BAYHAM: Governor Blanco’s Biggest Battle

Former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco issued a message to the people of Louisiana concerning her health, sharing with the public that she is once again battling cancer, though this time having received a much more severe diagnosis as the eye cancer that she had treated six years ago has returned and spread to her liver.

The message is akin to Reagan’s final note to the American people when he disclosed his Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis.

And if you haven’t read it, you should as Blanco penned a message that stands out from any other you will ever see from a politician.  Especially one from Louisiana.

Blanco’s 839 word essay ran in the state’s major newspapers and rather than being the “legacy” (or rather vanity) piece some public figures draw up to frame their achievements in government for posterity Blanco’s message conveys her faith, humility, gratitude, and sincerity as she prepares to face her greatest challenge yet.

It’s a letter that could have been written by any churchgoing Christian woman, though this one just so happened to have been the most powerful figure in Louisiana government for four years.

The best way to describe Blanco’s message is an official farewell to her fellow Louisianans and the closing of a long life of public service that started in 1983.

The same year Edwin Edwards won his third term for governor, Blanco was elected to the House of Representatives beginning a 24 year political career that meandered like a Louisiana bayou through various state offices.

In 1988 Blanco made a successful run for the public service commission, becoming the first woman to win a spot on the state board that was long considered the springboard to the governor’s mansion though her first leap resulted in a scuttled bid in 1991 when she was unable to dislodge fellow Democrat Edwards from the race

Four years later, Blanco set her sights one notch lower, successfully running for lieutenant governor.  After a landslide re-election to her post, Blanco emerged from a crowded Democratic primary field to defeat Bobby Jindal in a runoff for the state’s top office.

Blanco’s message underscores her strong Catholic faith, particularly when the governor expressed her wish that “this cup would pass me by.”  The former governor makes many other references to the Bible and God throughout her letter.

Throughout her letter, the former governor asked for prayers.

That’s not a sign of desperation or fear for her plight but is a testament to her faith in God and a public expression of personal humility.

Blanco also touches on the tragedy of losing a son while she was lieutenant governor and how much the prayers of others meant to her and the Blanco family while dealing with the great sadness.

There will be an appropriate time and venues to discuss and debate Governor Blanco’s leadership of Louisiana in the midst of the most destructive natural disaster to strike a major American city and her handling of the recovery.

This is neither the time nor the place.

Some did not get the memo.

The Times Picayune’s write up on Blanco’s “farewell” crossed a line, diving into areas not germane to her cancer diagnosis and what was a remarkably personal letter from a former governor.

As someone who actively opposed Blanco’s run for governor and was very critical of her administration, I was disgusted by the article and the unflattering descriptions it contained. Someone fighting for her life shouldn’t be subjected to that.

The replay of her Katrina record can wait, our prayers for strength and healing for Governor Blanco cannot.

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