Video by Ilea Shutler. Produced by David Fritze.
“Conversations” is a series of video interviews with Oklahomans about subjects that relate to some of the state’s important issues. The 2016-2017 series is sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation and is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News.
University of Oklahoma Professor Keith Gaddie is one of the most widely interviewed observers of Oklahoma politics.
Gaddie, who is chair of OU’s political science department, has authored, co-authored or edited more than 20 books, including a recent one on voting rights. His areas of expertise include elections, Southern politics, environmental politics and redistricting and representation.
Gaddie grew up on a farm outside of Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a plumber who imparted to him a love for reading. He arrived in Oklahoma more than two decades ago –to a state that remains within the sphere of Deep-South influence.
“Oklahoma’s southern, and it’s also western,” he said. “But it’s not southwestern. It’s a very peculiar state.” He paraphrased Edward Everett Dale, the late OU professor and historian, referring to the state: “We were stitched together out of the fragments left over from Texas and Kansas and Arkansas and New Mexico and Colorado.
“Here’s what I love about Oklahoma,” Gaddie added. “Oklahoma is like the land of second chances.” People, including himself, “picked up and they came here and they were able to carve out space. And Oklahoma is very forgiving this way. Oklahomans let you come in and acclimate to the place and become part of it … One of the great tributes to the state is that openness.”
Yet Oklahoma wrestles with serious challenges, and it must adjust to significant political and demographic changes in coming decades, he said.