The Rev. Al Sharpton's career is controversial to say the least. But Friday morning he received a standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans when speaking to a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature.
Whatever you think of his politics, I don't think anyone who heard him this morning would argue that few if anyone with his oratory skills have ever spoken in the Roundhouse.
Sharpton spoke as part of the African-American Day festivities at the Legislature.
Although he's an outspoken Democrat, he congratulated Gov. Susana Martinez for being the first Hispanic woman governor in the U.S.
"We do not have to agree on politics to all acknowledge the achievements and progress made in this country ," he said. He called on leaders to "respect and regard each others' achievements" and to "disagree without being disagreeable."
Then the reverend delivered the applause line: "We cannot tell the children to not engage in youth gang activity when they see adults and public officials gangbanging in legislative halls."
Sharpton talked about the importance for people standing up for themselves. "If I step from behind this roster and walked over to your seat and knocked you off your chair, that's on me. But if we come back next Friday and you're still on the floor, that's on you. ... Even if you're not responsible for being down, you're responsible for getting up."
He said he didn't realize that he came from an "underprivileged home until he went to college. "... my single-parent welfare mother didn't raise me as to what I wasn't. She raised me, and my pastor raised me that I was expected to be something."
The cheers became less bipartisan when Sharpton talked specifics such as immigration, racial profiling and making rich people share in the sacrifice. "Don't subsidize the rich that took advantage of the economy by laying off workers," he said.
This is the second time I've heard Sharpton speak in person. The first time was at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where he was one of the few speakers who dared to "go off script" and not be totally boring.
More in tomorrow's New Mexican.