What Gowdy, Scott think is needed to unify people

Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott promoting their new book, "Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country."

April 6, 2018

How can you reach across social divides to form lasting friendships? You can start by giving up a Senate seat. 

When South Carolina's seat in the U.S. Senate came open in 2012, then-Congressman Tim Scott asked his colleague Trey Gowdy if he would be interested in the job.

"He said, 'I’ll tell you the same thing I told (then-Gov.) Nikki Haley; don’t appoint me, appoint Tim Scott,'" Scott said. "That is unheard of. But Trey said, ‘It’s not the job for me.'”

Scott shared the story on stage with Gowdy at Columbia's First Baptist Church in Columbia. The two were in Columbia on Friday promoting their new book, "Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country."

The book tells the story of how a black man from North Charleston and a white man from Spartanburg forged a working friendship after both men were elected to Congress in 2010.

In the aftermath of the 2015 mass shooting in a Charleston church, when a white supremacist killed nine black worshipers, the two men began speaking publicly about their own conversations about race and reconciliation.

On Friday, the two talked about how that moment solidified a friendship built as the two shared nightly meals together in Washington. They hope sharing their story can help others build bridges across racial, religious, cultural or political divides.

"I think what captures my attention is a survey that says two-thirds of Republicans don't have a Democratic friend, and two-thirds of Democrats don't have a Republican friend," Gowdy said. "Who better to help you see things differently than your friends, but a lot of us don't have that."

Gowdy joked that he's come to appreciate different political views because "I live with a 21-year-old socialist." But the Republican father doesn't view that situation as a disappointment.

"It's the opposite," he said. "I celebrate that on a regular basis. I can get a different point of view on things, and it's enriched my life."

Friday's event was co-hosted by First Baptist's pastor Wendell Estep and Brookland Baptist's pastor Charles Jackson, who themselves have become a prominent pair of inter-racial friends in Columbia. They asked how others could build similar relationships across society's dividing lines.

"Part of finding unlikely friendships is going where you would not naturally go and having your eyes open," Scott said. "I find myself in conversations with people I would not normally be engaged with... and I find myself in a friendship without necessarily looking for it.