On Dec. 19, 2021, Georgia’s beloved US Senator Johnny Isakson (Republican) passed away after serving 14 years in the Senate. When I was in eighth grade, just before Sen. Isakson resigned his post for health reasons in 2019, he agreed to be interviewed by me for a project I was working on. Sen. Isakson’s optimism about life and America inspired me. “To be an American means you’re free, you have the opportunity to do and pursue whatever you want to,” Sen. Isakson told me. “You sometimes fall, you sometimes don’t get there, but you have the chance to try, and nobody else in the world has it as good as Americans do.”
Although he dedicated much of his life to serving in the government, Sen. Isakson was quick to teach me the importance of individuality. “Anytime you depend on the government to be the primary source of anything, you breed mediocrity and you stifle innovation. That’s true in anything.”
Pace Academy Parent and Alumnus Austin McDonald, also the president and COO of the McDonald Development Company, was a nephew of the senator. “I knew him primarily as my uncle, but I thought he was a really genuine person to everybody he met, whether it was political or not political, and he deeply cared about people he met,” said Mr. McDonald.
Over the course of his career, Sen. Isakson worked on many major committees including the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Foreign Relations, as well as the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In his final years of office, Sen. Isakson was also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and chairman of the Committee on Ethics. It was Sen. Isakson’s active role in supporting the community and general kindness that increased his popularity by both Democrats and Republicans.
“A lot of senators who were totally opposite of him on the political spectrum; he was always the person they would reach out to try to understand the other side. I thought that was always really cool, that he was well-respected by everybody,” said Mr. McDonald. “I don’t think he got into politics to do anything other than to help and be involved and hopefully be someone who brought people together.” Today, people are quick to want ignore the opposing side, but Sen. Isakson took it upon himself to recognize and learn every perspectives. “He seemed to get along with most everybody and certainly had a politician’s opinions and positions but always worked well with other people and respected what other people thought and said. Just an all-around nice guy.”