I am writing in strong support of Councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney's campaign to represent District 5 on the Sumter County Council. I know and respect both candidates vying for the seat, and this endorsement of Councilwoman Fleming-McGhaney's campaign is not meant to discount the important work that her challenger, Kenny Rose, continues to do for our community.
I grew up in rural South Carolina and now live and work in Palo Alto, California, where I am an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University. A proud graduate of Sumter County public schools, I went to the University of South Carolina and pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. All these years later, I remember the care and concern Councilwoman Fleming-McGhaney showed me as a young boy. Like so many kids in Sumter, I grew up in a low-income household. My mom worked hard to provide for my sisters and me, and we were surrounded by family who loved us, but the adage is true: "It takes a village to raise a child." Councilwoman Fleming-McGhaney was part of that village for me. She saw in me a set of talents and skills that I had yet to recognize in myself. And it wasn't because I was so special. She saw promise in every kid, regardless of where they came from or who their parents were. This is just who she is. She knows and cares about the people in her community and has worked on their behalf throughout her entire professional life, as a teacher, as an administrator and as a member of the Sumter County Council.
Last week, as I was making a contribution to support an arts program in New York City, I thought about Councilwoman Fleming-McGhaney because it was she who first got me excited about the arts. I remember fondly working with her to learn Langston Hughes' "I, Too" to gain entry into a summer arts program when I was younger. I remember going to her classroom to practice reciting the poem repeatedly, as she patiently listened, giving tips about how I might improve. And here's the thing: She was never formally my teacher. Again, this is just who she is.
It has been some time since I have lived permanently in Sumter County, but my heart remains there even as I live on the other side of the country. My family lives there. My maternal grandmother is in a nursing home there. And I remain deeply concerned about the condition of my neighbors and friends who rely on a responsive local government to meet their needs. Councilwoman Fleming-McGhaney is a well-known and well-respected member of her community. She is a leader who knows intimately the people she serves. And she cares about them with the same zeal that she brought to her engagement with me when I was a young boy trying to find his way.
The people of Sumter County District 5 are fortunate to have Vivian Fleming-McGhaney as their representative on the county council. And she deserves to be re-elected in a landslide. She has my unwavering support, and I hope my friends and neighbors back in South Carolina will cast their ballot in support of her candidacy. As we like to say down South, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Palo Alto, California
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