By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
“My signature statement is a call to action for all Americans, young as well as old,” says Dr. Carol M. Swain of Nashville. The Vanderbilt University law professor will be the 2013 Union City Rotary Club Distinguished Speaker Thursday evening at the Hampton Centré on West Reelfoot Avenue in Union City.
While in this area, Dr. Swain will also visit the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Tennessee-Union City to talk to boys and girls and will address students at Union City High School, some of whom have been reading her book, “Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise.”
A tenured Princeton University professor with a lifetime appointment, Dr. Swain felt a call to return to the South, where she was born and grew up and left a decade of teaching excellence on the Ivy League campus to accept a post at Vanderbilt. That was in 2000.
The Bedford County, Va., native said she nursed the illusion that accepting a job in the South would move her closer to family, but the fact of the matter is that there is very little difference in terms of mileage. She realizes now, however, that the move was part of God “ordering my footsteps.”
The second child in a family of 12 siblings, Dr. Swain was a high school dropout and teenage mother in the 1970s. But she could see the glimmer of a better life, she says. She earned her GED and, tucking that successful experience under her belt, went on to claim success at a community college, a diploma from a four-year university and the requisite academic degrees to become a university professor herself.
She was, she notes in the first chapter of her book, “a fish out of water” in the Ivy League school where she was establishing something of an unusual reputation for herself.
“I shouldered the disregard of the arrogant, liberal mind-set that showed little patience for a black conservative woman with a thick Southern accent. Looking back on those early years, I chuckle and say, ‘God has a sense of humor.’ Nothing else could explain this journey I’m on.”
Dr. Swain says she had a conversion experience in 1999, soon after she accepted the job at Vanderbilt.
“There is a religious freedom battle being waged here (at Vanderbilt) and I’ve been a leader in the battle. That may be part of why I am here. The other part is that a conversion experience later in life makes you bolder and I’ve been called to be bolder, especially in terms of political correctness. That silences so many people, so it’s more important than ever for some of us to be willing to take the risk of speaking the truth.”
As the mother of two sons, Benjamin and Reginald, and the grandmother of five, she says she particularly has a message for young people. It is about the emergency of our times and the need for people who will stand for the Constitutional values and principles that shaped this country from its founding.
“As someone who studies government, I see changes taking place that are eroding our civil liberties and rights. It is more important than ever for students to understand the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and to recognize the Bible as undergirding who we are as a people. If we no longer value these things, we risk losing everything our forefathers fought for,” she says.
When Dr. Swain addresses the audience at the Distinguished Speakers Banquet, she expects to focus on the state of the nation and on immigration — one of her areas of expertise — and the need to develop strategies to effectively combat changes in the idea of constitutionality and what it takes to be an American.
Dr. Swain is the author of several other books and is a frequent guest on radio and TV programs. She has also launched her own half hour TV program that focuses on social and cultural issues. Presently it is available to viewers in the Middle Tennessee and Chattanooga areas. She hopes to expand that very soon to markets in West Tennessee and the Knoxville area.
“I would like to take Be the People statewide, but that requires investors and advertisers,” she says. “I would love to have the show air in Memphis and Knoxville and other areas of the state, but that can only happen if people are willing to come alongside and take the risk of investment. They can be part of helping to change the culture in America and we should all be involved in that fight. I don’t belong to a network of people with resources, and it’s an uphill battle to get resources to do what I believe God has called me to do.”
In her book, Dr. Swain calls herself a woman “in the uncomfortable yet opportune position of being an African American academic who disapproves of the unbiblical direction my country has taken in recent years. I proudly wear my American flag pin, salute the American flag and stand while our national anthem is played. I believe that America is still the greatest nation in the world. I have written this book because I care about this nation and the promise it still holds. This books sounds a rallying cry for my fellow Americans to stand up and reclaim the promises of life, liberty and justice envisioned by our forefathers, many of whom were deeply committed to Judeo-Christian values and principles.”
Tickets to meet Dr. Swain, obtain autographed copies of her book and hear her views on what it will take to reclaim America’s promise of greatness are available at Lanzer’s Printing and Office Supply in downtown Union City.
A social hour will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, to be followed by the meal at 7 and the address by Dr. Swain at 8. Tickets are $125.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.15.13