Joe Reveals His Political Hero...Read On...

Joe Turnham: Father influences decisions today

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I really appreciate this assignment from the editorial page of the Opelika-Auburn News. It has provided for me a self-reflective opportunity to share some unique perspective with each of you.
At least for this one assignment, my comments will be free of any partisan spin as I get to answer the question: “Who has influenced you the most politically.”

Before getting to the crux of this assignment, I want to share with you a few thoughts on how we influence others and how they influence us. Parents, teachers, pastors, coaches, neighbors, peers as well as our places of worship, associations, teams and clubs become our spheres of influence in life.

In my own journey of political, business and civic life I have had the great fortune to meet governors, presidents, members of Congress, Heads of State, corporate CEOs, celebrities and people of fame and wealth. I have met the good, the bad and the ugly through my 50-year life and each person and life event has uniquely influenced and shaped my political philosophy.

In my faith experience I felt led to search the Holy Scriptures where for six-and-a-half years I studied leaders of faith and then wrote about 196 characters of faith in my book, Leading From Our Knees. That cathartic experience uncovered for me those Biblical characters and leaders of faith that certainly have influenced me over the years: Moses, David, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, the Prophets, Mary, Christ, the Apostles and builders of the early church.

Many characters of faith that influence us were ordinary people and were often people who were fatally flawed and made mistakes. Even today, people of influence in our lives can be less than perfect persons and of little notoriety and humble means. People who influence us are usually the people who love us the most and see the unique potential in us. They usually exemplify a sense of calling or purpose in their own lives and our recognition of that inspires us to attempt to do greater things.

Each of us has our own sphere of influence over the lives of others. Sometimes we are influencing others for good or bad and don’t even realize it, especially where children are concerned. In politics I am always attracted to those persons who are pure-of-heart, wise, shrewd and selfless. I am influenced most by persons who see the vanity of power and recognize their role in life is to help others and bring small rays of love and light to difficult tasks.

Specific to my assignment, the person who influenced me the most in politics is a Depression-era character who grew up in humble circumstances in a rural, agrarian community in Alabama. He learned the essential lessons of life from a loving extended family and worked his way through college. He answered the call of his country and served nobly in World War II. He is a family man, entrepreneur, civic leader and elected official for nearly 50 years. He’s a friend to many, loyal spouse, a true public servant and, most of all, a Christian gentleman and deacon in his church.

Pete Turnham is my dad and is the most influential person in my life politically. I could have chosen Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Gandhi, King or Mandela; but that would not have been truthful. My dad still influences me today. He seldom gets rattled and is a giver; not a taker … a rare quality in politics today! His imprints of influence are evident in many of my decisions and actions each day; and when I grow up; I hope I am half the man he has become.

Joe Turnham lives in Auburn and is the Alabama Democratic Party chairman.