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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Life imitating TV

By Kevin O'Toole, June 07 2018 12:00 am

The world is a crazy place and getting crazier by the minute.  You need to look no further than yesterday’s headline in the New York Times –

Alice Marie Johnson is Granted Clemency by Trump after Push by Kim Kardashian West


Some context is needed –  Alice Johnson was convicted in October 1996 of several serious charges: conspiracy, possession of cocaine and money laundering.  This non-violent, first-time offender was given a life sentence for her convictions. After serving 21 and 1/2 years in a detention facility in  Aliceville, Alabama, and at the urging  of some, including Kim Kardashian,  Alice Johnson’s life sentence was commuted by President Trump. A modern day miracle occurring in this crazy world.

You can argue whether she deserves the commutation or not. This single mother of five, grandmother and great grandmother promises to make good and take advantage of her new found freedom. In jail, as reported, she was a model prisoner, became an ordained minister, helped others and worked for charities. President Obama pardoned 212 individuals and commuted sentences for 1,715, including 568 serving life sentences, but did not act on Alice Johnson’s petition.

How in the world does Kim Kardashian West enter and actually have an impact? Paraphrasing Piers Morgan, I never had great respect for Kim, although I give Kim and her mother/manager Chris high marks for marketing whatever they are selling. This single act may cause many of us to rethink our long held prejudices against reality TV stars.  My daughter, Ryan Marie, and her friend Matt, are huge fans of the entire Kardashian TV road show but, candidly, I couldn’t get into the drama and tabloid ordeal.

Now it appears that Kim  is more than just someone pushing product on their Instagram, or cynically or cleverly marketing family feuds.  Imagine if Kim does nothing else in her life (unlikely) other than being the central character that allowed Alice Johnson to experience some freedom. How many of us can say in our lifetime we have done something that is so impactful, meaningful and fulfilling?

In politics and public office, we have such an opportunity to do something great every day—very few have the courage to think big and bold.

Note to those who have political “power” or a platform – go big and do something monumental – go find the next Alice Johnson and change a life!!

This column originally appeared on InsiderNJ.

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