Can Redemption Be on the Horizon for Kwame Kilpatrick?

Just as he made headlines upon his conviction on 24 of 30 counts of public corruption back in March of 2013, Kwame Kilpatrick was back on the front page this week with reports that he may soon be freed from federal prison. If it happens it will not be through appeal nor acquittal but, rather, COVID-19. Should this occur and as the man works to put the pieces of his life back together, can he ever hope to repair or regain his reputation? That is the multi-million-dollar question. Literally.

The fact of the matter is, Kwame Kilpatrick still owes the City of Detroit (and others) a lot of money – and an apology. Right now he is reportedly in a 25-day health quarantine period and could well be let out for some sort of home confinement as early as June 10. Should that happen, what should this man who held so much promise and potential do next? Many don’t care.  Yet, what might the recipe be for redemption? Here are a few thoughts and potential steps:

  • Take responsibility: To date he has never admitted any type of wrongdoing and instead focused on countless appeals – including through the legal system and political clemency. Enough of that. You did it. Time to own it.
  • Show remorse: Look how Pete Rose’s remaining defiant for decades over his betting on baseball has worked out for him.
  • Apologize: For many, in particular today, sorry seems to be the hardest word. This city and its citizens need to hear it. Sit down with a respected journalist to talk about it very publicly. Say it and mean it.
  • Do the right thing: Even when you talk the talk, you must walk the walk moving forward.

How might Kwame Kilpatrick move forward? It must start with a plan to pay back the City what it is owed. How? He is not without advocates. Since his downfall many prominent organizations and people have shown their support, including the EBONY Foundation and NAACP as well as Roger Penske, Peter Karmanos and others. They could well provide a pathway for his reentry into society and a means by which to earn. Perhaps he could write a book with all proceeds going toward restitution. It will also be vital that he seeks ways to give back beyond dollars and cents, including tangible and long-term community service.

The script for this man’s life is still being written and everyone deserves a second chance. This, however, comes with a caveat. When that second chance does come about, what do you do with it? That is the real test – and a potential road to redemption rather than perdition.