My job was to keep some two dozen candidates on schedule and ensure an equal opportunity among all to tell us why we should elect them to the office they seek.
Give us all an "A" for the evening. The CCRW gets one for managing this huge event in the Cobb County Commission chambers and televised on Channel 23 and having it come off without a hitch.
I get an "A" for not asking questions of the school superintendent candidates that should have been asked of the candidates for labor commissioner and being sure my fly was zipped. With me, you never know.
Most of all, the candidates get an "A" for being articulate and knowledgeable on issues in a fast-paced format that must have seemed as though they were drinking from a fire hose.
Perhaps most impressive was what occurred before the debates. In one of the rooms outside the commission meeting room, I was looking over the agenda and checking my notes. Across the room were many of the candidates.
There was a lot of laughter and camaraderie and storytelling about their various experiences during the campaign. If these people were opponents, it was hard to tell.
I dare say had this been a gathering of Democrats, it would have been much the same.
That is when the shade went up. Despite what we may think of politics and politicians, these are basically good people who are willing to make the effort to make a difference.
That inspired me to end the debates that evening with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, who said, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
That, my friends, describes those who are willing to enter the political arena and deal with our cynicism, our disdain, our apathy and barbs from people like me willing to point out "where the doer of deeds could have done better." No timid souls need apply.
It is called democracy and there hasn't been a better system devised before or since 1776.
I am dismayed to hear people talk about "the government." The government is us. We put people in office. We can take them out of office. We have a free press to ensure that those who hold political power remember that they are beholding to the people and a right to petition our government whenever we choose.
Is it a perfect system? Absolutely not. There are bad public officials, dumb public officials, power-mad public officials but there are also a lot more men and women willing to enter the arena because they truly think they can make things better than they found them.
And then there is you and me.
On July 20, we will have an opportunity to vote in primary elections to see who will represent the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the general elections in November.
I doubt that many of us will make the effort to vote this July, even though we can vote early or vote absentee. That is a shame.
If we have people - of both parties - willing to enter the arena then so must we. If you don't vote for whatever reason then don't complain for any reason.
While you are celebrating this Fourth of July, just remember that we are all in this democracy together.
God Bless America and God bless those in the arena who spend themselves for a worthy cause.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.