Obama visits the solar harvesting "farms" in Desoto County

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Now back to reality, and what’s really happening here. DeSoto County was ranked fourth in the state for 2009 citrus production. With the citrus industry struggling in Florida, these fellas are banking on real Florida sunshine to raise their bottom line, not just the kind that comes with your breakfast.

Now stop and ponder this, the most powerful image to me was our African American President was welcomed with open arms in rural Florida. In a place where segregation was reality long past the civil rights movement made took hold in northern states. Here was of a bunch of good ole boy white farmers in central Florida applauding our first African American President. Not only that, but he was there to announce government spending for alternative energy initiatives from the much criticized stimulus package.

I imagined DeSoto County, and Arcadia in particular, to be the heartland of Christian conservatives of the political right. A behind the times kind of place, but another paradox revealed itself. Researching this piece I found that the majority of registered voters in DeSoto County are democrats. Of 13,435 there are 8,900 Democrats and 4,192 Republicans. McCain did win the county in the 2008 election, but only by 12% - a much smaller margin than I had anticipated. Same for the Republicans who won the Florida Senate and House seats - one losing by .89%; a win by not even one percentage point kept JD Alexander in his seat. All the local seats went to Democrats, the sheriff, public defender and two county commission seats all went to Democrats. What really struck me was the current Mayor of Arcadia, Dr. Roosevelt Johnson, himself an African American, was in the audience. Sadly, the first African American mayor, Eugene Hickson Sr., was not. He was a man who, in the late '70s, demanded that the city start hiring minorities.

I only wish that, like many of my friends, I was there to witness another historical moment in America. Had I gotten a seat, I would have gladly given it up to former Mayor Hickson.

On many levels, it was an awesome afternoon of Florida sunshine.

It wasn’t easy for me to resist the temptation to gush happily in print over our President’s visit to DeSoto county last week. Consider this: a utility company executive delivers accolades to the President for his leadership on sustainable energy production. Is this an anomaly? Maybe, but FPL Group’s CEO Lewis Hay, belongs to an exclusive club. Its members are forward thinking business executives readying their companies for a new green economy.

Granted, Mr. Hay’s exuberance may be due to the $200 million of stimulus funding FP & L is about to receive. But you have to admit, it does take chutzpah for him and his activist executive buddies to visit Washington in support of climate change legislation. They gathered as the Waxman/Markey bill was coming up for a key house vote back in June, even taking out a full page ad in DC newspapers. Acknowledging the paradigm shift to sustainable, clean power production so many others deny, they see the legislation as good for business. Whoa, did you hear that, Chamber of Commerce? Jokingly, Obama noted that people get nervous about change, relating Hay’s comment “especially utility executives” to which the crowd, largely made up of utility contractors and employees, laughed heartily.

Or this image: Juxtaposed against gleaming hi-tech solar panels, straw cowboy hats perched atop the heads of men in the first row bobbed up and down nodding in agreement with the President’s words. Thirty years ago this would be a scene in a sci-fi flick, and for some in the Deep South it would have been a horror flick. An African American President telling a rural Florida farming community: Boys, we’re gonna be installin' some special equipment out here in these pastures, we’re gonna start harvesting sun rays. Yeah, sure ya are, and I just got done putting a trailer hitch on my spaceship to Mars. Oh by golly, farming sure has changed. No horses corralling cattle; no tractors in the fields, no worry of drought damaged crops.

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