Story by Ashley Perham / Contributing Writer
Photo by Naffie Njie / MTSU Sidelines
Al Gore Jr., former U.S. Vice President and Middle Tennessee State University professor, spoke alongside Anthony J. Badger, historian and author of the book “Albert Gore, Sr.: A Political Life,” Tuesday at an MTSU panel on the life of Albert Gore, Sr.
Albert Gore Sr., a Tennessee native, was an MTSU alumnus and served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate from 1953 to 1971. Badger discussed the many accomplishments of Gore Sr., including his influence on the creation of the American highway system and making America a “responsible nuclear power.” Badger also explained Gore Sr.’s voting record on civil rights issues and his stance on the Vietnam War.
After Badger’s presentation, MTSU professors Dr. Mary Evins and Kent Syler discussed Gore Sr.’s life with Badger and Gore Jr.
Drawing a political parallel to 2019, Syler asked Gore Jr. to tell MTSU students how he and his father navigated their “interesting but challenging time.”
Gore Jr. said that it was “comforting” to look back and see how political challenges of his era had been met.
“Things turned out pretty well in the post-World War II era, and even when there were dark days…we recovered. And we’ll recover from our current situation,” Gore Jr. said.
The panel discussed the political campaigns of Gore Sr., including his refusal to allow anyone on his campaigns to speak badly of his political opponents.
“My father put out these instructions. He said, ‘I know that that’s one way to win races, but if I did that, I would have to change my character,’” Gore Jr. said.
He also shared how his father’s influence on creating the interstate highway system inspired him in his quest to pass legislation to make an “information superhighway” for the Internet.
“That’s where that meme came from,” Gore Jr. said.
He then explained that his father hated racism both for its injustices and political implications. Gore Sr. believed that Southern history had been stunted by racism and that it kept power in the hands of “those who exploited the working people.”
Evins closed the panel by asking Gore Jr. what MTSU students should be activists for right now.
Gore Jr. encouraged students to vote and pointed out that “we have never seen a crisis like the climate crisis.” He then shared the environmental and social effects of global warming, including rising oceans, severe storms and refugees trying to escape drought and famine.
“We have utterly transformed the relationship between humanity and the surprisingly fragile ecosystem of our planet,” he said.
Gore Jr. then pointed out that the cost of renewable energy has decreased rapidly and careers in that field are among the fastest-growing in the nation.
“What’s not to like about doing the right thing?” Gore Jr. said.
The panel was hosted by the Albert Gore Research Center, the Roscoe L. Strickland Jr. Endowment, the department of history, the college of liberal arts and the American Democracy Project.
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