Editorial Roundup: Georgia
Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Augusta Chronicle on diversity in higher education:
The liberal bias blanketing higher education nationwide is a circumstance cited and proved so many times that seeing examples of it is as common as seeing a bird in the sky.
But it’s a rare sight indeed to see a college president standing up to defend a diversity of ideas on campus - especially conservative ideas.
New Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera dropped by The Augusta Chronicle on Monday to introduce himself - his presidency has now passed the 100-day mark - and to discuss a new strategic plan the university is forming. It emphasizes driving innovation, improving access or lower-income students and expanding its research activity. Sponsorship of that research passed the $1 billion mark last summer.
While learning about all that was interesting, we pivoted a bit to ask Cabrera questions about his previous job. Until last summer he served seven years as president of George Mason University.
You might remember that in 2016 the university’s Board of Visitors approved renaming its law school after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who for years served as the high court’s conservative anchor. The naming sparked criticism because it was a condition of the school receiving $30 million in gifts - with $10 million of it coming from a foundation bearing the name of billionaire conservative supporter Charles Koch.
But the law school came under torrential fire earlier this year when it was announced that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had been appointed a George Mason visiting professor, to teach law classes spread over the next several years.
Liberals still feel the sting of President Donald Trump’s nomination of the conservative Kavanaugh to the high court in 2018, which dragged the nominee into the spotlight of the #MeToo movement against sexual violence. Three women, most notably Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, accused Kavanaugh of separate sexual assaults.
That plunged the Senate Judiciary Committee - tasked with approving or denying Kavanaugh’s nomination - down a rabbit hole to sniff out increasingly tenuous sexual allegations that went nowhere.
Kavanaugh was the political and cultural hot potato tossed into Cabrera’s lap. But instead of sharing the left’s outrage at Kavanaugh’s new teaching position, he defended the decision and still stands by it.
“My role was to protect the right of the law school faculty to hire Kavanaugh when the arrows started to fall on us. My position is that it’s absolutely essential for universities to be places where all ideas fit in,” Cabrera told The Chronicle. “In the hyper-polarized world we live in - where not only do we watch the news that confirm our views, we live in neighborhoods where our neighbors confirm our views - if universities don’t remain spaces where all ideas get along, then we’re in trouble.”
Well-said. Too many college campuses are inhabited by leaders whose version of “diversity” involves the exclusion of thought and ideas with which they disagree.
If defending genuine diversity demonstrates Cabrera’s caliber of common sense, Georgia Tech has found itself an outstanding new leader.
Savannah Morning News on the legacy of an early Georgia settler:
The December 17 birthday of early Georgia settler and Bethesda founder George Whitefield echoes through history in a particularly Savannahian way. Born in 1714 in Gloucester, England, Whitefield was an Anglican cleric who co-founded Methodism, earned a reputation as an itinerant evangelical preacher and became part of a uniquely American religious revival called the “Great Awakening.”
When Whitefield arrived in Savannah in 1738, he saw a need for an orphanage to offer refuge and guidance to orphaned children left behind by waves of cholera, yellow fever and other illnesses, which periodically swept through the city. He returned to England to raise funds to create Bethesda Orphanage, now known as Bethesda Academy, which became central to his preaching and has earned the distinction of being one of the oldest charities in North America.
House of mercy
Whitefield founded Bethesda Orphan House and Academy in 1740, which is known as the oldest child care institution in the United States. One of Bethesda’s earliest supporters was Benjamin Franklin, and legend has it that many of America’s founding fathers visited the site over the years.
Whitefield wanted Bethesda, which means house of mercy, to be a place of strong gospel influence, wholesome atmosphere and strong discipline. The boys who lived at the orphanage near Isle of Hope would grow their own food, learn trades, practice farming and be productive useful citizens.
Some people in the community accused him of trying to control boys who actually had parents and of using “a wrong Method” in raising boys who were said to often cry through the night. Whitefield insisted on sole control, refusing to give financial accounting to his financial supporters.
While he went to Savannah as a parish priest for the Anglican Church, Whitefield eventually became involved in evangelical causes. Along the way, Whitefield broke with his friends and mentors John and Charles Wesley and departed from the Methodist congress he co-founded.
In 1747, Whitefield began to lobby for legalization of slavery, which had originally been outlawed in the Georgia colony in 1735, to keep his orphanage solvent.
