By Andre Showell
You should never judge a book by its cover. I know it’s a cliché but it’s also the plain old truth. I learned that lesson this week after I traveled with colleagues to the Republican National Committee Convention walk-through in Tampa, Florida. In addition to checking out the lay of the land for the upcoming convention, we also had a chance to spend some quality time with some of the movers and shakers behind the Republican Party.
James Davis, the director of communications and chief spokesman for the RNC Convention, was one of the most engaging. Beneath the pinstripe suits and wingtip shoes lies an interesting story that separates this husband and father of two from any preconceived notions many people have about Republicans.
While James is a vocal supporter of Republican ideals, he has a personal journey that was far from typical. He grew up in Vidalia, Georgia, in a poor neighborhood. He said his was the only white family in a Black community, so he has never been afraid to stand out. His experience also explained the apparent ease with which he seemed to connect with our all-African American delegation of staffers.
James explained that he, like many in the Black community, is the product of teen parents and was raised by his grandparents. And despite a less-than-ideal upbringing, he worked his way through school by waiting tables, until his fate changed. During one of his shifts, he waited on a customer who changed the course of his life. That customer happened to be a former assistant secretary of defense who ended up helping him land an internship at the Department of Defense during the Bush administration. James took the offer, got a loan to cover his expenses and was eventually hired as a researcher.
And the rest is history. He ascended the ranks of the GOP and today plays a key role in the election bid of the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
This political operative knows more about the needs and concerns of the struggling and underserved than I ever will. And while he knows what it’s like to live life along the margins of society, when opportunity knocked, he was ready to open the door.