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Max Cleland

. . .was elected to the United States Senate from Georgia in 1996. His Committee assignments include: Armed Services: Commerce Science & Transportation: Small Business: and Governmental Affairs. Formerly Georgia's Secretary of State, Senator Cleland led the Veterans' Administration under President Carter. A triple amputee Vietnam Veteran, he is author of Going for the Max! 12 Principles for living Life to the Fullest and Strong at the Broken Places.

Excerpts4 min :02 secs

Max Cleland lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam. But his found his ministry. His stature grew as his height was diminished. Max Cleland -- along with America -- was tempered in the crucible of Vietnam.

Now United States Senator from Georgia, Max Cleland sits on Senate Committees which are keys to America's global future: Armed Services; Commerce, Science & Transportation; Small Business; and Governmental Affairs. He didn't quit. Senator Cleland has inspired millions with his irrepressible good humor and courage in the face of daunting physical challenges. He offers 12 principles for living life to the fullest in his newest book, _Going for the Max!_. His earlier book, _Strong at the Broken Places_ recounted his Vietnam passage.

What guides Max Cleland? Advice from former Georgia Senator Richard Russell, among other things. When Max was finally able to head home after a long post-Vietnam recuperation, he went to see Senator Russell. Russell approved of Max's plan to return to Georgia and public service. But, "Take the job of public service seriously, not yourself!" cautioned Russell, a formidable power as Chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. Senator Cleland now adheres to both parts of his mentor's counsel from his own seat on that Committee.

Offer Senator Cleland a wish list for the future and he goes straight to America's kids. We have to do a better job taking care of them from their very earliest moments, he worries. And we have to fix what Senator Cleland believes is our educational system's weak link -- getting kids through the treacherous passage of kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Then offer them -- along with the rest of America -- a restored vision of community. Liberty is only secure when the public good -- the common weal -- is well served, Cleland reminds us. Restore the sense of the ministry of all public service, from serving in the military to serving on a zoning board. Meaningful campaign finance reform is a vital first step if we are to preserve individual liberties, declares the Senator.

So what's a poor citizen to do? Get involved! Politics is a participatory sport, not a spectator one, says this avid sports enthusiast. The genius of democracy? Our common people -- not our elected leaders -- and our common good. Spoken as a true hero.

Conversation 1

Senator Max Cleland describes the genius and the dumb luck of democracy to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell. The people, not the leaders, are key Senator Cleland maintains, certain that democracy depends on a free flow of information so that people can make their own decisions. He honors those who have helped shape our free society.

Conversation 2

The crucibles of war (Vietnam) and domestic conflict (the Civil Rights Movement) have tempered America's leaders, Senator Cleland believes, and he cites examples. He describes what happens when adversity strikes, relating it to his own experience in Vietnam. Senator Cleland champions dialogue over the confrontation through which KEVIN PHILLIPS believes we work out Big Ideas. The Senator deplores mean-spiritedness in today's democratic process. He reminds us that democracy is a participatory sport, not a spectator one (an idea on which STEVEN CARTER expands). Senator Cleland suggests that when the U.S. ended its military draft in 1973, we diminished our sense of shared obligations to the entire society. He laments special interest donors replacing the common public interest, with examples.

Conversation 3

Senator Cleland expands on his concerns that we need more participation in politics with examples from America's history. He describes America's politics as the politics of hope and uses the Motor Voter Act as an example of ever-expanding inclusion. He explains the importance he attaches to all his Senate Committee assignments, with particular emphasis on transportation issues which present pressing needs in cities like Atlanta, GA. He expands on this example to include all modes of transportation.

Conversation 4

Politics, according to Senator Cleland, is full of flesh and blood and emotion and life and death. He describes why he believes politics is a noble business touching all of life's basics. He explains why, for him, politics is a ministry and public service -- whether in the military or the political process -- is a high ideal. He remembers Senator Richard Russell advising him to take seriously the job of holding public office, but not himself. Senator Cleland links individual freedom to the common good and applauds the thousands elected officials who serve without pay. He reminds us that one person's "pork" is another person's re-election. He speaks to possible conflicts between serving one's constituents and the country as a whole, confident that the best politics is to do the best job one can.

Conversation 5

Senator Cleland, a triple amputee from Vietnam who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, describes the role he sees for the military in the 21st century. He starts with how vital it is to democracy that our commander-in-chief be civilian, not military. Senator Cleland relates his own experiences to his appreciation for people who see the military as their ministry. He expands on the impact increasingly complex personnel issues have on recruiting and retaining committed people in the military. He offers suggestions for how to enhance a high-tech military in an era when outside industry and family pressures lure personnel away. He gives examples of how the three Senate Committees on which he serves sum up the commercial world of the 21st century.

Conversation 6

Education -- the key to preparation -- is Senator Cleland's top priority in addressing all of the challenges we face in the coming decades. He gives examples, starting with basic care and good parenting of infants, babies, and little children. He then explains what he would like to see in tomorrow's K-12 education, what he calls America's weak link.


An notable audience joined us at The Commerce Club in Atlanta, where we recorded our program with Senator Cleland.
The Commerce Club, as always, extended every possible courtesy.
Tony Berry, Senator Cleland's Public Information Officer, was especially helpful in arranging for this program. We thank them all.

Related Links:
You can reach Senator Cleland through his website.
Going for the Max! 12 Principles for Living Life to the Fullest is published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.

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