Hello Charleston. You are some of the best people the world has to offer, and I am so glad to be among you once again. It has been a while since you and I have had the opportunity to speak together. I have written a few things here and there concerning some issues, but nothing sustained. I want you to know that I am here to stay.

Since this is my official return home, I need to get something off my chest so that you and I can start out fresh with a new beginning.

The thing I want to get off my chest is an apology to you, Charleston. I want to clear the air by apologizing to you. I have had great supporters over the years, and many of them would say I have nothing to apologize for, but if I’m to be honest with myself, I believe I do. When you wrong somebody, you apologize, and it is as simple as that. I must apologize because you entrusted me with a position of honor and I was derelict in that responsibility. I consider the work I accomplished while I was on City Council and living in the Holy City to have been good. I never once betrayed you while in an official capacity. I did, however, betray you and my mission.

I was reckless in my personal life and allowed personal issues to affect my public service. When you commit to public service as an elected official, you are no longer your own person. Your constituents have placed their trust in you. Why? Elected officials ask them to. That’s what the process of an election is all about. We ask voters to trust us in guiding public policy. I betrayed that trust when I decided to live recklessly to the detriment of myself, my family, and my cause. I apologize for the missed opportunities to build our community: the youth programs and the economic development programs creating businesses and jobs. When you volunteer, and volunteer is the key word here, for service in public office, you must put the people before yourself. I did not do that. I was selfish.

Now that I have cleared the air, it is time to move on to the topic of the day: new leadership. When things get rough, there is always a cry for new leadership. And if you have not noticed, things are rough. Seventy percent of black males fail to make it out of Charleston County schools. The unemployment rate is 15.5 percent in the black community versus 9 percent in the white community. That’s rough. Incumbent leadership is blamed for everything that goes wrong, and the people begin looking to others to take their place. This is how it works, and there is nothing wrong with that, because at the end of the day you choose people who will help make their lives better. The flip side is we fire those who don’t.

New leadership, however, must be properly trained. I would even go so far as to say we need to find potential new leaders and train and groom them to assume public office. The grassroots level is a good place for this to happen. We must put these potential leaders to work in our neighborhood associations, our PTAs, the Democratic and Republican parties, and the Urban League and the NAACP. New leadership must get into these organizations and grapple with community issues firsthand and, at the same time, get the benefit of learning from elders who “have been here and done that.” However, our elders must seek out potential new leaders and allow them to assume leadership roles within these organizations. They must allow for new ideas and work to guide those ideas with their wisdom and experience.

It must be said that today’s leaders, both at the grassroots level and governmental level, must be seen as a partner in the development of new leadership. Turmoil is created when there is not a peaceful transition between new leadership and old leadership, which is why both today’s and tomorrow’s leaders must work together in solidarity.