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Livingston's response was courageous

Oct. 9, 2012 |

By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com I wasn't always a fat man, but I've been overweight for years. I've noticed that there are many people – even politically correct ones – who believe it is acceptable to speak to you about your weight, to offer advice or criticism or throw a fat joke your way. It is, as I've found out, unacceptable to respond in any other way than to laugh about it and allow yourself to be the butt of the joke or to thank the person for their concern. I bring this topic up because of the courageous actions by Jennifer Livingston, a television anchor for WKBT in La Crosse, Wis. She recently responded to an email saying she shouldn't be on television because, as an over-weight woman, she was a bad role model for younger women. Her response has made national news. She actually addressed the email on air and stated, in part, "To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now: Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies." What is so remarkable is that Livingston has a career in television as an anchor. TV is the most conscious medium to the issue of physical image. Apparently her bosses see Livingston through the lens of talent and proficiency to communicate news, rather than her ability to fit into an established norm for a news anchor. When was the last time you saw an overweight person as an on-air personality – much less an anchor – at a local station? When was the last time you saw an older woman and a younger man co-anchoring a broadcast? It's great we have come as far as we have in judging people by their actions and accomplishments rather than their appearance, but we have a long way yet to go.
Casino fever continues in Western Massachusetts with the announcement that the community colleges in the state want to be the entities working with the casinos to develop a pool of available and trained workers. Good idea, but I think what I heard last week takes the concept a bit too far. As explained by Holyoke Community College President William Messner, every potential employee – from parking lot attendant to mid-level manager to human resources and accounting – would have to go through a certification process at the participating community colleges in order to be hired. I could see how the community colleges could aid the casino developers by training a labor pool to be servers with alcohol training or the folks running the table games. I don't see why, lets say, a 10-year veteran of human resources should go through that process when his or her resume and recommendations should say it all. I also don't understand why someone other than the applicant should be paying for this education service, just as they would if they entered a different academic program. Looking for the state or the casino owners to foot the bill strikes me a tad, dare I say it, greedy.
I'm really amazed there would even be a discussion about whether or not the Commonwealth would have to pay for a sex change operation for convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek – born Robert – but now the issue would be determined by an appeals court. While I understand that a prisoner has rights and one of those is adequate and appropriate health care, it's difficult for me to wrap my mind around this one. Yes, I'm sure Michelle would like to complete the gender assignment process that she has started. Yes, I'm sure it does pain her not to be completely female. But, here's the underlying issue: Kosilek killed a person – her – then his – wife. No one seems to be bringing that point up much in this discussion of rights. What were the rights of Cheryl Kosilek? Perhaps not be murdered was one of them. I'm sure some of my liberal friends will disagree with me, but I really can't see this as being unusual punishment for this killer. Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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