- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2008

People have always told me “no.” But I´ve never listened. If I did, I wouldn´t be me. That innate nonconformist mentality, as those who know and love “A” are well aware, has been a blessing and a bane to us all.

Can´t help it. “Ma Bea” taught us that “nothing beats a failure but a try.”

So my life and my career, with its peaks and valleys, continue to lead me on an unpredictable but fortuitous journey as I face yet another detour in the road.

This, dear readers, is my last “The Washington Times. The paper´s focus is changing and so, too, is mine.

As people of faith know, when you have completed one assignment, Divine Providence gives you another.

I´ve been “better than blessed” with a gift of gab, a prolific pen and a host of supportive friends, colleagues and sources too numerous to name here. However, I would be remiss not to mention the editor emeritus of this newspaper, Washington metropolitan area for more than 16 years .

Admittedly, I have had fun poking and prodding bungling bureaucrats and politicians from the District Building to the statehouses in Annapolis. Some officials and employees left me scratching my head when they acted as if the public coffers were their personal piggybanks.

I railed and cried when it took someone´s tragedy to force necessary legislation. Bethesda teenager - the ink barely dry on his driver´s license when his parents´ handed him the keys to their sport utility vehicle - killed his friends and a father before graduated driver´s licenses were imposed.

In my hometown, I´ve covered four mayors and the congressionally mandated financial control board as the District transitioned from “Chocolate City” to a “Power Trip” destination.

Former Teflon Tony” - Anthony “Bow Tie Bandit” Williams; and now Adrian M. “Gen. Greenhorn” Fenty also warranted closer scrutiny.

While I take another post, the city´s social ills remain constant: The schools are still bad despite the cosmetic governance changes, crime is too high despite disregard for civil liberties, and the disenfranchised District still wears the undemocratic moniker of “The Last Colony.”

Yet, I have felt some satisfaction in seeming to affect public policy that helped those most marginalized by society. That blatant D.C. baseball stadium giveaway, for instance, might have been much worse had I not lent my voice to the chorus of others who still question the wisdom and value of publicly financing sports venues when so many other pressing societal problems, such as the need for more job-training opportunities, go unanswered.

Of all the rewards I have received through my words, nothing is a greater joy than when I have helped a child win a scholarship, a single mother earn a job, a man eat a meal, and a family find a home through the vast network of nonprofit agencies throughout the region that I have appealed to you, dear readers, on their behalf. Thank you.

My “Metropolitan Lifelines” columns demonstrated that one unsung hero or heroine can make a critical difference. For example, the Virginia mother who wanted to place a marker on the grave of a mortally abused D.C. toddler. Together we raised the funds to purchase not only a marker but also an honorary plaque and equipment for a shelter for babies born with AIDS.

Today, I´m able to humbly report another milestone. Today, I´ve graduated. Again, the victory is hardly mine alone.

Starting June 25, I will begin writing a straightforward issues-oriented column of news analysis for the national political desk of The Times.

My new assignment includes digging deeper into the presidential campaign issues and “humanifying” them with the faces and experiences of everyday people, to coin a word originated by our new executive editor, John Solomon.

On a personal front, this black, teenaged wife and mother beat the naysayer statistics again. Blame that blasted nonconformity.

Thirty-nine years after the day I gave birth to my first child, on May 23, 1969, I received a college diploma that finally bore my name after getting two children and a godchild through colleges and universities.

I hopped across the Homewood campus, pumped my arms in triumph and, to the proud cheers of my family and friends, received a master´s degree in writing (with a dual concentration in nonfiction and fiction).

After four harrowing years of juggling jobs, family fiascos and functions, teaching classes and attending to classes, I had to fight the bittersweet tears of pride and accomplishment welling inside me.

What´s next? Only Divine Providence knows.

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