Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Monday, October 07, 2013 11:35 AM
Former Gov. Edwin Edwards traveled to Lake Charles Satudray night to give the keynote address at the American Energy Diversity Group’s 2013 Ethnic Diversity Conference at the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel in Westlake.
But by the time Edwards was introduced, a total of nine people — including his wife, Trina, and their 2-month-old son, Eli — were the only ones present in the casino’s River Room, which was set for 110 guests.
Edwards, however, was undeterred. Dressed casually in an open-collared shirt and herringbone blazer, he told the story of the politician who was scheduled to speak in rural Louisiana. But when he got to his destination, Edwards said, only one farmer showed up to hear him speak.
“So he told the old farmer, ‘Since you’re the only one here and nobody else showed up I guess I’ll just go on to my next meeting,’ ” Edwards said.
“And the farmer said, ‘Listen. I raise cattle, and when I go out to feed the cattle in my pickup truck, if one shows up I feed that one. If two show up I’ll feed the two. And if the whole herd shows up, I’ll feed the whole herd.’ ”
Edwards continued: “So the politician said to the farmer, ‘I guess you mean I’m supposed to speak even though you’re the only one here.’ And the farmer said, ‘I think that’s what you should do.’ ”
Edwards said the politician got up onto the bed of the pickup truck and spoke for two hours. When he got through he jumped off and ran to the farmer and said, “How was that?’
The farmer said, “I forgot to tell you. When only one cow shows up I don’t give them the whole load!”
Edwards said he was proud of the fact that as a congressman he was one of three Southerners who voted for the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“I got a lot of criticism for it, but it was the right thing to do,” he said. “I said the best kind of rights you can give people is the right to vote because if we don’t treat them right, they’ll kick us out. And if we treat them right, they’ll keep us in.”
Launched in late 2008, American Energy Diversity Group seeks fair hiring practices among managers and executives in the oil and gas industry. Glenn Heckard, AEDG’s founder and president, said even though companies post equal opportunity signs in their offices, they rarely practice it.
“I’ve been in many places where companies have those postings but they only have white people employed,” he said. “I’ve also been out on a number of construction projects and it’s an all-white environment.”
Heckard, who spent 30 years at Texas Gas as a construction worker and later as a plant operator, said he was one of the fortunate ones who received an opportunity. Heckard retired from Texas Gas in 2003.
“It seems today that things were better 30 years ago,” he said. “At least back then they honored affirmative action. But as we progressed over the years, the people who are in charge of the day-to-day operations at the plants started hiring their friends and their friends’ friends. Seniority was pushed out and kinority was pushed in.”
He said African Americans have been kept from participating in the new energy projects that are being approved in Washington. He added that white people who are not politically connected have also been kept out.
“They are not looking at black and white, not at all,” Heckard said. “That’s not the issue with them, The issue is strictly green. A white person in my position would have the same problem with their congressman or senator returning a phone call or discussing an issue with them.”
Heckard said young African Americans today need to get serious about getting a job in the energy sector as soon as they graduate, whether it be from trade school or college. The competition, he said, is getting stiffer every year.
“You’ve got to get your mind out of the rap and the hip-hop and start developing your future,” Heckard said. “You’ve got to start getting prepared for some of the industry jobs. The African-American community has got to wake up. It’s not about social programs. We’ve got to participate. You can’t help grow an economy unless you’re part of it.”