There is a New South Carolina being born.
You can see evidence of it in a recent Time Magazine special issue featuring the 100 Most Influential. There are four South Carolinians in the magazine – two were chosen among the 100 Most Influential and two were chosen to write short profiles. Who they are and what they wrote says a lot about our state and who we are becoming – the New South Carolina.
How were they chosen? Editor Nancy Gibbs said, “One way or the other they each embody a breakthrough; they broke the rules, broke the record, broke the silence, broke the boundaries to reveal what we’re capable of… each in their own way have lessons to teach.”
So who are the four South Carolinians and what are the lessons they have to teach us?
The first is Gov. Nikki Haley, a 21st Century South Carolinian. When she was chosen for the list it got lots of media attention, as well it should. She was pictured seated at a big desk surrounded by a crowd of former governors, politicians and church people as she held a pen to sign the bill to take down the Confederate flag.
Haley was born in Barnwell to Indian immigrant parents. She grew up different – not white not black – with all the challenges that brought. From childhood she worked in the family clothing business and she graduated from Clemson with a degree in accounting. Her husband has a military career as an officer and they have two beautiful children.
She’s got a wicked sense of humor, she’s smart and gritty and she made her way to success in the bare knuckle world of South Carolina politics. She was born a Sheik, is now a member of the Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church and is a Republican.
Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote the tribute to Haley. After citing the challenges she and our state faced with the Emanuel and Walter Scott shootings and the 1,000 year flood, he said “…Gov. Haley led with determination, grace and compassion… From shaking up the system to providing kindness and understanding to the individuals and families affected by these tragedies, she put a face on South Carolina that we are all extremely proud of.”
Graham is a traditional South Carolinian; his family roots are in South Carolina. He was born in Central to a hard scrabble family and from childhood he worked in the family business – a restaurant-bar-pool hall-liquor store named the Sanitary Café. Both of his parents died when he was young; he went to USC Law School and had a military career as an officer. He has a deep and wide streak of ‘don’t tread on me… you can go straight to Hell’ South Carolina red neck independence.
He’s got a wicked sense of humor, he’s smart, gritty and he made his own way to success in the bare knuckle world of South Carolina and national politics. He’s single, a member of the Corinth Baptist Church and is a Republican.
The second 21st Century South Carolinian featured in the magazine is probably the most famous South Carolinian that you have never heard of – at least if you are over 35 years old. He’s actor, writer and stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari. He was pictured standing in a white suit against a white background holding a bouquet of wilted purple flowers.
Ansari was born in Columbia into a Muslim family from India; his father was a doctor. He grew up in Bennettsville and went to the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Math. Like so many bright young folks, he left South Carolina and landed at New York University’s Stern School of Business where he majored in marketing.
He began doing stand-up comedy in New York and his big break came when he stared in NBC’s comedy Parks and Recreation from 2009–2015. Now he plays Dev Shah on the Netflix series Master of None; Ansari created, writes, and stars in the show. The New York Times called it “the year’s best comedy straight out of the gate.” In 2015, he wrote a hot best-selling book, Modern Romance: An Investigation. He was deeply moved by the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013 and he performed a benefit concert for the victims and their families.
He’s got a wicked sense of humor, he’s smart, gritty and he made his own way to success in the bare knuckle world of big time television and media. He’s single, was raised a Muslim and is now an atheist and is a Democrat.
The forth South Carolinian in the magazine is traditional South Carolinian Jennifer Pinckney, wife of Rev. Clementa Pinckney who was killed in the Emanuel Nine shooting. She is African American and her family roots are in South Carolina; she grew up in the rural area around Aiken and went to the University of South Carolina.
She has survived the unspeakable horrors of the shooting and its continuing aftermath with the upmost grace and dignity that all South Carolina is extremely proud of. She has two beautiful children, is a member of Emanuel AME Church and she is a Democrat.
Pinckney was chosen to write the profile of none other than Pres. Barack Obama. She wrote lovingly of Obama’s similarities with her husband – “… two God-fearing charismatic black men dedicated to public service and to their wives and two daughters. They were both voices for the voiceless who got up with smiles when they got knocked down.”
These four are the faces and voices of The New South Carolina. They are a combination of traditional and 21st Century South Carolinians – one white male, two of Indian descent, two women, and one African American.
They all share South Carolina values, all are compassionate people, all have their own ideas about religion and politics and all share in the making of The New South Carolina.
There is much of traditional South Carolina that is special, important and good. We need to recognize, protect and nourish it. It’s who we are.
There is much of 21st Century South Carolina that is special, important and good. We need to recognize, protect and nourish it. It’s who we are.
Welcome to The New South Carolina. It’s who we are.
Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the SC Press Association. www.PhilNoble.com [email protected]