Recently the United Negro College Fund received a gift of $25 million from conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.
Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, willingly accepted the donation and also spoke at a conference held by the Koch brothers.Lomanx’s decision to accept the donation was highly criticized. Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, severed ties with the UNCF because of Lomax’s acceptance of the donation.
In a letter to Lomax, Saunders wrote, “We are doing this as a result of actions you have taken as president of the UNCF that are not only deeply hostile to the rights and dignity of public employees, but also a profound betrayal of the ideals of the civil rights movement. Your appearance at the summit can only be interpreted as a sign of your personal support and the UNCF’s organizational support of the Koch brothers’ ideological program.”
Yesterday, audio surfaced of Lomax mocking critics of his partnership with the Koch brothers for depicting it as “mind control,” and explaining how he fought back by winning over African-American radio host Tom Joyner.
Here are excerpts from the audio:
Well, look, polarization is something we experience every day (inaudible) just demonstrated again that the nation is deeply divided, and it’s not just that people disagree. We demonize the people that we don’t agree with. And we think that they’re not just wrong-headed, they’re bad. And so, that’s a terrible environment to try to get anything done, and it’s an almost impossible environment in which to affirm something (inaudible), as opposed to (inaudible).
So at the UNCF, we’re, we’re not big idea people. We’re not ideological. We’re just trying to move a needle. And the needle that we’ve been trying to move for 70 years is getting African-American kids to and through college. We started doing that at the end of World War II in 1944. We couldn’t do it by ourselves. And we worked with business leadership in this country, John D. Rockefeller (Inaudible) our first campaign with $750,000 in 1944. And over the 70 intervening years, we’ve raised $4 billion (inaudible).
Prescott Bush was on that first committee. You know, Eli Lilly was alive and well. (Inaudible) and Paul Mellon, a whole a lot of wonderful people wrote checks, but they did it in order to help people help themselves. And today all we want to do is we want to give more college-ready high school graduates a chance to earn a college degree and live their life. And so, I’m here working with, in this partnership, because this is what we’ve been doing for 70 years, and we’ve got to do a whole lot more.
One of the criticisms we got from this was – mind control.
They have not met the kids – I can’t control my own kids.
What I will tell you is that students want the opportunity to pursue their academics without worrying about how they’re going to pay. And this is going to give good students the chance to focus what they need to focus on (inaudible). We’re going to focus on two areas that they’re going to work on across institutions and in the network, and that is entrepreneurship and innovation. And the only thing I will tell you that African-American kids want more than a college degree is a successful career, and many of them want to work for great companies like Koch Industries and a whole lot of them want to start there. And so, I think that the one thing that we’re not hearing is that these folks don’t know anything about running a business. And so, we’re expecting that our students are going to [get] a chance to learn from their successes.
Lomax also shared his experience on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
Well, I would say, first of all, that we survived this week, the announcement of this partnership. I wasn’t sure –
….When I went on the Tom Joyner Morning Show — I know you all probably don’t (know who) Tom Joyner (is) (inaudible). And he is noted for black radio in the morning drive time, and gave me a hard time about it. And finally Tom Joyner said, “You know, do good. Do good.” And he said, “You know, I’m fine with it.”
In closing remarks, Lomax shared more lessons of his experience defending what he called his “courageous” partnership with the Kochs:
I think we have three things that we’ve got to do: we can’t do something (inaudible) and assume the attacks won’t continue, so I think we’ve got to remain vigilant and tell our story of this partnership consistently and accurately.
And number two, UNCF has got to keep reminding all Americans of our mission. For 40 years we’ve been telling folks, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” It still is — we’ve added something to that — “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste, But a Wonderful Thing to Invest In,” and we need more investment. And I think it’s real important that over the next 12 to 24 months that we demonstrate to America that this courageous partnership between Koch Industries, and Charles Koch Foundation, and UNCF has been good for America and that it’s wound up (inaudible) of investing in our kids and building a better future for them (inaudible).
Well this definitely won’t win over any supporters.