By Dave Wieczorek
City & Shore Magazine
“In my wildest imagination, I never thought that the fifth of six children born to Helen and Buddy Watts – in a poor black neighborhood, in the poor rural community of Eufaula, Oklahoma – would someday be called ‘Congressman.’ ”
If his eight-year run in Congress was all you knew about J.C. Watts, it surely would be enough to earn your admiration and respect. But there’s much more to the man who has scored everywhere life has taken him: from the classroom to the football field to the halls of the U.S. Capitol to business to the church pulpit.
“When it comes to the American dream, no one has a corner on the market,” Watts says. “All of us have an equal chance to share in that dream.”
The former congressman and ex-football star has always been as adept at speaking his mind as he was eluding tackles, whether the subject is politics, race, religion or culture in general.
Here’s just a taste:
“Republicans and Democrats have used accounting gimmicks and competing government analyses to deceive the public into believing that 2 plus 2 equals 6,” Watts says. “If our leaders cannot agree on the numbers, if ‘facts’ are fictional, how can they possibly have a substantive debate on solutions?”
You will have the opportunity to hear Watts’ inspiring take on the many aspects of his journey during “Leadership Lessons From the Sidelines and the Aisles of Congress” at 7:30 p.m. March 23, as part of the 2015-16 Broward College Speaker Series, presented by Hoffman’s Chocolates and sponsored by Exults Internet Marketing. The event, co-sponsored by City & Shore Magazine, will be at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.
“My parents taught me and my brothers and sisters that if you lived under their roof, you were going to work,” says J.C., whose initials stand for Julius Caesar. “I like to call the ethos I grew up with ‘Oklahoma values.’ But you’d be just as accurate if you said ‘American values.’ Oklahoma has a little bit of just about everything that’s American.”
That ethic carried Watts to the University of Oklahoma, where he quarterbacked the Sooners to two Orange Bowl victories and earned a degree in journalism, on to playing in the Canadian Football League, becoming an ordained Baptist minister, serving his home state in Congress (1995 to 2003), and on to the chairmanship of Watts Partners, the largest African-American-owned lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.
Watts has been almost preternaturally comfortable wherever his feet and mind have landed.
“I think you grow wherever God plants you,” says the author of What Color Is Conservative? My Life and My Politics. “I hope I’m growing as a person of faith, as a Christian. That should be our number one objective in this journey of life.”
He is quick to tell you that, “I don’t know if anybody has moved up the ladder more quickly than I have,” that ladder leading to the heights of sports, business, politics and church, all of which he attributes to the character Helen and Buddy instilled in him.
“Everyone tries to define this thing called character. It’s not hard. Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”
Tickets for the 2015-16 Broward College Speaker Series, presented by Hoffman’s Chocolates and sponsored by Exults Internet Marketing at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, are available through the AutoNation Box Office at the Broward Center, 954-462-0222, or visit BrowardCollegeSpeakerSeries.com. James Carville, political strategist and TV political commentator, will be the final guest in this year’s series on April 6.