Leadership isn’t saying what’s popular, it’s following one’s conviction. Barack Obama believes that our society needs to do a lot more to help felons reenter society productively after serving their prison time. He took this position as a Presidential candidate in 2008, and this week commended Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie for giving Michael Vick a second chance.
Vick was college football’s player of the year in 2000, and was the first player chosen in the NFL’s 2001 draft. He got out of federal prison fifteen months ago after serving 23 months for felony dogfighting and cruelty, then was hired by the Eagles as a backup quarterback.
His hiring was controversial. His crimes were especially vile, and many dog-lovers will never be able to accept that he should ever have a second chance.
Into this stepped President Obama to openly praise Lurie, who recalled their conversation:
“He said, ‘So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.’ And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.”
Illustrative of the opposition to Vick’s hiring was this opinion expressed today by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson:
“I’m a Christian, I’ve made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a cruel, heartless way. Personally, I think he should’ve been executed for that. He wasn’t, but the idea that the President of the United States is getting behind someone who murdered dogs? Kind of beyond the pale.”
Hooray for Obama for going beyond the pale to take on an unpopular issue. The United States has 2,300,000 people locked up. The vast majority of them will be let out of prison and back into society someday. If we don’t give them a fair shot at a second chance we’re condemning ourselves to live with ever increasing numbers of habitual hardened criminals. Obama’s leadership will help more people to see this danger clearly.