Jacksonville (Texas) Daily Progress article
November 1, 1991

Jack Kemp finds hope in inner-city ministries

by Carey Kinsolving

Jack Kemp already has achieved fame in two areas – as one of pro football’s best quarterbacks and now as an ebullient Republican congressman turned Cabinet member.

He also is known throughout this town – which loves both football and politics with equal fanaticism – as a committed Christian.

Looking husky and fit – he’s just dropped 15 pounds – and wearing his trademark collar stay, Kemp spoke at a recent banquet at a Presbyterian Church in suburban Maryland. He talked about his two football-playing sons, Queen Elizabeth, the Cabinet. And God.

The Kemp sons are following in their father’s footsteps, or perhaps more accurately, their father’s arm. Jimmy is starting sophomore quarterback at Wake Forest, and Jeff until recently started for the Seattle Seahawks. Kemp chided someone at his table for even suggesting that the undefeated Washington Redskins could beat the Seahawks.

As for God, Kemp finds him at work everywhere. He believes that Judeo-Christian values and ideas won the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

“It wasn’t our military might. It wasn’t our Gross National Product as it was our ideas, our values. And they come to us from Hebrew and Christian scripture,” Kemp said.

But at the very moment of the vast triumph of the Judeo-Christian ideal, Kemp said Americans are losing confidence in it at home.

“We live in a very cynical and skeptical town,” he said, then adding, “We live in the greatest democracy the world has ever known. We pray that someday soon all men all over the world will be able to enjoy the inalienable rights that come from our creator.”

As a politician, Kemp has done more, perhaps, than any other Republican in appealing to black voters. He said he has spent time in public housing of the inner cities of Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. As a congressman he introduced legislation to allow public housing residents to buy the property where they lived.

“If you’ve never owned anything in your whole life, it debilitates the soul and leads to despair,” Kemp said, pointing out that three of the Ten Commandments deal with property rights.

Political columnist Charles Cook says Kemp is one of the players to watch for the 1996 presidential race. He is repositioning himself with a new group of issues, all with the growth and opportunity theme, Cook says.

As one Washington insider put it, “Kemp looks downfield like a good quarterback and at the proper time he goes deep.”

During his speech, Kemp called the welfare system a swamp and drain.

When Queen Elizabeth came to Washington a few months ago, he was there when Alice Fraizer, a woman in a public housing development, greeted the Queen with a big hug, a taboo when meeting royalty.

Kemp said she explained, “It was the American thing to do.”

The inner city area where Fraizer lives used to be called Dodge City, but today it looks like green tree road, Kemp said. “This is what can happen when you’ve got a community, people of faith and a government that does the right thing now and then,” he said.

Kemp told of changed thinking in what he called a tremendous faith-based inner city ministry in America.

“Bertha Gilkey was a Black Panther who used to carry an AK-47 submachine gun,” Kemp said. “Today her Christian faith has led her to work with the government to help people get out of the welfare system,” he said.

The popular mayor of Moscow, Cavril Popov, recently visited Kemp at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Popov wants to give every resident of Moscow his own property and establish a free enterprise zone with no taxes.

“He wants to establish fundamental sovereignty of the people over the government on the theory that the rights to these ventures come to them from their creator,” Kemp said. “He is a Christian, and he is inspired by the Declaration of Independence.”

Kemp said the pursuit of happiness as stated in the Declaration of Independence is linked to the opportunity to own property. “We treat poor people as if they wouldn’t even want to, or if they had property, they wouldn’t even know how to control it,” he said.

When serving as congressman, Kemp offered a resolution to give everyone in public housing the means to buy the house in which he lives. Kemp’s initiative has blossomed into the National Affordable Housing Act. A provision of the Act provides funds for tenants to buy their rental properties through working to restore the public housing project in which they reside.