After the ad, I started going to more and more campaign events with my parents. It isn't uncommon for politicians to introduce their families or even to ask their families to join them onstage while they are speaking. And my dad would often do that. He would sometimes allow me to introduce him, and I often repeated my line from the radio ad. The cookie line was my favorite line in the introduction—my mother drafted that line. When introducing my dad, I always committed the additional lines to memory. I never used notes or read from a prepared text—even to this day, I don't use prepared remarks. I will sometimes refer to notes, but never a written speech. I don't use prepared remarks primarily because I find them hard to read with passion, sincerity, and force.
I remember speaking at one of my father's congressional prayer breakfasts in Memphis when I was seven. My dad's speaker that year was his congressional colleague and my parents' longtime friend Andrew Young. I helped introduce Congressman Young. I reminded the audience how much a role model Congressman Young was to people of all ages, especially for aspiring politicians like me. Prior to the speech, I remember going with my dad and some other politicians to meet with Congressman Young in his hotel in downtown Memphis. I sat at the dining room table in the hotel with Congressman Young and my dad as they discussed politics. I was just absorbing. My dad's focus was always people, especially hardworking poor people. My dad was listening closely to Congressman Young talk about how he and Maynard Jackson had built a black-white coalition in Atlanta premised on propelling black elected officials into high political offices and growing business opportunities for the entire Atlanta business community, including minority businesses. Memphis's persistent and pernicious occupation with race had prevented us from electing an African American mayor and widening sustainable business opportunities and growth to black businesses in the city. My dad's belief was that a racially diverse and successful Memphis business community was essential to better political and social cohesion in Memphis. One of the keys to realizing that dream was for the Memphis political landscape to become more racially and politically diverse first. Atlanta was a model for Memphis.
One of the things I learned from my dad at an early age about politics was never to allow jealousy, envy, or pettiness to get in the way of learning from a political peer. My dad inspired and taught a lot of politicians, younger and older, but he never shied away from learning himself. Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson are two southern politicians whom my dad respected and learned from.
Growing up in a political household seemed normal because it's all I knew. There were three basic givens in the house for Jake, Isaac, and me. We had to do our homework every night, we had to go to church every Sunday (and oftentimes Sunday school), and we worked on political campaigns for my dad and my uncles.