An unfamiliar sight: an African American Georgia Senator standing in front of a larger-than-life American flag, practically preaching to his audience about who he is and what he stands for.
At a campaign rally inside the University of Georgia’s Chapel on Oct. 20, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock made this sight more familiar, speaking about his upbringing and how his parents impacted both his passion and work ethic.
“My dad was a junk man and a preacher man. Literally,” Warnock said to the audience. “He picked up broken cars during the week and on Sunday morning, he preached to broken people. He convinced them of their value.”
While talking about policies to support students who receive financial aid, Warnock recalled what he went through to obtain a degree.
“Although I had a deep commitment to working hard, that alone does not put me on this stage as a United States Senator. Somebody gave me some Pell Grants and some low-interest student loans. I am so glad that someone left a ladder so I would have something to climb up,” Warnock said in his speech. “I haven’t forgotten how I made it, which is why I sponsor legislation to double the size of Pell Grants because I don’t think that a child’s outcome should be based on their parent’s income.”
Additional speakers such as Chair of Athens-Clarke County Democrats and County Commissioner Tim Denson (District 5), Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz and State Senator and candidate for Georgia Attorney General Jen Jordan spoke in high regard for Warnock, emphasizing how important it is to vote in the upcoming election.
“We have got to wake up because democracy is not passive. What I tell my children is that ‘We all have rights, but as citizens we have responsibilities. You create, you elect the government that you want, and if you sit back and you let other people do it. Then you see what we get,’” Jordan said to the audience.
Girtz noted how impressed he is at Warnock’s ability to see the important aspects of what being a politician entails: not glazing over the work your citizens do and understanding their needs.
“In 2020, when then candidate Raphael Warnock made his campaign visit to Athens, I was really heartened that he didn’t want a photo opp on the City Hall steps or in front of the Arch. Rev. Warnock wanted to visit the Athens neighborhood health center,” Girtz said on stage. “He wanted to see in real terms, on the ground, what safety net healthcare practitioners were experiencing and how Washington could give them and most importantly their patients more support.”
After Warnock closed out his final thoughts, those in attendance were invited to the front for a photo opportunity. Despite a section of the audience consisting of Warnock opponent Herschel Walker’s supporters, within seconds, the photo line nearly reached the door. Emma Moon, a volunteer with Dawgs for Warnock, stood in line to share her appreciation with Warnock for his visit.
“It (the rally) means a lot to me because I think a lot of people are under the assumption that UGA is a red school, and I don’t think that’s true at all, especially institutionally. I have worked for the institution before and I think it’s a really good sign now that we have so many students coming out and coming to participate in causes that really matter,” Moon said.
Girtz remembers that it was not long after Warnock was elected that he was already hard at work supporting legislation that would decrease burdens for working Americans, like the healthcare practitioners he visited in Athens.
“He listened intently, and then in January when you elected him to the U.S. Senate, he brought that same deep spirit of concern and deep intellect to the halls of the U.S. Senate, and he acted,” Girtz said.
Voters will have the opportunity to vote between incumbent Democrat Warnock and former UGA football player and Heisman Trophy winner Republican Herschel Walker, on Nov. 8.
“Having somebody come to campus that is actually doing things to help the people of Georgia and the people of the United States is really thought-provoking and inspiring, especially with such a contested election. I think that really helps students decide who to vote for,” Hannah Perdue, a sophomore at UGA and rally attendant, said.
Warnock points to the activism and voices of the younger generation as pivotal in securing success.
“We need your impatience,” Warnock said. “People say, ‘Young folks can be so impatient.’ Well, I didn’t come today to discourage that impatience. I came to stir it up.”