When I heard the news that President Donald J. Trump made plans to visit Baltimore City, while touting the value of “Opportunity Zones,” my heart nearly skipped a beat. It was a truly encouraging sign that Maryland residents are ready to give our national administration a chance to deliver on a promise. This promise included a commitment to aggressively confront hateful residents who continue a pattern of violence that has left children dead and wounded. Most raw in our hearts is the soul-crushing slaying of a loving woman who wanted to help someone in need. We also heard the national promise of jobs and opportunity for residents in our cities. The clamor of national politics and fiery rhetoric has cast a heavy shadow on concerned citizens looking for any opportunity to get help in the city of Baltimore.
Rev. Donte Hickman, who invited President Trump to visit his Broadway East neighborhood, is a hero that should be respected for his courage. To publicly engage with such a controversial president is no light feat. Such actions often come with the risk of dire consequences. The political climate is so bitter, that public figures take incredible risks simply by suggesting they have anything less than bitter contempt for the Trump administration. This is especially potent for visible African-American figures, as demonstrated by the maelstrom of hostility directed to figures like Kanye West, and Pastor Darrell Scott. I highly respect the decision of Rev. Hickman to publicly extend an invitation for President Trump to personally experience a sample of Baltimore City.
Having all this lead-up, I was crushed to learn that the administration cancelled the meeting, opting to host the meeting in D.C. instead. I personally felt that it was important for the residents of Baltimore City to see the President of the United States in our city. President Trump has no shortage of criticism for Baltimore city, and has often used colorful language to describe the state of our city. While much of what he said may be somewhat based in reality, it’s hard not to believe that his experience is colored by the same media that he claims to despise. His experience with Baltimore City has been second-hand, and largely fueled by shocking headlines and sensational video clips.
It was extremely important for the President to see with his own eyes the conditions that the citizens of his country face. He needed to walk with Rev. Hickman and personally see, feel, and yes, even smell the consequences of economic neglect, and rampant crime. I’m not the biggest fan of President Trump, but one thing I have always believed about him, is that he is a deeply emotional, and personally compassionate man. The massive shield of ego and bravado conceal a man who deeply cares about people yet is governed by ruthless pragmatism and mechanical strategy. I am certain that if President Trump personally experienced Baltimore city with the guidance of a concerned leader like Rev. Hickman, Baltimore City would penetrate that shield, and win his heart. Baltimore missed out on a huge opportunity to win the heart of a man who is unrivaled in his ambition.
President Trump is uniquely suited to understand Baltimore City and its residents. Baltimore is a city with a proud history of defiance and self-determination. In nearly every aspect, reckless pride defines Baltimore, a trait that the President respects above most. For decades, the nation has maligned and rejected the city, expressing nothing but the bitterest contempt for a city fighting for her life. All the same, Baltimore continues to fight on, determined to make the best of whatever she has available. She never cares what people say about her, and continues to do her best, no matter what. Baltimore City could speak to President Trump in a language that he understands, from a perspective that he’s intimately familiar with. Whether Baltimore reciprocates or not, I am certain that Baltimore would never be far from his mind, despite his big talk, especially if he got to experience the city from the view of a concerned resident.
Even though Baltimore had to settle for a second-hand experience, the mere meeting between President Trump and Rev. Hickman will likely generate some productive outcomes. It goes without saying that the advocacy of men like Rev. Hickman likely imparted just a few of the perspectives that our president so badly needs to grasp so he can continue to advocate for sound policy. The fact that the President was willing to champion the First Step Act suggests to me that influential voices are helping him gradually understand the reality of our nation. Few people understand U.S. economics as well as President Trump, and we are already seeing the productive benefits of his economic policies. We can only hope that those benefits will translate into real opportunity for residents in Baltimore City, specifically in the neighborhood where Rev. Hickman serves.
I also hope that the wise influence of Secretary Ben Carson will continue to guide the President on a trajectory that leads to productive policies that help our inner cities. I am proud that Dr. Carson has been true to his mission of creating opportunities in our communities. President Trump was wise to appoint him, and I hope he continues to get the support he needs to help this administration be more effective with the resources we invest. I hope that Baltimore City continues to be a priority for the Trump administration, as we look to set an example for the rest of the nation.
We need dramatic changes in thinking to change the course of Baltimore City. The fact that local leaders, including the Mayor of Baltimore, refused to join Trump on his visit speaks to the petty grudges that could limit the opportunities that exist for Baltimore City. Governor Larry Hogan was borderline rude in his response. President Trump may rub people the wrong way, but there’s no denying that once he sets his mind to something, he won’t rest until it’s done. Maybe, one day we can get our leaders to work together to help make Baltimore City a priority for the President. I think that would be a good day.