Friday, January 30, 2009

English you can understand

Many cities in the United States have become truly international. Just look around when you’re shopping and you’ll see what I mean.

Walking through a mall or grocery store you’ll hear all kinds of languages. Some people like it, some don’t. But, that’s America. We should be honored folks from overseas want to be in the good old USA.

Nashville, TN residents last week rejected legislation to make English the only language for doing business with government.

The proposal read: No person shall have a right to government services in any other language.
Opponents said the measure was “negative and invites discrimination.”

In a newspaper editorial the Tennessean said the legislation would “exclude and marginalize those residents and visitors to Nashville simply because English is not their native tongue.”

The rejection of this move is fine with me. But this issue cranked my mind about use of language by some of America’s biggest corporations.

Recently our company was having a technical problem with phone/internet service. After several days and several telephone calls, we simply gave up and tried our own solution. Part of the problem was a language barrier.

I believe I speak fairly good English even if I am from Arkansas.

And, the people on the other end apparently understood English but they sure couldn’t speak my kind.

The conversations would go something like this:
Them: This is XXXXcvSS, what can I xxdldksvvwww for you?
Me: I am having trouble with ...
Them: LDKWLWKW number?
Me: Can you repeat that?
Them: LDKWLWKW number?
Me: I’m sorry, I can’t understand you, and can you repeat it slowly.
Them: L, D, K, W, L, W, K, W number?
Me: I guess you mean our account number.
Them: Yes.
(Whoopee, we were making progress.)
Me: That number is XXXXXXXXXX.
Them: That XXXXOOWW00.
Me: No. I can’t understand you. I guess I’ll have to call someone else.

Guess what, reaching another “customer service” representative didn’t do any good.
I finally asked these people where they were. It seems like all of them were in different locations — out of the U.S.

One, I remember, was in the Far East. Since I was calling during the day, it meant it was night there. Maybe they were all sleepy.


Here’s my point: If you sell me your product and promise to service it, please let me talk to someone who can understand and speak English.

And, one other thing, you’re taking American jobs overseas. I don’t like that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Martin Luther King remembered

Monday the U.S. observed the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
Government offices, banks and some businesses closed their doors for business as the day King was born was remembered. It would have been his 80th birthday.

The day of King’s birth has been celebrated in this country since I was senior in high school, and two years after the rock band U2 made the day of King’s assassination — April 4 — immortal in their song “Pride (In the Name of Love).” I find it hard to remember when King’s birthday was not remembered.

I often wonder what King would think of the state of the country today.

From what I know and have studied about him, I think King would be both heartened and disheartened at the state of relations between people of all races, religious backgrounds and social standing.

King was a civil rights leader, not just for the cause of equality among different races, but for equality for all people no matter what differences separate them. By the time he was assassinated, he was largely working to end poverty and the Vietnam war.

King would be elated to see how far we, as a people, have come. To see children of all races playing together and not seeing differences based on race would have been a sight I believe he would have liked to have witnessed.

But, the very thing that is one of the biggest strengths of Americans, our diversity, is the one thing that is possibly our biggest weakness — and the thing driving the biggest wedge between people. This would have disheartened King.

He would have cringed at the thought some of the people he surrounded himself with have gone on to propagate division among all Americans. He paid the ultimate price to bring people together and those who walked with him and listened to him speak have turned their back on what he stood for, causing divisiveness at every turn.

King’s famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act one year later.

To let the so-called leaders of today’s civil rights movement use King’s name to promote their own political or social agenda is something King would rise against — both physically and spiritually.

We should remember the man for who he was, and what he did. He was a man, like so many other great leaders, cut down before his time. Cut down because some did not like the truth in his words. Cut down because they couldn’t twist what was happening to serve their own desires.

I hope all people everywhere will discover the true lessons King tried to teach, and not listen to the distortions of the politicians of today as they seek to use King to provoke an emotional response.

Blake Ovard is the managing editor for the Star Group Newspapers and can be reached via e-mail at

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sporting officials should set example for students

Often we wonder what kind of example we are setting for our youth and ask ourselves what kind of role models our young people are given to look up to.

Adults from all walks of life randomly come in contact with youth every day, but our youth mostly interact on a regular basis with individuals who volunteer to spend time with them. We, as a society, count on those who spend the majority of time with our youth to teach young people good character and ethics.

Because our youth spend a majority of their time with teachers, coaches and others involved with school activities, we count on those people more than any others to foster high standards of ethics and set a good example for students to follow.

Sometimes some of those charged with setting the bar high and teaching our young people the value of having high standards of character, ethics and responsibility fall short of that goal.

Such was the case during a basketball game I attended Saturday afternoon — and what I witnessed appalled and saddened me at what we have let become role models for our children.
An official, Wes Cope — sanctioned by the Fort Worth Chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Officials, displayed actions, verbal taunting of fans and the haughtiest demeanor I have ever seen an official demonstrate.

It is sad to see an official sink so low, especially when he affects so many.

Bad and missed calls are a part of the game, and I do not have an issue with a call an official has made — I believe officials call games to the best of their ability, even if it is the wrong call.

The problem with the call Cope made, was that the clock — with 4.2 seconds on it — wasn’t started on the inbound of the ball, it was started after the ball passed mid court. The resulting shot, at the buzzer, sent the game into the second overtime period.

Needless to say, fans of the team that would have won went nuts pointing out the clock had not started correctly — many stating the clock should be reset and play done over. This would have probably been the best way to handle the situation, but Cope decided he did not want to re-play the time.

While the two other officials conversed with the coaches from both teams, Cope decided to show students what a demonstration of bad sportsmanship, a lack of cooperation and questionable ethics looked like.

Cope looked toward the stands where several fans were voicing concern about the call being made, smiled widely and mouthed words toward them that can not be printed in this publication.

That action was merely the icing on the cake, as he had made several others like it throughout the course of the game.

It is sad when this passes for proper behavior by someone who should know better and who is a member of an organization which has as one of its purposes, “Fostering a high standard of ethics; encouraging sportsmanship and fair play. Insuring closer cooperation and better understanding among officials, athletic representatives, coaches, players, athletic directors, parents and the media.”

When I approached Cope as he left the court and asked for his name — I did not yet know — he refused to answer. I repeated that I just wanted to know the names of the officials calling the game, and stated it was an official media request. He again refused to answer and asked a police officers to tell me he did not want to speak to anyone.

That doesn’t sound much like cooperation.

Our athletes, students and other young people see plenty of people in the world displaying poor behavior on a regular basis, they shouldn’t be taught it is the proper way to act by those we expect to teach them right from wrong, to hold themselves to a higher standard and have high character.

The officials calling high school sports games should be held to the highest standards, and should be the paragon of ethics, sportsmanship and fair play.

The act of becoming an official should be one for people with the quintessence of character.
I believe 99 percent of officials who officiate games in our area are role models for our youngsters, but those whose deportment is the model of wretched behavior, such as was the case with Cope, should be removed from the positions of influence they occupy.

Blake Ovard is the managing editor for the Star Group Newspapers and can be reached via e-mail at