Editor’s note: the article below is being run in its entirety after a technical error on the June 9 edition caused it to be cut in half
Bradley Watts admits that he wasn’t very knowledgeable about the United States’ involvement with Israel before his recent trip to Washington, D.C.
But while listening to President Barack Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others speak at a conference of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Commission, comparing what he heard about the Middle East to the destructive tornadoes that ravaged Central Alabama in April helped him put things in perspective.
“Imagine hearing something like tornado sirens going off every day and knowing you’re about to be attacked,” he said. “People in Israel live every day under the threat of having their homes and their livelihoods destroyed.”
A native of Springville who called his trip to the conference “a great intellectual experience,” Watts is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he’s completing a double major in political science and history.
“We live in a safe city where we’re not under constant threat of attack, but there’s no guarantee at all for people on the other side of the world,” he said, summarizing testimony he heard from speakers at the conference. “Their homes, their children, their families, everything that makes life good can be gone in an instant, and there’s no way to replace it.”
He used another local comparison to explain why the situation exists. “You can think of it like this: Imagine living in St. Clair County if Shelby County’s political organization denied the right of St. Clair County and its people to exist. That’s what’s happening there.”
After discussing international relations, Watts moved on to such topics as why he enjoys small-town life in Springville, lessons he’s learned from college and life, and plans for his upcoming wedding.
About his hometown: “I was born and raised in Springville. My family has been there for quite some time. I love being with friends, family, and community. I love my hometown. I love going home and seeing old friends and friendly faces.”
His family: The son of David and Angie Watts, his younger brother Brandon is a senior at Springville High. “He’s the drum major and president of the Beta Club, like I was. He’s a good leader at SHS, probably better than I was, but if he ever finds that out, what leverage do I have as a big brother?”
In the Tigers’ marching band: He played tenor saxophone before becoming drum major. “I don’t know if I played it that well, but I tried hard. Since I’ve been in college, I haven’t had time for it.”
At UAB: Watts serves as president of the SGA, the college’s student representative to the University System of Alabama’s board of trustees, and as philanthropy chairman and judicial board member for the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
Settling on UAB: Watts was accepted at Alabama, Auburn, Emory University, and Vanderbilt, “but there was something about UAB that drew me here. I got great scholarships from UAB, which is a blessing, and it’s in close proximity to home.”
His fiancee: Katelyn Englert, a native of New Orleans. She’s a registered nursing intern at UAB Hospital.
Their wedding: It’s tentatively set for June 2012. “We’ve only been engaged four months, but the planning has already been stressful.”
They told him so: “I’m slowly realizing that everything my parents told me about life and marriage is right. It’s the curse of being young. Things are changing on a daily basis. Life throws curve at you, and you have to learn to adjust and be willing to change.”
The best advice he ever received: “There are no short cuts in life. An older fraternity brother drilled that into me. Work hard, do your best and don’t scoot around things. Most times, those who do that end up failing, not just in the classroom.”
If he happened to be stranded on a desert island with one CD, meal, and book: “The CD would be Garth Brooks’ Greatest Hits. I’ve have a deep mental connection with him that goes way, way back. The meal would be spinach quesadillas from a Mexican restaurant, and assuming I could have two books, they would be my Bible and ‘Gone With the Wind.’ Those are good choices for a Southern boy.”
About Margaret Mitchell’s epic: He’s seen the movie version of “Gone with the Wind” 10 or 11 times but prefers the book. “The movie’s great, but it leaves out so much. The book gives a great look into a different culture and a different way of life.” He names the Southern Antebellum period from 1810-1861 as his favorite historical study.
The historical figure he’d most like to meet: “Henry Clay. I read a book about him about a year and a half ago, right before I took over as SGA president, and I shaped how I wanted my first year to go. He was a great statesman. I wonder what our grandchildren will read about the senators of my generation and the next. I don’t know a lot of Henry Clays my age.”
Does he have any aspirations for public office?: “I get asked that a lot, and my fiancee and I talk about it, but I’m not sure. I’m looking forward to getting into the phase of life where we settle down to a middle class lifestyle, but one day Rep. (Jim) McClendon will retire, and when that day comes, I may step up and run. But right now, who knows?”