COLUMBIA, SC — Tim Scott knew he could die one of two ways if he continued hanging out with a friend who dealt drugs when he was a teen growing up in North Charleston.
“Either he was going to get me killed or she would kill me,” the Republican U.S. senator said, referring to his disapproving mother during a speech Saturday to 50 youthful offenders in Columbia.
Scott spent an hour sharing how he turned around his life with teens just entering the legal system at the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice’s Midlands Evaluation Center in Columbia.
The Lowcountry businessman who has risen quickly in politics in recent years flunked out of high school and lacked direction before deciding to stop being a victim.
“It didn’t just happen. It snuck up on me,” Scott said from the center’s basketball court. “I realized I was able to control my responses. I’m responsible for how I handle the challenges thrown my way.
“Instead of looking at the stuff that’s happening to me, I had to figure out all the stuff happening for me,” he added. “Everything that came to hurt me made me better.”
The senator told the offenders not everything works out at once (“I failed, but I learned if you fail, you can learn.”) and encouraged them to stay positive (“Remember tomorrow is coming.”).
Scott said he was lucky to find the strength to make the right choices when he was hanging with the wrong crowd, which happened, in part, after he rediscovered his religious faith.
“You can’t keep playing the game forever,” he said. “You’ll get caught. And if you don’t get caught, you’ll get shot. I’m not sure which is worse. And if you’re not caught or shot, you get to live with who you are. When you’re young, living with who you are, it seems cool and easy. ... It’s not. The crap you do that you think you can get away with will come back to haunt you in a way that you’ll wish you got caught.”