*Clarence Page is a nationally-syndicated columnist and member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board. Besides those duties, the Pulitzer Prize-winner makes frequent TV appearances, including on The McLaughlin Group as a regular member of the show’s panel of political pundits.
Clarence makes his home in the Washington, DC area with his wife, Lisa, and their son, Grady. He recently spoke to Robertson Treatment about his life, career and his best-selling collection of essay, “Culture Worrier.”
Robertson Treatment: How would describe your style?
Clarence Page: I think every Chicago columnist considers himself to be a Mike Royko. [Chuckles] His office was next-door to mine at the Tribune Tower for a number of years. I always admired his strong voice… a very ordinary Chicagoan sitting at the bar after work going back-and-forth with his buddies about politics and this or that from a working-class point-of-view. I really appreciated his ability to do that so flawlessly, and in such a strong voice. So, I always tried to cultivate a voice assessing what was good for the average members of the public, and sometimes I succeeded. [Chuckles]
RT: You always do a great job. Tell me a little about why you decided to publish a collection of essays?
CP: It occurred to me that after doing this for 30 years, from the Reagan Era to the Age of Obama, that if there was ever an appropriate time for me to publish a collection of columns, this would be it. So, I went back and reread my pieces, and I began to notice the strong trend toward social commentary interwoven with politics played in most of them, and the phrase “Culture Worrier” just jumped out at me.
RT: How do you enjoy appearing on the McLaughlin Group with John, Eleanor Clift, Mort Zuckerman and Pat Buchanan?
CP: I’ve been doing the show since about 1988. McLaughlin’s been a remarkable talent scout over the years when you think about how people like Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell and Jay Carney used to be regulars on the show.
RT: You suffered from ADD, but it obviously didn’t prevent you from having a very successful career as a journalist. How did you overcome this difficulty or turn it into a strength?
CP: I didn’t know I had ADD, because it hadn’t been invented back then. For what it’s worth, like a lot of others with ADD, I’ve been able to succeed simply by trying harder.
RT: When I watched Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert, I learned that winning a Pulitzer Prize was a very big deal to him. What did winning a Pulitzer mean to you?
CP: One thing about winning a Pulitzer, it means you know what the first three words of your obituary will be: Pulitzer Prize-winner. [Chuckles] After winning the Pulitzer, I couldn’t help but notice how people suddenly looked at me with a newfound respect, and would say, “He’s an expert.” On the negative side, I developed a terrible case of writer’s block for a while, because I felt like readers would expect every one of my columns to be prize worthy. I spoke to a number of other Pulitzer winners who had the same problem, a creative block that had them hesitating. How do you get past the writer’s block? Nothing concentrates the mind like a firm deadline, and a little voice in the back of my mind reminding me that, “If you don’t write, you don’t eat.” Listen, we all want to be respected and appreciate, but when you get a big honor like that, people start to look for your work in a new way with higher expectations. Today, the best thing about having won is when I get a nasty comment from some internet troll I can remind myself of the Pulitzer and say, “Well, somebody appreciates me.”
RT: What do you believe is the single greatest piece of evidence that progress is being made toward a society that provides equality of opportunity and treatment under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender?
CP: Good question. First of all, I would say that our cultural divides are less racial and more tribal. We’re trying to reduce racial barriers to opportunity while at the same time not creating artificial quotas in regards to race. Today’s tribal politics is more attitudes and values-based than back in the olden days when it was something we strictly associated with ethnicity.
RT: When you think about your legacy how would you like to be remembered?
CP: What a wonderful question! When I posed that question to retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, he looked up as if he were surprised, but he quickly responded, “That he did the best he could with what he had.” It was remarkably humble, but to the point. That’s how I’d like to be remembered, too.
BEST BETS: JAZZ IN THE GARDENS
Toni Braxton and Maxwell lead an all-star line-up of contemporary urban music artists scheduled to perform during the 10th annual Jazz in the Gardens music festival. The two-day event will take place March 21-22, at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. Nationally syndicated radio personalities D.L. Hughley and Rickey Smiley are co-hosts for the weekend, which will also include performances by R. Kelly, Erykah Badu and Brian Culbertson, among others. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster or http://www.jazzinthegardens.com.
You can always count on Kia for interesting rides that combine tasteful styling with solid performance. With the introduction of the K900, the South Korean automaker continues that tradition only with a luxury vibe. Sometimes you can just look at a car and know that it will exceed your expectations. As I began my week long test drive, I knew that I was in for an exciting driving experience.
Wow Factor: With its new sleek and integrated exterior, the K900 moves higher in the best look department. During my week cruising the busy streets of LA, I was surprised by the number of hard looks and inquiries that I received about this ride. Leaving the post office one day I found a lady literally staring at the car admiring its exterior styling and then while idling a stop light, I received several thumbs up. The sum of that attention definitely made me feel like the big man on campus. J
Ride: Behind the wheel the K900 performs well in both city and off-road conditions. My ride was powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that provided the ability to handle most road demands. The K900 also benefits from a good steering system that was responsive to my maneuvering, which added to my driver confidence.
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Spin Control: Offering an overall driving experience that is competitive within its class, Kia’s K900 has the goods to come out on top. With an MSRP starting in the mid-50s, a fuel economy rated 15 city/23 highway).the K900 is a ride that will find its customers. I am confident that a lot of them will be seen on the road.
Gil Robertson IV is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author and president of the African-American Film Critics Association.