Mar. 28, 2004: Making Sure That G-8 Leaders Have Georgia on Their Minds

Are you watching the calendar? In two months the G-8 Summit is coming to Sea Island. In case you had forgotten, the G-8 is a gathering of the leaders of the world’s eight major industrial democracies. Actually, there are only seven major industrial democracies, but they had to invite France. If they didn’t, the French would get their Gallic noses out of joint. Besides, they are bringing the wine.

Unfortunately, the G-8 will attract a horde of self-important media who are all liberal Democrats and who blame President Bush for everything on earth, including daylight-saving time. There will also be busloads of protesters who are as nutty as they are mean. In short, the G-8 is like the Olympics, minus athletes, tacky sidewalk vendors and Izzy, the Atlanta Games’ woebegone mascot.

Plans are to keep the VIPs on Sea Island during the four-day summit, but don’t count on it. Prime ministers and poobahs don’t like to be told what to do, and they just may decide to wander off the island and see if they can find Ray Charles. You might even run into one of them. If that happens, you need to be ready. Take the next two months and memorize every fact and figure you can about the Great State of Georgia. Most of the G-8 leaders probably won’t be coming back anytime soon, so this may be the only chance you have to tell them what a wonderful place they are visiting.

For example, you could see Russian President Vladimir Putin at Mudcat Charlie’s over in Darien, wolfing down a fried flounder sandwich and a glass of sweet tea. If so, walk up and introduce yourself. Tell him you are glad he is in Georgia and ask if he knows that our state leads the nation in the production of processed chickens and that we produce twice as many peanuts as any state in the union. When you mention peanuts, President Putin will ask you about Jimmy Carter. Tell him that Carter is a goober head. He won’t know what that means, but he’ll know it isn’t complimentary.

Be careful bragging to our G-8 visitors about how big Georgia is. Telling them that we have counties larger than all of New England put together won’t mean much. In the first place, they don’t have a clue as to what a county is. Second, some countries like Russia and Canada are pretty big themselves. Be sure you find the guy who runs Japan or Italy if you want to brag about our size.

If you are asked how many people live in Georgia, say seven million. That is not correct, but if you let them know we really have eight-and-a-half million people, then you will have to mention Atlanta. The less said about Atlanta to our visitors, the better. If they push you on the subject, stress the fact that Georgia considers Atlanta to be a separate country, like Botswana or Bosnia — only more dangerous and the traffic is worse.

You may be quizzed about religious matters. Don’t feel awkward discussing the subject. Let our guests know that our major religions are — in no particular order — high school football, NASCAR, politics, the Masters and country music (except for the Dixie Chicks, who are also goober heads).

If you happen to run into the prime minister of Canada, tell him respectfully that ice hockey is the dumbest game on earth and needs to stay in Canada. Ask him to hang around until September and you will take him to a UGA football game and show him an honest-to-God sport. Once he has spent a Saturday afternoon in Athens, he will go back and make SEC football the national sport of Canada.

Because of your willingness to pitch in and help, I predict the summit is going to be a smashing success. My only concern is that when the leaders of the world’s eight major industrial democracies, the self-important media and the mean and nutty protesters meet you and then hear Ray Charles sing “Georgia on my Mind,” we may never get them to leave.