Miller from New Hartford, whose opposition is typical. As he said after the vote, "Assembly Democrats are hell-bent on using our tax dollars to provide for illegal immigrants while residents struggle to pay for college decades after they've graduated."
As Miller puts it, "The state's tax burden is due to the fact that New York has become the land of the handout."
He knows very well that in a state with a budget as large as New York's, allowing these youngsters to be eligible to apply for financial aid is not a financial issue. But it is an ideological one.
Young people with citizenship get nothing from his stand. Young people without citizenship also get nothing.
He gets votes.
— The Times-Herald Record, Middletown