UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) seeks to honor the late Senator Johnny Isakson, who dedicated his life to respectful debate as a way to build bridges and achieve results among parties with divergent viewpoints and goals. As a successful businessman and as a statesman, Senator Isakson embodied respect and goodwill in an arena that often elevates extreme partisanship over reasoned problem-solving. He did so without compromising his own core beliefs and values. His personal motto was: “There are only two kinds of people in the world – friends and future friends.” It is reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln’s famous words to a divided nation in his 1861 inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.” At a time of deep political division, leaders who overcome differences to forge common-interest solutions should be recognized, and their legacy of civility and pragmatic problem-solving should be emulated. Indeed, the health of our representative form of government depends on leaders with the skills and courage to practice political civility.

Johnny Isakson Legacy Fund

To honor and perpetuate Senator Isakson’s legacy of statesmanship and political civility, SPIA created the Johnny Isakson Legacy Fund in 2023. The purpose of this fund is to provide perpetual support to programs at SPIA that advance political civility and encourage common-interest problem-solving. Each year, a committee appointed by the SPIA Dean will determine how these funds will be distributed with the foremost goal of honoring Senator Isakson’s legacy in the most impactful and consequential ways. For example, in addition to the annual Isakson Symposium on Political Civility, scholarships and awards aligned with the Isakson “political civility” legacy, such as interning in organizations dedicated to bipartisanship and conflict resolution, are also within the purview of the Fund, in addition to support for curricular development and research on creating a culture of civility, leading with civility, and related topics.

For more information on supporting the Isakson Legacy Fund, contact Sarah Baines, SPIA Sr. Director of Development & Alumni Relations at [email protected] or 706-542-9661.

Johnny Isakson Symposium on Political Civility

A key program supported by the Johnny Isakson Legacy Fund is the Johnny Isakson Symposium on Political Civility, an annual event which focuses on how civil debate, mutual respect, and common-interest problem solving advance the public good. Each event features a moderated discussion between special guests who have deep experience overcoming differences to serve the public interest and who practice political civility.