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“There has never been anyone like him in the United States Senate”

More generally, however, the way Warnock has operated over the past year and a half in the Senate as well as the way he is now fighting for a full six-year term are natural extensions of the tensions that have driven his life and his work – the “double consciousness” of the black church, as he describes it in the 2014 book from his doctoral dissertation, the “complementary but competing sensibilities” of “revivalist piety and radical protest”, the salvation of souls and the salvation of society, what King called “long white robes over there” and “a suit and shoes to wear over here”. In strictly political terms, this tension and connection could be expressed as purity versus pragmatism. And for Warnock, always the Reverend, balancing the high and the low, the eternal and the utterly everyday, sometimes means taking a mundane legislative compromise – a compromise that doesn’t even allocate real money for the ‘asphalt – and trying to frame it as the apotheosis of our ongoing experience of representative autonomy.

There’s a road that runs through our humanity“It’s bigger than politics, bigger than partisan bickering, certainly bigger than race, bigger than geographic differences…and my job as a legislator,” Warnock said again from the gymnasium lectern. , and our job as citizens, is to find our way to this road that connects us to each other – so that everyone can get where they need to go, so that every child can have access to a good quality education. , so that everyone can have affordable health care…”

Now the applause was so loud he could barely be heard.

“Our job is to build this road!”

“Politeness, kindness, the non-violent way of being in the world”

The Warnock Road begins in Savannah. It is, he sometimes says, the fruit of hard work but also of good public policy.

Born on July 23, 1969, exactly five years and three weeks after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the White House, Warnock “never drank from a fountain of colored water” , has never “used a stained toilet”. , “never ‘attended a school assigned by the color of my skin,’ as he wrote in his recent memoir, Out of nowhere.

The eleventh of 12 children, he grew up in public housing Kayton Homes in an apartment with four bedrooms, a single bathroom and a set of book of the world encyclopedias. His parents were Pentecostal ministers, his father struggling to make ends meet by selling old, abandoned cars to a steel mill – but, “thanks to the help of the federal government,” Warnock recalls, “my family didn’t never lived outside, we never went hungry, and I never missed an opportunity to learn.

In kindergarten, he attended Head Start, which aims to boost early education for disadvantaged preschoolers – one of Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ programs ‘that gave America’s poor children a chance’ , as Warnock put it, “and raised poor black children from the sunken places caused by generations of willful racism.

At Myers Middle School and Johnson High, where Warnock played the baritone horn and was voted senior class president and voted “most likely to succeed,” he was “a free lunch kid.” He also participated in Upward Bound – another LBJ program providing academic enrichment to poor students with the potential to be the first in their families to go to college. The experience included six weeks of college prep a summer at Savannah State and a field trip to Atlanta at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, where Warnock stood, stared, and got goosebumps reading the King’s words.

Back in Savannah, at the Bull Street Public Library, he listened to LP audio recordings of some of the civil rights movement’s mass meetings. One of King’s favorite sermons, known as ‘A Knock at Midnight’, in which he called on the church to be ‘the conscience of the state’ and to ‘speak and act fearlessly and with insistence and to “actively participate in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice. Warnock listened to him again and again.

And in 1987, when it came time for college, Warnock consciously modeled King, choosing to attend his alma mater at Morehouse in Atlanta – the small, all-male, historically black institution with an ethos not just of intellectual advancement but of action through leadership and service. The president of Morehouse made a point of this accusation during our conversation last month. “Leadership: how to achieve it? said David Thomas. “Service: Who do you do to make this happen? for?”

Paying for his education largely with federal Pell grants and low-interest student loans, Warnock majored in psychology and minored in religion. As a freshman, he was chosen to be a speaker at a fall convocation. And at the campus chapel named after King, he was chosen by his peers to be the president of the chapel assistants, a large group of students aspiring to attend seminary.

“The seriousness you see”, “the careful use of language”, “the politeness, the kindness, the non-violent way of being in the world is the way he was as a student from the first day when I met him,” Lawrence said. Carter, the chapel’s longtime dean and one of Warnock’s greatest mentors. “He didn’t swear. He didn’t drink. He didn’t smoke. He didn’t dress fashionably,” Carter told me. who came to the chapel library at the time to study on his own, he just sat there in front of my desk, and he sat there for long periods of time, and wrote and read, and wrote and read.