Arguments about whether the Confederate flag should fly over South Carolina's state capitol take me back to a debate in our own capitol building in the early days of the 1993 Georgia Legislature.
Gov. Zell Miller was preparing his State of the State address.
Anyone who has ever heard him speak knows he is an orator who can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Behind a podium he can be an essayist, a teacher or a lyricist and when he delivers one of his well-crafted speeches he has the zeal of an evangelist at a summertime revival.
As a mayor, state senator, lieutenant governor, governor and United States Senator, he has wandered around politics most of his life.
He has made thousands of speeches and is the only person to be the keynote speaker for both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
Standing in Madison Square Garden with the world watching on two occasions was historic but those speeches are not as memorable as that one he made about the state flag.
By the time he made it, he didn't have the votes to change the flag.
But that did not stop Miller, and his failure should not diminish the 1,639 words he delivered that morning in the House chambers.
Miller wanted to take down a flag designed by an angry legislature in 1956 at the onset of the Civil Rights era but he did not want to erase the heritage of the Confederacy.
He faced defeat but Miller did not waver as he looked into the eyes of people who knew him well.
"You know me well enough to know that I am dead serious about this issue. And to paraphrase Rhett Butler, frankly my dear friends I do give a damn. Since 1789 Georgia's motto has been 'Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.' There is nothing wise, just or moderate in a flag that reopens old wounds and perpetuates old hatreds. Our battlefields. Our graveyards. Our monuments. Important reminders of our history, both the proud and the painful. They will and always should be there. That's history.
"But our flag is a symbol -- a symbol of what we stand for as a state. I want to see this state live by the words of George Washington to the sexton of the Rhode Island synagogue: 'Ours is a government which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.'"
Maneuvering and strategy were fruitless and Miller never mentioned the issue again.
That was left to fellow Democrat Roy Barnes in 2001.
He courageously changed the flag, and by doing so ensured he would not be reelected governor and his party would fall from grace.
But our state should always applaud their words and actions.
--Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org