Teacher, student, now friends

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The two ladies were standing on the corner looking at map. It wasn’t that they were lost so much as they were trying to decide where to go.

A gentleman stopped and asked them if they needed assistance. They assured him they were fine only to be asked less than 30 seconds later by another gentleman if they needed help.

Savannah has always been one of my favorite cities. Mary Lou and I asked my mother if she would like to go over with us this week while I attended a few days of meetings. They were the two ladies standing on the corner. The first gentleman was the president of SunTrust Bank in Savannah. The second man was also an employee of SunTrust.

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We always like to believe that Southerners are more courteous and friendly and this week’s trip to Savannah proved it to be true. ML and Mom told the second Good Samaritan they had never been somewhere so friendly and wanted to tell the Chamber of Commerce. As they talked he asked where they were from. It turns out that there was a person he worked with at the bank that was from Donalsonville.

Later that afternoon one of ML’s favorite students from almost 20 years ago called the hotel. The stranger on the street had told him of the encounter with the two ladies.

One of the rewards of being a teacher is touching the life of a young person. These are bonds that survive the test of time even if their paths never cross again. That is why it was so special when Leighton Brookins was the voice on the other end of the phone. A chance encounter on a street corner and the kindness of a stranger had united teacher and student.

Their lunch the next day wasn’t on the itinerary but it may have been the highlight of our trip. I am not a teacher, but I get to see first hand some of the benefits of the profession. She told him he was grown now and to call her Mary Lou. Teacher, student and now friends.

How much? Don’t ask

The meetings were moving along slowly with the mid-afternoon slump hitting hard as the charts on the screen got smaller and more detailed. All of a sudden out the corner of my eye I saw this massive ship moving into view over by the windows. It was a container ship loaded with what seemed like hundreds of truck-size containers.

Savannah is the fastest growing port in the nation, the second largest on the East and Gulf Coasts, and an enormous economic development engine for the entire state of Georgia. For the rest of the afternoon, the ships came and went carrying cargo from around the world.

The port is actually the western most point on the East Coast. It is 650 miles or so south of Cleveland, Ohio. That gives it a shipping advantage in distributing products to almost 75 percent of the U.S. population.

It wasn’t these giant ships of commerce that caused the most discussion. It was the two yachts moored just in front of our hotel. From our window above the water we could see the larger yacht had a ski boat, two jet skies and a hot tub for eight. The deck hand prepared breakfast on the rear deck where the owner worked on his laptop.

If you have to ask how much they cost, then you probably couldn’t afford one. It is nice to see the economy hasn’t affected everyone.

Long, hard fought

You can’t write a column this week without discussing the announcement by Roy Barnes that he is running for governor in 2010. I once said that Roy Barnes was the smartest person under the Gold Dome. Then he was elected governor.

Roy made some mistakes but he took on some big problems. No one could accuse him of being timid or letting problems become bigger without taking action. I suspect that some of the things that caused him to lose the office aren’t as big a deal after the last eight years.

One thing is certain. Roy tossing his hat into the ring will cause a lot of attention on this race over the next year. With no heir apparent on the Republican side to succeed Sonny Perdue, the race could become much more competitive in what has become a very Republican state in a very Democratic country.

If there is one thing I learned in politics, however, it is that nothing is ever as certain as it seems. Roy has some very capable and able competitors on the Democratic ticket. Some have labored long and hard for their chance at the big prize and aren’t likely to give in easily.

The Republican candidates are just as eager to continue their control of the governor’s mansion. They fought long and hard to get to the top of the heap and won’t give an inch in this race or any other.

Look for this race to be more negative than the recently completed presidential campaign. If Georgia’s economy is still in so much trouble come election time, you may finally see the voters look for answers instead of rhetoric, substance instead of style. Character, leadership and an honest search for lasting solutions to our problems will be what I seek as we begin this long process again.