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A think-tank leader and former presidential aide shares his debt of gratitude to the people of Madison Park, Alabama.

Madison Park, a small community in Alabama not far from Montgomery, was founded in 1880 by a group of 14 freed slaves who wanted a place where they could live, work, and worship together while building a better life for their offspring. Among this community’s native sons is Eric Motley, executive vice president at the Aspen Institute and a former special assistant to President George W. Bush. In Madison Park: A Place of Hope, Motley shares stories from his upbringing in a community united by commitments to faith and education. John Van Sloten, a pastor, teacher, and author of Every Job a Parable: What Walmart Greeters, Nurses and Astronauts Tell Us about God, spoke with Motley about his memoir.

What made you want to write about growing up in Madison Park?

I wrote the book for a number of reasons. I wrote it as an expression of gratitude to a good number of people who helped me along the way, whose names would never see the light of day on the page of any book. I also wrote it because I came from a place—Madison Park—and it’s a beautiful place. It has a wonderful and inspiring history, and people need to be reminded of places like this, the places you can’t easily find on a map or a navigation system.

At a time when so many people are speaking about the things that divide and separate us, it’s good to be reminded of the blessed ties that bind us, the relationships that people enjoy within communities, and the sacrifices we make to supporting each other in all of our needs: spiritual, economic, whatever it might be. Madison Park is a voice in the wilderness that reminds us that we have more in common than not, and it points us to what can happen when people live together, work together, and …

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