By Robert L. Rosebrock
Rafer Johnson, America’s legendary Olympic decathlon champion and civil rights icon who marched with Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy and Cesar Chavez, offered a promising 2015 when he spoke before the Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhood Councils.
The Councils represent 96 communities.
Los Angeles is in a “state of emergency” for disabled and homeless Veterans, Mr. Johnson said.
At Saturday’s meeting, he sent a powerful message that began the new year with a jolt.
He challenged the City of Los Angeles to unify with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) and immediately begin providing crisis housing for disabled and homeless veterans at the West Los Angeles VA that has nearly 400 acres of land.
Mr. Johnson’s challenge is the most logical, forthright solution to Mayor Garcetti and First Lady Michelle Obama’s mandate to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles by the end of this year.
Mr. Johnson questioned how the largest VA property in the nation could simultaneously be situated in our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans.
Jay Handal, Chairman of the West Los Angeles Community Council, presented a motion that reinforced Mr. Johnson’s unwavering challenge. It was heavily approved, with only one abstained vote.
Summary of the Motion: “The Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhood Councils recognizes Los Angeles to be in a “state of emergency” for homeless Veterans and hereby requests the Los Angeles City Council direct the City of Los Angeles with all of its resources and the Veterans Administration to unify and open a large-scale Crisis Humanitarian Relief Project on this land to immediately house and care for thousands upon thousands of disabled and homeless Veterans.”
Terrence Gomes, Chairman of Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, will send a letter along with the motion to Mayor Garcetti, the Los Angeles City Council, newly elected U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Secretary of the VA and Los Angeles VA officials, and other notable politicians.
Mr. Lieu, a Veteran, replaces non-Veteran Henry Waxman.
Before retiring, Mr. Waxman spent 40 years in Congress and shamefully answered to the “wants” of his wealthy constituents instead of providing for the “needs” of disabled and homeless Veterans.
Congressman-elect Lieu will be the entrusted public servant to oversee the largest VA in the nation. Correspondingly, his fellow Veterans are demanding major changes from the way Mr. Waxman “oversaw” the VA’s mismanagement and misappropriation of land and consequent neglect of disabled and homeless Veterans.
Mr. Johnson’s message and the motion test the credibility of public servants who have promised to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles. This defines the urgency to establish a humanitarian relief project on the West L.A. VA grounds.
Mr. Johnson’s humanitarian credentials are impeccable. His lifetime leadership for the greater good of the less fortunate is essentially unequaled.
Thus, his selfless support for a noble cause is consistent with his moral judgment of doing what’s right.
It was no surprise when he proclaimed Los Angeles to be in a “state of emergency” for disabled homeless Veterans.
Consistent with his legacy, Mr. Johnson was instrumental in helping establish and organize the Special Olympics famously conceived by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and U.S Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
Nearing his 80th birthday, Mr. Johnson is active as leader and Chairman of the Southern California Special Olympics. He rode on the organization’s float during the recent Rose Bowl parade. The World Games of the Special Olympics will be held in Los Angeles this summer.
Mr. Johnson is on the committee to bring the 2024 Olympic Games to Los Angeles.
During the Vietnam War era, he served in the National Guard. A major concern of his is that nearly half (47 percent) of all homeless Veterans today are of the Vietnam War era, which ended nearly 40 years ago.
Correspondingly, he recommended that the Los Angeles VA set up a humanitarian “tent city” similar to the one that housed and cared for 50,000 Vietnamese refugees at Camp Pendleton after the end of the Vietnam War.
Mr. Johnson wrote a best-selling book, “The Best That I Can Be,” which is what his whole life has been about, doing his best to use his God-given talents to help those who need help. .
This book is a must-read for every child as well as every adult, particularly those who have been entrusted as public servants in all branches of local, state and federal government.
During the civil rights movement, Dr. King proclaimed: “I’m not a consensus leader. I don’t determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion.
“Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.
“On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
“Expediency asks the question, is it politic?
“Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
“But conscience asks the question, is it right?
“And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
And so it is with Rafer Johnson’s leadership because his conscience tells him that it is right to stand up for our disabled and homeless Veterans and to be a voice for their safety and well-being.
Dr. King also forewarned: “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
Make no mistake; the homeless Veteran issue in Los Angeles is a moral conflict between justice and injustice, good and bad, right and wrong.
Fellow Veterans, friends of Veterans and elected public officials are respectfully requested to do the right thing and join Mr. Johnson and the Councils in challenging that Los Angeles is in a state of emergency for disabled and homeless Veterans, and further charge the City of Los Angeles and the VA with immediately unifying and providing crisis housing and care for thousands of homeless veterans on the West Los Angeles VA property.
God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!