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Baltimore needs a Lamar Jackson-like figure to save it

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has electrified the city and its citizens — along with the rest of the nation — by showing unrivaled skills and making historic records as a National Football League player and leader.

It’s time for him to step up his game to literally save Baltimore from self-extinction. As hope there is being crushed by crime and corruption from within, Jackson is someone from without who can save the innocent men, women and children fighting to survive in an increasingly lawless and leaderless town.

Sound crazy? It’s not.

Last July, during a verbal spat with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) over immigration at our southern border, President Donald Trump pointed out what he felt was wrong with Baltimore as only Trump can.

Said the president on Twitter, “Rep, Elijah Cummings has been … shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous … Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

Less than charming words directed at Charm City. 

That brief war of words between Trump and Cummings overshadowed the massive dysfunction and decay that indeed is destroying a once incredibly vibrant city.

In August, just two months before he died, Cummings, an acclaimed civil rights leader, invited Trump to visit Baltimore as his guest. “I want President Trump to visit Baltimore,” Cummings said. “My God, I want him to come. I’ll ride with him for hours if I have to.”

The president never took Cummings up on his invitation, but he should have.

In this case, the people of Baltimore truly needed the president to “walk the walk” to back up his colorful, critical but sadly correct rhetoric about the condition of their city. As Baltimore continues to tragically set records for murders, shootings and overall crime, its citizens are in desperate need of a lifeline.

President Trump for sure holds the strongest and best-connected lifeline. But his is not the only one.

Through the course of this fall and early winter, Jackson made his presence known in scandal-ridden Baltimore as a sort of Superman who has lifted the spirits of hundreds of thousands of people.

Jackson is one of the best athletes in the league and, without a doubt, the NFL’s most valuable player. But he is so much more than his athletic prowess.

This humble, intelligent, soft-spoken 22-year-old is an exceptionally caring person. The empathy he shows for others comes from his own life experiences. He lost his father and grandmother on the same day when he was 8 years old. He grew up in a poor neighborhood in Pompano Beach, Fla., attended public schools and sought out sports as an escape from bad influences. Football became a means to college and beyond.

During those tough years in Pompano Beach, Jackson had the best ally and secret weapon ever: his mother, Felicia Jones. 

This remarkable woman worked incredibly hard to support Jackson and his siblings. She taught them right from wrong and then morphed into Jackson’s first football coach, trainer and all-around protector. She likely knows football better than many NFL scouts.

The word “hero” has been cheapened over the years by its attachment to many who don’t deserve the label. But in every definition of the word, Felicia Jones, like so many poor and disadvantaged single moms, is the personification of an American hero for raising her children, including a good human being who happens to be one of the best athletes in America today.

Jackson’s mother taught him to follow eight core values in his life — “the Super 8,” she called them — God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character and discipline. As many football fans know, Jackson’s jersey number is 8.

These values could save Baltimore if put into practice by someone with the strength, integrity and conviction to instill them. Jackson has inspired the people of Baltimore with his phenomenal play, and perhaps he could save their city by becoming mayor and cleaning house. He is the “Super 8.”

Of course, Jackson is unlikely to give up a lucrative NFL career for politics — and even if he did, he might be unable to outrun or outpass the political opposition at this stage in his life. But he could lend his spirit, ethic and name to a wise, honest, public-minded politician and thereby help save this troubled, historic and remarkable city. And in the future, who knows? Jackson could turn to such a public service.

If not now, soon. Run, Lamar, run.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Tags Baltimore Corruption Crime Donald Trump Elijah Cummings Felicia Jones Lamar Jackson murder rate Urban decay

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