Cathy Cox: ‘Books are passport to the world’

Published 2:35 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Georgia Literary Festival keynote speaker, Cathy Cox, began her comments in the Kirbo Regional Center auditorium Saturday morning by saying, “I can’t believe I am really standing here,” referring to what most every one in the room was well aware—of the troubled history of the building’s construction.

Bainbridge College President Dr. Tom Wilkerson introduced Bainbridge native Cox as a friend and colleague who had served this district as a Georgia state representative, as Secretary of State, and as a candidate who ran with class, dignity and distinction for the office of governor before making a career change to become president of Young Harris College last year.

Cox described herself as one of the first urban dwellers who grew up over the Cox Funeral Home, played in the downtown area and spent her spare time in the local library, just one block away.

She explained the town always had a library—that Bainbridge was one of the first towns in the state to levy a small tax to support a library. She found books to be her passport to the world taking her way beyond the boundaries of Bainbridge.

Describing Bainbridge as the best of Southwest Georgia, Cox said what you see here is the stuff of novels, and many authors have written about lives lived here.

“Reading these home-grown stories have given me a feeling I was back at home, even when I couldn’t be here,” she explained.

Cox stressed the importance of reading, saying, “You are a different person when you finish reading a good book.”

As an educator, she said she is interested in encouraging her students to learn and grow, and that cannot happen without reading.

She cited statistics that tie literary rates to predictors of school dropouts and future earning powers. Cox also said those who cannot read well are affected by health issues, and that in Georgia prisons, 69 percent of the inmates read at or below the eighth-grade level.

All these negatives can be turned around by focusing on literacy and reading, said Cox; who said knowledge rather than manual labor is determining the economy today, as employers seek those who have problem-solving skills, can think critically and have the capacity for life-long learning.