Estrada Confirmation Controversy Shows Mixed-Up Liberal Priorities, by Geoffrey Moore

A New Visions Commentary paper published March 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-54-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

Conservative African-Americans, we aren’t alone.

With the liberal campaign against the judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals operating at full force, we can see that conservative African-Americans are not the only minority group criticized for being successful. The ongoing protests of Estrada – and now the filibuster of his confirmation vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate by the likes of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd – have further exposed the hypocrisy and racism of the left.

According to Estrada critic Angelo Falcon of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Estrada “is simply not authentically Hispanic.” The claims that Estrada is not “authentic” sound very familiar to the claims made about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and – more recently – Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Let’s take a look at Estrada’s history. Born in Honduras in 1961, he came to the United States with his family at the age of 17 speaking very little English. Undaunted by this disadvantage, Estrada learned the language and eventually graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in New York in 1983. He received a juris doctor degree magna cum laude in 1986 from Harvard Law School. He was also an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Estrada has gone on to excel in both the private and public sectors. He has argued 15 cases in front of the United States Supreme Court and won ten of them. Not bad for an immigrant kid who barely spoke the language when he first came here.

Miguel Estrada’s life is a story of a man who has excelled despite being faced with adverse situations. Estrada graduated near the top of his class at two Ivy League schools and served as editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review after essentially learning English less than a decade prior. He did not let anything stand in the way between him and success. He overcame a disadvantage and flew by many who had the advantage of speaking the English language their whole lives.

Estrada did not quit and blame the system. He never gave up because school was too difficult. He persevered and overcame.

Now, I ask, are these the priorities we want to pass along to future generations? Perseverance, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic and honesty? Yes!

In cultures where being smart is considered by other minorities as acting white, sitting in the front of the class is viewed as being a nerd, being studious is mocked and where being the class clown makes you cool, things need to change.

When misogynistic and violent rappers are seen as “true” or “real” while scholars and the intelligentsia are seen as sell-outs and Uncle Toms, priorities and culture needs to be re-evaluated.

If Miguel Estrada had been poor, quit school because it was too difficult, never bothered to learn English and began blaming “the man” for his failures, I fear that then – and only then – he’d be considered authentically Hispanic in the eyes of his current naysayers and critics.

(Geoffrey Moore is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21, and an MBA student and market analyst in the Chicago area. Comments may be sent to [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.