Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Georgia's senators (and a congressional hopeful) on race

My cheap shot joke from below aside, it's not every day you get to speak to two United States senators. And with Sen. Barack Obama giving his speech on race today, I took the chance to ask senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss what they think about the state of race relations today in America and Georgia.

Both were gracious enough to discuss it, as was Rick Goddard, the retired Air Force general looking to unseat Congressman Jim Marshall here in the 8th District.

Sen. Isakson, R-Ga.:
I was born in the 40s, went to school in the public schools of Atlanta following Brown vs. the Board of Education, attended the first integrated schools in Atlanta's history, watched Ivan Allen be a great leader. When there was lots of strife all over the United States, Atlanta never had violent strife. We were the home of Dr. Martin Luther King. ... Atlanta was peaceful. I think that's because our state has got a mutual respect in terms of race. ...

We've worked hard to make a transition from the Georgia of the 1860s to the Georgia of the 21st century. ... As far as the issue, what's being talked about today, that's race being used in a political context. And I don't think that's right either way. ...

I quote (Dr. King's "I have a Dream") speech quite frequently and many of the individual things that he illuminated or identified as a dream — that every man would be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin — are we perfect to that regard? No. Are we light years ahead? Absolutely. You know prejudice takes many forms... but we're moving in the right direction.

Sen. Chambliss, R-Ga.:
You can always improve on all of our social issues. But I think we've made great strides in this country. And as I get around the state, I have the opportunity to dialogue with folks of all backgrounds, from a race and ethnic standpoint. And we look forward to getting people from every economic strata, every race involved in our campaign. My staff is representative of that and we're going to have that in our campaign, also.

Gen. Goddard (R):
From a perspective of someone who wasn't grown and raised in the south, My perspective is Georgia has made huge, huge advances. Are we always where we should be? Probably not. ...

Every kind of person, whether it be Hispanic, whether it be African American, whether it be Caucasian, we all have to work together to make sure we are making this country as best as it can possibly be. Because, you know, we're all in this together. This is something we can't do individually. ...

It's vitally important that we understand each others' needs, each others' issues and work them together. ...

We need to be willing to understand that sense, what motivates a sense of people who feel like the American flag doesn't represent them? I want to really understand why people feel that way. Because they do. There are some people who feel that way. And so we can't be a country that is cohesive and works together if we don't understand the other side. ...

We're a better people when we sit down and work together and talk together. Often times we end up in camps, split. ... And we've got a lot of work to do.

I told Gen. Goddard I liked his answer, which obviously strayed off of the issue of race and into some of the other differences that divide us, the best.

And, as I typed this out, I was a surprised I let Sen. Chambliss off the hook so easily on his answer. But I had several other questions for him about his campaign and other issues, so the blame is mine.

1 comment:

Nick said...

You just like Saxby don't you? By the way next time you get a chance ask him if he ever plans on apologizing to Max for the ad in 2002? Don't think he will but worth the request.