Max Cleland

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I keep meaning to link this Max Cleland interview from Fresh Air. It's rather incredible. I think you just sort of assume, when you see people in privileged positions, you assume that their life is gravy. Obviously, being a triple-amputee is different, but I never realized how much Cleland lost when he was defeated by Saxby Chambliss. I also didn't realize how he'd basically willed himself into politics.

I think about this a lot with my Dad, who's also a Vietnam vet, but not a triple amputee. I can account for whatever success I've had by pointing to family, community, good friends, good people etc. But sometimes you see people who may not have always had those things, and their drive just shines through.

Perhaps conservatives are right and it does not take a village to raise a child, but it certainly took a village to raise me. In that context, I always marvel at someone like Cleland. He had good parents, and people like President Carter and Obama looked out for him. But so much of his success and push seems internal. Some people, I think, are just born running.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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