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Posted: January 31, 2010 12:00 a.m.

You've got a friend

My wife loves Carole King songs. The "Tapestry" album, issued in 1971, features several hit tunes, among them one of the greatest songs King ever penned: "You've Got a Friend."

James Taylor covered that song as a single which hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart July 31, 1971. Trivia fans will recall that No. 1 the previous week was "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere and the Raiders; No. 1 the succeeding week was "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" by the Bee Gees.

Young people have no clue that those songs were heard on AM radio stations. In fact, many of today's youth may actually be unaware that AM radio even exists. Does anyone remember hearing at the top of each hour, "This is WSB, the 50,000-watt clear channel ‘Voice of the South,' 750 on your AM dial"? Did anyone else fall asleep listening to hits on "Quixie," WQXI in Atlanta? Did you ever, on a clear night, pick up WOWO, rockin' the Midwest from Fort Wayne, Ind.?

"Winter, spring, summer or fall," sweet baby James sang, "all you have to do is call, and I'll be there. You've got a friend."

There's been much news, lately, centered on the relief efforts in Haiti. Reports have detailed how amazingly generous people can be; folks ranging from the rich and famous all the way to the meek and lowly have organized to do all they can to help others in time of need.

I don't know about you, but I'm humbled by the generosity and outreach demonstrated on such a worldwide scale. Truly, there is a spark of goodness in many people, just waiting for a chance to light a fire of human compassion in their fellow man to lift others who are hurting and downtrodden.

It's a shame that uplifting moments such as these also bring out the dark side of human nature. Within the first two weeks of world mobilization to send legitimate aid to Haiti, NBC News reported the establishment of an astounding 4,000 bogus Web sites on the internet operating scams which bilked caring, innocent people by soliciting donations ostensibly for Haiti, while actually absconding with the funds.

I don't know how you feel about it, but if there's a physical Hell after this mortal life, I hope there's a special place in it for those who steal from honest people in the name of helping the needy.

There are several ongoing issues affecting our local community, which need a special touch also. One is the imminent departure of Board of Education member Dr. C.C. Bates, who has been wooed away by a tempting offer from Clemson University.

Bates has been a tremendous asset to the BOE, and she'll be sorely missed. If a person is named to fill her unexpired term, he or she will immediately face serious issues such as teacher furloughs, overcrowded schools and the use of portable classrooms, rising fuel prices and a myriad of other problems.

Another issue is the naming of a person to head up the Chamber of Commerce. Questions of how that person is paid by city and county tax monies have arisen and, doubtless, will have to be addressed. It's a bit odd to me that the plum position is still unfilled in this era of skyrocketing unemployment.

Finally, there's the very serious matter of the creation of an Airport Authority. I once served on a committee that became an authority, so listen up: this Airport Authority can be a great thing if the right folks are named to it; otherwise, it can turn into a nightmare.

The identifying of what, and who, constitutes "the right folks" is what makes for political gamesmanship. And there's the rub, is it not?

To my way of thinking, the same kind of person needs to fill the Board of Education vacancy, the Chamber of Commerce slot, and each chair on the Airport Authority.

We need someone with more than casual experience in each field. Above all, we need a local person who cherishes the history and values of our land and people, and who will have an eye out to move the county forward, but with consideration for the concerns of folks from all walks of life. We need someone with common sense, someone more interested in serving the public instead themselves, someone who will make measured decisions to do what's right instead of what's politically correct.

The relief efforts for Haiti suggest that such people exist, in plenitude. If these local vacancies are filled with right-minded people of high character, Carole King's words will ring as true as do the clear tones of sweet baby James Taylor singing:

"Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call and I'll be there. You've got a friend."

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.


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