“Friends, we need to kill this bill Black Flag dead!”
We knew that we had to work hard to get our fellow Florida senators in Tallahassee to vote for our bill, and the most important voice we needed to be with us was that of our friend Carrie Meek.
What we didn’t want to hear were those dreaded words about killing a bill “Black Flag dead” — Carrie’s reference to a popular commercial for bug spray.
Oh no. Anything but that.
Every senator knew that if Carrie stood up on the Senate floor during debate and uttered those words about your legislation, that would be it: Your bill was going to fail.
We had the honor of serving in the state Legislature with Carrie and got to know her as much more than a skilled orator or community leader.
Carrie was our friend.
We saw how proud she was of representing our South Florida neighbors and how dedicated she was to bringing jobs and a brighter tomorrow to impoverished areas.
She was a proud liberal Democrat, and we were conservative Republicans, but we didn’t let party divisions get in the way of our warm friendship.
Carrie was easy to like, but you would be a fool to take her smile as a sign of weakness. She was a woman of steel, but she understood the power of bipartisanship and cooperation.
Bipartisanship seems like an antiquated word these days. But as recently as just a few years ago when we served with Carrie, it was practiced in the State Senate.
Carrie cared about everybody. You weren’t disqualified because you were white or Black or somewhere in between; that meant, of course, she cared about the problems that Blacks faced and the history of discrimination in our country.
Like Martin Luther King, Carrie believed that everyone of all races would benefit from equal treatment.
For her, racial justice was not a Black cause; it was an American cause, it was our cause.
Carrie was right then. She’s still right today.
We miss her so much. Our community mourns.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen represented Florida’s 27th congressional district from 1989 to 2019. She is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate. Dexter Lehtinen acting U.S. attorney for South Florida and is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate.