Athens Bible School invited me to hear U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks speak to their student body on the morning of March 10th. This was only a few days after he was a part of history when recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed both Houses, and told me, “It was great! It was like being in a pep rally!” In addition, more on Benghazi was being released to the public, the Iranian nuclear crisis continues to loom large, and he mentioned later to the older students that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs declared our national debt and possible bankruptcy to be a greater threat to our security than terrorism.
He told me before his talk, that because of the fact that the younger students were going to be present, he would give a “day in the life” speech, educating our young people on just what it is like to be a legislator. He told about the challenges of being expected to somehow miraculously be in three places at once while working in DC, meet with constituents at home, and carve out a family life in Huntsville on the weekends. And, the entire time he spoke, I never got the feeling that he was whining. It was an engaging “just the facts, ma’am,” type of speech, and the kids paid attention.
Hearing him describe what it is like to keep such a taxing schedule, I became more aware than ever of the precious gift of time he was giving to these kids, and I learned that when school groups come to see him in DC, he takes them on a tour to places that few ever get to see, and spends several hours with them.
However, it was after the little kids were dismissed, and he opened his heart to the secondary students that I got a fresh understanding of what it means to swim against one’s own personal “tide” out of the conviction that something else that benefits someone else is more important. And, I hope you will see that same spirit in Hunter Rogers’ article, Choosing To Be A Minority on page 5. It is a refreshing perspective, indeed, and in my mind, Hunter is wise beyond her years.
Mo went to Grissom High, and graduated in 1972. His plans were to become a nuclear engineer, he was “peggin’ the meters” in math and science, and for those of you who remember slide rules, Mo carried one on his belt like a gunslinger would carry his Colt. He was dreadfully shy, shot hoop for the JV team and occasionally got to play varsity. Then, in his sophomore year, he received his draft number; (his number, not his notice), and that piece of mail changed the course of his life.
His mom was an Economics and Government teacher at Lee High, his dad, an engineer out at Redstone, and Mo began to delve into the management of the Vietnam War. He did not like what he learned, and decided to do something about that and other serious situations if he possibly could. Mo quit the basketball team and joined the debate team in order to force himself to overcome his shyness. They took the state debate championship the next two years. He decided to become a lawyer, double majored in political science and economics, graduated with honors from Duke in three years, and went to Alabama for his law degree.
Most of us are aware of his storied career in law in Madison County. We also remember with a smile when he inadvertently chagrined MSNBC correspondent Contessa Brewer, (who snarkily asked him if he had a degree in economics), by politely answering, “Yes, ma’am, I do. Highest honors.” Re: that exchange, he told me, not long after it happened, “Sometimes you get lucky.” He grinned, but there were clearly more important things that mattered to him than besting someone’s ignorance and arrogance.
For the last week, as a result of Mo’s “slide rule story,” I have thought a lot about getting out of one’s comfort zone, or even flying in the face of what the tests in school say are one’s strengths, and therefore, one’s undisputed destiny. I have to wonder, what if Mo had decided to stay shy, shoot hoop, and hang on to his slide rule? You may not like him or agree with him politically, but seriously, are you willing to live permanently out of your comfort zone for the sake of your conscience?