September 22, 2018

The Heard Citizen’s Most Inspirational Person of 2016

Brett Smith with Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal during his fall internship

Brett Smith with Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal during his fall internship

(Franklin, GA) — Clearly no other Heard County citizen experienced a more inspirational or noteworthy year in 2016 than one 22-year-old Franklin man, Mr. Brett Smith.

Smith, a 2012 Heard High School honor graduate and avid follower of politics since his early teens, made not only state and local news, but national headlines after an emotional moment with his favorite Republican presidential candidate, John Kasich.

The moment referred to simply by national media outlets as ‘The Hug’ went viral after Smith attended a town hall campaign stop at Clemson University in South Carolina on February 18.

During the question-and-answer session, Smith told the Ohio governor he had driven up from Athens to see him.

A man close to him had recently killed himself, his parents had divorced and his father had lost his job, Smith said in front of the television cameras.

Amid a dark time in his life, Smith said, Kasich gave him hope.

“I found hope,” Smith said, standing before around 200 attendees. “I found it in the Lord and in my friends, and now I found it in my presidential candidate that I support, and I’d really appreciate one of those hugs you’ve been talking about.”

Kasich obliged, coming down from the stage and embracing Smith, then a senior at the University of Georgia, as he choked up and blinked away tears.

“The Lord will give you strength, I promise you, if you ask him,” Kasich said in Smith’s ear.

Following that moment and for several weeks, Brett was interviewed by numerous national political programs and publications including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, and the New York Times just to name a few.

Brett Smiths emotional moment with Ohio Governor and Presidential Candidate John Kasich made national headlines last year

Brett Smiths emotional moment with Ohio Governor and Presidential Candidate John Kasich made national headlines last year

Brett says he was inundated for weeks by supportive calls and emails from around the country, and even requests for hugs almost everywhere he went.

While his brief moment of candor and honesty proved to be inspirational and helpful to others dealing with similar circumstances, Brett says the whole experience and the time since has probably been most helpful to himself.

“Life after that national exposure has been great. I confessed during that moment that I had been going through a lot and was having a tough time for a few years, but when I told Gov. Kasich of my woes — I was really on my way out of those dark times,” Smith says.

“Saying it out loud really felt therapeutic because for so long I had just kept those details to myself. I learned the more I talked about it the better I felt, so the exposure I received really kind of forced me to keep talking about it. The more I talked the easier it got. I still have bad days, everyone does, but personally I am in such a better place than I was at any given time during the past 2-3 years.”

Smith’s inspiring year did not end there as he ended the year with many other positive moments including graduating with a political science degree from UGA, completing an internship with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, and most recently landing his first political job as a field representative for newly elected congressman Drew Ferguson.

Brett says the internship from August to December at the Governor’s office was one of the most rewarding things he has participated in during his 22 years of life, but wasn’t a direct result of his recent notoriety.

“I ended up as an intern in the Governor’s office because of connections I had made several years ago,” says Smith. “I’ve volunteered for campaigns since I was 16 and able to drive myself to where I needed to be. Many of the people I have met along the way have continued in politics just like I have and it has always proved beneficial to keep in touch with those people.”

“My fondest memories during my internship were building relationships and friendships with the staff and fellow interns, but of course my favorite moment was flying to UGA in a helicopter with the Governor, his chief of staff, and head of security,” Smith states proudly. “Knowing that the Governor knows who you are by name is pretty cool.”

Brett says even though he has faced challenging times in his life, he wouldn’t change anything in the past because it all helped him get to where he is today.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the future and yet I am grateful for the past,” he says. “I’ve ended up where I am from all of those things, and I am better off and a better person because of it.”

Smith is very excited about his new job as a field representative for Congressman Ferguson. He will be responsible for Heard, Coweta, Carroll, Fayette, Spalding, and Harris Counties and his duties will include filling during engagements the Congressman is unable to attend.

Brett introduced himself in his new role to the Franklin City Council recently and plans to attend other meetings as well.

Smith says that the moment he shared last year with the Ohio governor and all that followed in 2016 is “something I’m going to treasure all my life.”

Brett Smith aboard a helicopter with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal during his internship at the Governor's Office

Brett Smith aboard a helicopter with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal during his internship at the Governor’s Office

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