He reasoned that keeping slaves would allow more food to be grown on the property — and more food would mean he could help more boys. Sadly, partially through his campaigns and written pleas to the Georgia Trustees, slavery was legalized in Georgia in 1751. Whitefield then purchased slaves to work at Bethesda Orphanage.
Upon his death, Whitefield bequeathed Bethesda and his slaves to an English countess who had been one of his most dedicated patrons. He asked her to maintain the orphanage under its existing principles and to establish a college in his name. In 1773, fire destroyed the main building. Three years later, the American Revolution stymied plans to add a college.
After several administrative changes, a new building and administration, the Bethesda Home for Boys was established on the same site — exactly where Bethesda Academy sits now, on about 500 acres overlooking the Moon River, near the end of Whitefield Road on Ferguson Avenue.
Today, Bethesda Academy is a private day and boarding school for boys in grades six through 12. Its student body is socioeconomically, racially and academically diverse by design. The school serves as a haven for at-risk boys who want and deserve a chance to succeed.
Tuition is supported, in large part, by fundraising. Parents are expected to contribute what they can, but the ability to pay is not a deciding factor in admission.
Bethesda has a reputation for building men of character, resiliency and integrity, with a strong work ethic. Many of its graduates, referred to as “Bethesda boys,” have gone on to become successful, productive members of the Savannah community and beyond.
Savannah’s final square, established in 1851, is named for Whitefield, as is a busy Savannah street. However, George Whitefield’s impact on generations of the city’s young men at Bethesda stands apart as his most enduring, most powerful legacy.
Marietta Daily Journal on a congressman for Georgia who has decided not to run for reelection:
Expect the unexpected in Georgia politics. Latest example: U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, who has been a stalwart conservative voice for the 14th District in Congress for a decade, has decided not to run for another term. This surprise decision by Graves opens up a second Congressional seat in Georgia since 7th District Rep. Rob Woodall announced early this year he would not seek reelection.
The 14th District in the northwestern corner of the state is safe for Republicans – and for Graves who won his fifth term with more than 76% in the 2018 election. He cites personal reasons for stepping aside, saying he is “entering a new season in life” with his wife nearing retirement “and my kids suddenly adults.” He plans to join his family “in their new and unique journeys.” Looking back on his seven years in the Georgia House and a decade in Congress, Graves said the opportunities afforded him – “a North Georgia country boy from a single wide trailer – were far beyond my wildest dreams.” ...
The decision by Graves to retire triggered speculation about potential Republican candidates including several Floyd County state legislators, among them Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Rep. Katie Dempsey, both of Rome, and Rep. Eddie Lumsden of Armuchee. However, the biggest surprise came from Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Alpharetta businesswoman who had announced for the 6th District seat held by Democrat Lucy McBath. But it seems the grass might be looking greener in northwest Georgia for Greene, a Christian conservative and gun rights activist. She had been urged by some 14th District residents and members of Congress to run for Tom Graves’ seat. If she decided to make the switch, she would move her residency to the district, a campaign official told the Rome News-Tribune.
The switch would be more good news for Republican Karen Handel, who is running for the 6th District seat she lost to Democrat gun control activist Lucy McBath two years ago by a very thin margin. While Greene was pondering her move, two of Handel’s GOP primary opponents dropped out within a week. They were state Sen. Brandon Beach and former Merchant Marine Nicole Rodden. If Greene should opt to pull out of that race, it would leave Handel with clear sailing in the primary in a tossup election that has both national parties pouring in funds and endorsements, reflecting Georgia’s newfound status as a battleground state.
It’s a different story in the 7th District based in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. Rep. Woodall, a senior member of the House Budget Committee, had won five terms and had served as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. Yet in 2018 he only managed to squeak out a 433-vote win over Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, a political newcomer and Georgia State University professor, already running again for the congressional seat with competition from a half-dozen other candidates in the Democratic primary. Democrats are licking their chops over the prospect of turning the 7th District blue next year — with good reason. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, Democrat Stacey Abrams carried Gwinnett by 14 percentage points as well as other large metro counties including Cobb.
So far seven Republicans have announced for the 7th District seat, the best known of them being State Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, one of only two GOP women in the Georgia Senate.
Georgia is a battleground state but even with the 6th District a tossup and the 7th District in play, it seems unlikely that Democrats will make major inroads in the 2020 elections, given the popularity of Gov. Brian Kemp and the advantage of incumbency for both Republican and Democrat members of Congress. But again, there’s always the unexpected.