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January 19th, 2009
06:26 PM ET

Wall Street, Main Street and then that other world – Railroad Street

Russel L. Honoré
LT.Gen., U.S. Army (Retired)

I think in the spirit and soul of MLK , we should remind the leaders of this great nation that we have three "streets" in America not two.

There is Wall Street. When things go bad they get a golden parachute, or a bail out, or a rescue plan, with no accountability. If they get caught, the max penalty is 5 years in jail, or house arrest, until trial.

Then there is the much talked about Main Street, the middle class, who own small businesses, they are skilled workers with jobs, they teach , they are doctors, and lawyers, bank workers, and Internet gurus. When things get bad they down-size, lay folks off or get laid off, and don’t buy that new car this year or postpone that vacation to the islands or to Europe or Africa, or they give up the idea to have a cabin at the beach or in the mountains.

The third street in America is “Railroad Street.” It’s a street where nearly a third of America lives, indigent lives dependent on minimum wage jobs, a public health system, low-performing public schools, where the streets are not safe. In many towns this is a place not just a metaphor - towns divided by the railroad , e.g. the 9th ward in NOLA. It’s that place in America where as much as 50% of the male student s do not graduate from high school.

The folks on Railroad Street are the first to lose their jobs, the folks on this street, live on the edge every day, they don’t get to eat a balance diet, or go to the dentist, they don’t get annual physicals, they only go to the doctor when they get sick.

As we celebrate the great accomplishment that will occur tomorrow, let's use the power of the message in the coming days and weeks, to shed light on the realities of life on “railroad street.”


Filed under: Economy • Wall St.
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Michelle Ann Magoffin

    What about some accountability for everyone, regardless of social status. Let's tell Wall Street NO, and tell that guy holding a sign to go get a job making 7.05 an hour (don't tell me he can't) and do the best he can.

    January 20, 2009 at 8:45 am |
  2. Monika

    Thanks for making this point. Maybe with the addition of the nouveau-poor (formerly known as middle and upper class), who ended up on Railroad Street due to losing their jobs and homes, more attention will be paid to those at the bottom. I'm not going to hold my breath though. By the time all the Wall Street fatcats, bankers and CEOs are bailed out, there won't be nothing left for the Railroad Street residents. Not as long as the people in charge of this country are part of the super-rich elite. They only care about themselves and their own kind.

    January 19, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  3. Andra in Seattle

    I feel that the coverage so far of the inaugeration has been very biased. My understanding of what Obama AND MLK stand for is equality among all; not just the negro americans. We are all americans and young, baby boomers, women, young people of all race had something to so with him getting elected. I don't feel there has been a fair coverage for all americans.
    Please be fair to all of us who also have the same wants and needs and HOPE that the balcks do.
    Andra in Seattle

    January 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  4. Cindy

    Honestly...I think most of what used to be the middle class is now "Railroad Street"! I don't even think there is much of a middle class at all. Most people now a days live pay check to pay check and if one fails to come or if the person gets sick it throws everything into a whirlwind and they can either correct it somehow or they lose it all. Some communities may not be by train tracks and may have better schools than others but the people there still struggle as much as the people lets say like who live in the 9th Ward...Ok..or used to live there.

    I have always had a problem with how our country just allows people of this country to go homeless or hungry when we have enough to take care of these people and help them rise up out of poverty. Yet they choose to throw millions of dollars to other countries and neglect the problem here! That is ridiculous to me! Hopefully Obama and his cronies can do something about that!

    Cindy...Ga.

    January 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  5. Lisa Foster

    Since the Forestry is no longer responsible for proving the count for crowd numbers, is it possible to now get a better accounting of the MLK March on Washington and the Million Man March attendance? Can we now redefine history for those events and make certain that tomorrow's historic inauguration is properly tallied for correct inclusion in the history books? I want this event to break records.

    January 19, 2009 at 6:41 pm |
  6. Clarence Albuquerque

    I know that in the past I have often felt railroaded by people with signs on street corners. Let's hope the train brought change of the right kind.

    January 19, 2009 at 6:31 pm |