Georgia politics has entered a new phase of Donald Trump-driven division. Even so, champions of pragmatism, cooperation and consensus remain, all eager to leave their imprint on the state.
The inaugural Isakson Symposium on Political Civility will bring them together on Nov. 10 at the University of Georgia Chapel. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, will be the featured speakers.
The event is meant to pay tribute to the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and his legacy by encouraging future leaders to adopt his approach of seeking common political ground.
“Sen. Isakson represented the very best of public service during his more than 40 years in elected office, and a hallmark of his career was his ability to get results by reaching across the aisle and engaging in civil discourse,” said UGA President Jere Morehead of the symposium, which will be hosted by the School of Public and International Affairs.
Organizers said McConnell and Manchin were selected to honor their friendship with Isakson, who died in 2021 after decades in public office, and “their ability to navigate a polarized political landscape” at the highest reaches of government.
“I cannot think of a better way to carry on our dear friend’s legacy than by promoting discussion on this important topic,” McConnell said.
McConnell might seem an unlikely figure to highlight consensus after a history of clashes with Democrats, including his year-long effort to block then-President Barack Obama from filling a U.S. Supreme Court seat following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
But Democrats also prize McConnell’s aversion to the party’s far-right flank, his efforts to find compromise on appropriations bills to avoid government shutdowns, and his support for financial aid to Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.
John Isakson Jr. invoked his father’s personal motto – that there are two types of people in the world, “friends and future friends.”
“Nothing embodies his political and personal philosophy of ‘friends and future friends’ better than this effort,” he said, “which will continue to push for respectful discourse, political civility and productive compromise.”