Former Gov. Bill Haslam encourages graduates to make a difference
I knew former governor Bill Haslam would share meaningful wisdom with our graduates when we asked him to speak at our fall commencement ceremony, where he was also awarded an honorary degree.
But when he asked our graduates to consider an important question, it was one that also made me stop and think: Do you want to make a point, or do you want to make a difference?
In today’s polarizing political climate and social media platforms prime for pithy back-and-forths, the former governor cautioned graduates that it’s a lot easier to make a point than it is to make a difference.
I have long admired Governor Haslam—first as a public servant who championed UT and education in general through his policy and budget proposals, and more recently as a friend and soon-to-be colleague as we prepare to teach an undergraduate honors course on courageous leadership.
A legacy of support for UT Knoxville
Since leaving office, Governor Haslam has continued to use his time and talents to better our university and our state. He has remained engaged in education policy through the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, the college that bestowed on him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
He sits on the board of the Institute of American Civics and co-hosts a podcast with fellow former governor Phil Bredesen that is produced by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. The podcast, You Might Be Right, takes its name from a well-loved quote by the late Tennessee statesman and US senator Howard H. Baker Jr., who always insisted it was more productive to enter a debate with humility and the consideration that the other person might be right.
The podcast explores some of the most pressing and polarizing issues through that lens—two former governors from opposite sides of the aisle who prioritize finding solutions over winning an argument. It’s the kind of civic engagement our country needs now more than ever.
Just imagine what we can accomplish together if we stop trying to one-up one another and instead focus on bringing to the table our best ideas and an open mind.
It’s incredible advice—not just for the Class of 2022 but for all of us.