By Bob Wolfley
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In recent years, say the 20th century, the state of Mississippi has never been burdened with a good image.
In December 2005, there was an in-state ad campaign launched to boost the perception of the state and combat stereotypes associated with it. The name and image of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, among the sports stars native to the state, are being used as part of the effort.
You don’t have to work long to find jokes about Mississippi and its residents. You don’t have to travel very far back in time to find someone who thinks Mississippi is the one place in our country you don’t want to be.
Go way back to Nov. 10, for example.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.) at the time was to become the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax legislation.
Rangel was talking to a New York Times reporter about the state of New York getting back more tax revenue from the feds.
“Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?” Rangel said.
Residents of the 20th state in the union were quick to defend their territory. Rangel said he meant no harm. He apologized.
Rangel’s comments were folded into a public service campaign titled “Mississippi, Believe It!” designed to inform “the citizens of Mississippi, as well as interested parties across the U.S., about the wonderful people, aspects and facts associated with the state of Mississippi,” according to the campaign’s Web site,www.mississippibelieveit.com.
New print and poster ads are to be unveiled this week.
“The three new ads were developed weeks before Representative Rangel made his now infamous comments, but ignorant statements such as his demonstrate the need for continuing effort,” said Rick Looser, whose company, The Cirlot Agency, has paid for much of the campaign. The state of Mississippi has provided no money for the ads. About $315,000 has been spent.
In the sports ad, the headline reads: “Yes, we wear shoes. A few of us even wear cleats.” It sits over vertical action shots of Favre, Jerry Rice, Steve McNair and Walter Payton, all natives of Mississippi.
“These men are just a few of Mississippi’s legendary football heroes,” reads some of the copy below the pictures. “Yes, Mississippi. When it comes to world-class athletes, we’re a shoe in.”
Another ad headline says: “Yes, we can read. A few of us can even write.” Pictured are twelve well-known writers, including Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, John Grisham and William Faulkner.
A third ad reads: “Monster Trucks? No. Hog Callin’? No. Tractor Pulls? No. World-Class Entertainers? Yes!”
Twelve notable people are pictured below the headline, including Oprah Winfrey, Elvis, Morgan Freeman, Sela Ward, James Earl Jones and Leontyne Price.
The posters’ themes have been made into T-shirts and caps sold at the Web site.
One of three new ads reads: “Meet a few of our new good ole boys,” pointing out that Mississippi “has more black elected officials than any other state in the country.”
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Mississippi plays the Favre card