Another run in him?
Opinionated Lewis thinking about getting into politics
Posted: Friday September 29, 2006 2:57PM;
Carl Lewis wants to go from the track to public office.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Carl Lewis is sitting on the bleachers overlooking the track and field stadium at Santa Monica College.
He is all smiles as he reflects back on his storied Olympic resume and talks about his current acting career, including his role in the film Material Girls.
His smile, however, quickly dissolves as he pauses and watches a group of children running around the synthetic surface surrounding the worn out football field.
“I’m thinking of getting into politics,” he says. “I’m sick of what’s happening.”
Although Lewis isn’t sure when he’ll run or even what office he would run for, he knows it’s something he has to do. But first, he needs to catch his breath and sort through his thoughts.
“I have to calm down some,” says the nine-time Olympic gold medalist.
“I still got too much energy. People have told me, ‘You’ll never get elected because you’re too honest,’ but even if people at first want to tear you down, at the end of the day a politician should be honest. Be exactly who you are and they will know what they are going to get. Stick with what you believe in and say it. That’s where the country is now. It’s all this madness and compromise and crap, and what they really want is someone to come up and tell the truth.”
Lewis has bitten his tongue in the past over his unhappiness with the current administration, but as he discusses the Carl Lewis Foundation, which focuses on the fitness of today’s youth, he can no longer hold back his emotions.
“Why do less than half the schools in America have P.E. as an elective? Why are we taking money out of schools and programs and then complaining about them?” he asks.
“I mean, no child left behind? That means every child is not mine. They don’t care about the basic kids in America. They create programs that are under funded. I just saw a report today that pissed me off. Do you know in order to get No Child Left Behind funds you have to allow the government to come in and recruit for the military?”
The caveat in the program angers Lewis because he has been against the war in Iraq from the very beginning.
“It’s unbelievable,” he says. "We got people over in this invasion. It’s not a war, we’re not at war, it’s an invasion in Iraq and here we are stretched to the nines and we’re putting these types of stipulations. That’s why it’s under funded. If you create a program and under fund it, there’s no program.
Lewis understands that his views on the war and President Bush might rub people the wrong way and may even cause some to put him in the same “un-American” category as The Dixie Chicks, but he doesn’t concern himself with that kind of criticism since such thinking goes against everything he believes is “American.”
“I just think its ridiculous what we do,” he said. "How politics and elections can get twisted, especially the 2004 election. It was ridiculous; all this patriotism and all this crap. Give me a break. I mean, Americans love their country, how dare anyone say you’re anti-American if you don’t support the invasion. I had “USA” on my chest.
“If somebody tells me I’m not American they haven’t been out of their trailer. I mean, I’m sorry. If people think I’m un-American for my beliefs, they can go to hell. I had USA on my chest. I represented this country and they only know one zip code.”
After watching the New Orleans Saints return to the Superdome earlier in the week, Lewis was also outspoken about the relief efforts following Katrina and echoing many of the same sentiments that have been made by Kanye West and Spike Lee.
“How long did it take us to help those people out and when we did it was a flyby,” he said. “What are they doing down there? They don’t care about poor people. They don’t even exist. That’s what’s wrong with America, poor people don’t exist. Over 40 million people do not have health care in our country. Right now, over a third of all kids born today will be diabetic. How are we going to take care of this country 20 years from now?”
As he throws out facts and figures, his arms animated as he speaks, Lewis seems as if he’s getting ready to hop into the political arena sooner rather than later.
“We need people who will stand up for what they believe,” he said. “Kids are not getting educated because we don’t care about schools. We don’t need this silliness and these vouchers. We need to fix our damn schools. I don’t want to hear any bragging that we have cell phones and schools in Iraq. Why don’t they put some more schools and cell phones in Compton? Give me a break.”
While Lewis would certainly love to help sort out many of the country’s problems as a politician, he says he is finished with dealing with the politics and corruption that has currently taken over the sport that made him who he is – track and field.
“I don’t even associate with the track world at all. My heart is broken when I see what’s going on,” Lewis said.
"Honestly, I put 18 years in that sport and took more criticism than anyone in history. I took more crap and had more success and I went through everything.
"I helped usher in the era of money, respect, dignity, everything. Now I see athletes, most of which want it to be better, but don’t know how to make it better just go down the drain because of a few people that are just ridiculous. It’s so frustrating to me.
“Honestly, I try to speak out, but nothing happens. I pray that attrition will take care of our sport and get rid of all those people. People that were in there when I came in under amateurism are still running the sport.”
Lewis believes many of the sport’s current problems lie with those running USA Track and Field in Indianapolis and doesn’t envision things getting better until there are drastic changes made within the organization.
“Amateurism is glorified slavery and I didn’t want no masta’ anymore,” he said.
"Someone has got to come out and speak up for themselves. If they want things to change they have to speak up for themselves but no one will.
“They are waiting for the next Carl Lewis to come around but it won’t happen. The one before me was Jesse Owens and I’ll be dead and gone before the next one comes.”
As Lewis gets up, making his way out of the stadium as a youth track and field team practices within earshot, he shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders after getting so much off his chest.
“I’m just like everyone else right now,” he says. “I’m constantly trying to do what I think is right and be the best I can be and eventually hope that I made a difference.”