Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Bill Randles at a political meet-and-greet session and walked away feeling as if I had just met Missouri’s version of Herman Cain, the man who’s been atop recent polls in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Not familiar with Randles or Cain? Perhaps the comparison below, with text lifted from the respective candidates’ websites, will help familiarize you with both men, neither of whom has ever held political office:
Herman Cain grew up in Atlanta, Georgia with loving parents and little else. His father worked three jobs—as a janitor, a barber and a chauffeur—and his mother was a domestic worker. Even though these jobs required hard work and little glamour, his parents knew this life was better than the dirt farms upon which they grew up. They also knew that this hard work was the key to achieving their American Dreams.
Herman’s parents had two dreams. First, they wanted to own their own house. Secondly, they wanted both of their children to graduate from college. During the segregation era in the Deep South, these aspirations might have seemed lofty, but they knew that if they kept their faith in God, faith in themselves and faith in the greatest country on the Earth, they could achieve.
The first dream was realized in a modest brick house on Albert Street in Atlanta, Georgia. After years of saving from his many jobs, Herman’s father surprised the whole family, even his wife, by purchasing a home for their family. The second dream was realized when Herman graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics in 1967. His brother, Thurman, would go on to graduate from Morris Brown College.
Inspired by the work ethic and character of his parents, Herman continued his education by earning his Master’s degree in computer science from Purdue University while working full-time developing fire control systems for ships and fighter planes for the Department of the Navy. Though Herman enjoyed using his talents as a civilian employee for the Navy, he gravitated towards the culture of business.
Herman returned to his home of Atlanta to begin working as a computer systems analyst for the Coca-Cola Company. After considerable success at Coca-Cola, he moved to the Pillsbury Company. Within a short period of time, Herman rose to position of Vice President. Although the comforts of a corner office on the 31st floor of a majestic corporate building seemed satisfying, Herman knew that he needed a challenge.
He became the regional vice president of Pillsbury’s Burger King division. This meant starting from the “ground up,” dodging grease fires and broiling hamburgers. Herman was assigned to lead a low performing region of 450 of their restaurants. Within three years, it became the best performing region in the company.
Energized by overcoming the many obstacles of his job at Burger King, Herman took on the biggest challenge of his career. He accepted the call to become the President and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a company that was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. In just 14 months, Herman returned Godfather’s to profitability and he led his management team to a buyout of the company.
His professional successes garnered the respect and admiration of industry peers who named him the President of the National Restaurant Association.
Of course, there’s more, but you get the point.
Like Herman Cain, Bill Randles rose from modest beginnings, explained on his campaign website:
Bill was born in 1963 in the small Ozarks town of Springdale, Arkansas. His parents married as teenagers and had Bill a little more than a year later. Until Bill was ten years old, his family lived in a trailer park and operated a roadside fruit stand. From the time he was a little boy, Bill worked in the family business, stocking, loading and unloading trucks, pitching melons, and helping out any way he could. But he also had another job – school. When he was seven years old, Bill’s father told him if he wanted to get out of Arkansas he would have to do well in school. So from that time on, Bill treated school like his other job. He developed a tenacity. That, coupled with a relentless optimism about his future, began to pay off.
Other areas of life improved too. When Bill was ten, his family moved to a new trailer on thirty acres of land in the country. In his free time, Bill would steal away to the woods and imagine what life could be like. He saw things as they would be, not as they were. In the woods, he was free. Free to hunt and fish, to vex the snakes in his path, free to think in solitude, and free to dream.
With all that freedom came the greatest gift of his life. At the age of fifteen, Bill gave his life to Christ in what he calls a deep process of reflection and revelation. One year later, he felt the calling of God to preach God’s word. For the next many years, Bill traveled around the Ozarks preaching at churches and revivals.
In the fall of 1981, Bill left Northwest Arkansas for Bolivar, Missouri where he attended Southwest Baptist University on a speech and debate scholarship. He had excelled in speech and debate in high school and was pleased when SBU recruited him for its team. During his four years of college, Bill won two national speech championships and numerous other awards and accolades.
After SBU, Bill went to Baylor University and received Master of Communication Studies degree. In 1986, he decided to take the law school admissions test. Of the over 100,000 students taking the test that year, Bill’s score was one of the top ten in the nation. That opened the door to his greatest educational experience of all – Harvard Law School. The young Ozarks minister graduated from Harvard in 1990, with honors.
A life-long lover of history and public policy, and the inner-workings of the two, Bill thrived at Harvard. As one of the few conservatives there, he often found himself defending conservative ideals and principles. Despite the liberal orthodoxy taught by most of Harvard’s esteemed professors, and swallowed whole by most of his classmates, the liberal teaching helped Bill to further analyze his own conservative views, to carefully understand and dissect the other side’s accounts of the world we live in, and to better articulate his own. As a result, Bill left Harvard even more conservative than when he arrived. Armed with the best legal and political education student loans could buy, Bill was ready to head back to the Midwest. He decided to join a large law firm and allow himself three years to pay off those student loans. Then, he would enter a life of politics and follow the best traditions of the Grand Old Party.
Bill began his law practice in St. Louis. He spent his first two years of practice at Lewis & Rice, a large firm in the city. It soon became apparent that it would take him a lot longer than three years to pay back the $100,000 in student loans his Harvard degree had cost him. In fact, it took twelve.
See the similarities?
While I have nothing against any of Cain’s or Randles’ GOP opponents and I’m not endorsing anyone in either race, there’s just something special about these self-made men who, bolstered by their faith in Christ, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and accomplished things.
Now, they’re running for office, unencumbered by strings stretching from the smoke-filled rooms of the established political machine operators who tend to think the rank-and-file folks are not smart enough to decide for themselves.
Just my two cents worth.
UPDATE 11/29/11 at 2:34 p.m. Central: Okay, it’s becoming extremely difficult to continue giving Cain the benefit of the doubt — especially after his attorney made such a poor public statement about the matter yesterday. See this article for details.
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