Senator Tim Scott in Conversation with Theodore Johnson: Civility, Fairness, and Opportunity in America
March 27, 2019
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina continues to forge a singular path in D.C. as the Senate’s only black Republican serving at a time marked by unprecedented levels of political polarization. Widely lauded for spearheading a cross-party effort to include a provision encouraging private investment in distressed communities into the sweeping 2018 tax overhaul, Scott joined Brennan Center’s Theodore Johnson to discuss his unique views on bipartisanship, racial justice, and advancing economic opportunity for all Americans. The John Brademas Center of New York University was proud to co-host this event with the Brennan Center for Justice.
As a leader on tax reform, education and job training, and innovative ideas to reinvest in our nation’s distressed communities, United States Senator Tim Scott brings a unique perspective to the United States Senate. Growing up mired in poverty in a single parent household, Tim says that he is living his mother’s American Dream, and through his Opportunity Agenda works every single day to ensure every American family has the opportunity to succeed.
Senator Scott has served the great state of South Carolina in the U.S. Senate since 2013, and brings with him a mission to positively affect the lives of a billion people with the message of hope and opportunity. Growing up poor in a single-parent household in North Charleston, South Carolina, Tim watched his single mother work 16-hour days as a nurse’s assistant to keep him and his brother afloat.
As a freshman in high school, Tim nearly failed out, flunking four classes. However, the next year, he met his mentor named John Moniz who shared life-changing ideas and the basic principles of business with Tim. Through hard work, education, innovation, and with the discipline his mother gave him, he began the process of turning his life around.
The lessons gleaned from his mentor still guide Tim today: you can think your way out of poverty, and financial independence is a stepping-stone for success. Having a job is a good thing, but creating jobs is a great thing.
An unbridled optimist, Tim believes that despite our current challenges, our nation’s brightest days are ahead of us. During his time in office, he has been a tireless advocate for creating more opportunities for families living paycheck-to-paycheck and helping children who are mired in poverty have access to quality education. He launched his Opportunity Agenda, a legislative package aimed at achieving these goals, as well as the Senate Opportunity Coalition, a group of Senators committed to helping those in need.
Tim also knows that in order for our nation to prosper, we must get our spending and national debt under control. He has sponsored balanced budget amendments throughout his time in Congress, and will continue working to restore fiscal sanity in Washington.
Prior to public service, Tim built a successful small business of his own. He was first elected to Charleston County Council, to the South Carolina State House, and the U.S. House of Representatives. In January 2013, Tim was sworn in as a United States Senator from South Carolina, and was re-elected in January 2017.
Theodore R. Johnson is a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Dr. Johnson was a national fellow at the New America Foundation, where he undertook projects on black voting behavior and the role of national solidarity in addressing racial inequality. Previously, he was a Commander in the United States Navy and, most recently, a research manager at Deloitte.
From 1994-2016 Johnson was a career military officer whose service included humanitarian assistance operations in Southeast Asia, as a military professor at the US Naval War College, and as a cyber operations and intelligence expert. He also acted as senior policy advisor in the Departments of Defense and Energy, and as speechwriter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In recognition of his leadership in public service, Johnson was selected as a White House Fellow during the Obama administration.
Since 2013, Dr. Johnson’s research and writing has explored the interaction of policy and politics with race and racial disparities. In 2016, his examination of African American voting behavior won the Dean’s Medal for most outstanding doctoral work and serves as the basis for first book project on race and solidarity in the United States.
His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, POLITICO, WIRED, National Review, New Republic, and other national and niche publications. His academic lectures and media engagements include appearances at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, UCLA’s Hammer Museum, University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and TEDx.
Dr. Johnson holds a B.S. in mathematics from Hampton University, an A.L.M. with a concentration in International Relations from Harvard University, and a Doctorate of Law and Policy from Northeastern University.