November 9, 2021 10:45 AM
To grow up as a kid of the 1980s and 1990s in Georgia was to know the name Max Cleland. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but always Georgia-centered, whatever the news was about him. Much of Cleland’s service came before I was out of college, but I always knew Georgia and her people mattered to him in a way that I sometimes wonder if many modern politicians can even fathom.
Max Cleland made a no-frills career of public service to the state of Georgia, beginning behind the scenes for other politicians in the 1950s. Of course, one of the most well-known things about Cleland was that he served in the Army and was wounded in Vietnam in 1968. Yet, I think the thing I admire the most about him is that just two years later, he ran for and won a state Senate seat. That’s some serious grit. Cleland later served as lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, and VA administrator.
I hope you’ll read the full obituary the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has running today. Jim Galloway wrote it, and it’s one of the few obits I’ve read recently that’s really touched me. Jim’s an incredible journalist, of course, but it’s quite clear through his words how much he valued his friendship with Max Cleland.
We all have something positive to learn – whether it’s about real service, optimism, or fortitude – from Max Cleland. My hope is that he’s inspired a love for this state and its people in those who hope to serve in public office.