U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson lives by a set of principles that have guided his success as a husband and father, businessman and political leader.

He talked about those values in a commencement speech at the Darlington School in Rome last May, sharing “six silent secrets” for a happy and successful life, as the Rome News-Tribune reported.

The first “secret,” the senator said, is to “learn every single day that goes by,” for knowledge is a building block process. Next, respect for others is necessary. Live by ethical principles, he said, the simplest rule being to follow the Golden Rule, and when in doubt, listen to conscience.

The next “secrets,” Isakson said, are love for your fellowman and having faith. Finally, he counseled the young people: “You can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to dream.” And he said the graduates should not lower their dreams to reach what seems a reachable goal but instead dream bigger.

Isakson knows what’s he talking about. After serving in the Georgia Air National Guard and graduating from UGA, he went into the real estate business and put in two decades as president of the company. He discovered an interest in politics and ran for a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1974 but lost. Unfazed, he ran again and won two years later — then won six more terms.

He raised his sights in 1990, gaining the Republican nomination for governor in what was a heavily Democratic state. He lost. But his dream was still alive. He won a seat in the Georgia Senate in 1992, and then ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1996. He lost. But his dream lived on, and in the 1999 special election to succeed Newt Gingrich, Isakson won election to the U.S. House.

He was still dreaming big in 2004 when Zell Miller had his fill of the U.S. Senate and decided not to seek re-election. Isakson ran for the seat and won by a big margin, then won an endorsement term in 2010. His election to the Senate gave him the distinction of being the only Georgian to serve in the state House and Senate, the U.S. House and the Senate since the 1800s.

Last year as he prepared to run for a third term, he announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His response: Work harder than ever and prove that Parkinson’s would not affect his ability to represent his state in the Senate. So he is now chairman of two Senate committees — Veterans Affairs and Ethics — the only senator chairing two committees, and he keeps a full schedule of activities. This week he is on a sort of whirlwind tour in Georgia to drive home the importance of the military facilities based in this state, a high priority. His agenda included meetings with military officials in Albany, Columbus and Warner Robins.

Isakson has been a tireless warrior in behalf of our veterans. He has given unflagging support to legislation aimed at improving and reforming the VA. Currently, he is pushing for enactment of the Veterans First Act which, he says, reforms the VA hiring and firing process and: “it gives veterans who served in wars prior to 9/11 the same caregiver benefits that post-9/11 veterans have had; it gives whistleblowers the protection they need to tell when something’s going wrong; and it gives the VA the clout to make a difference.”

Johnny Isakson is making a difference. He is working hard and effectively in behalf of our veterans —and all the citizens of Georgia as well. In my judgment, he is without question best qualified to serve our state as its senior U.S.senator.

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