tv Fmr. Gov. Bill Haslam Faithful Presence CSPAN November 9, 2021 9:08pm-9:55pm EST
my name is nathan and on behalf of the humanity as i would like to welcome you to the southern festival of books here in nashville tennessee. if you are watching us online or joining us on c-span we have a great discussion for you today and we are glad you're with us. before we start, i'd like to thank a few of the sponsors for their ongoing support. the arts commission, the content group, the tennessee arts commission, vanderbilt university. we are grateful for your continued support. thank you for everything you do to help make this a great festival every year. if you would like to purchase
books that you see featured at the festival, we encourage you to do that through the book link in the facebook live or her youtube chat section. sales support the festival and help to keepp it free. so we have a special guest today. the author is the former two-term mayor of knoxville and former two-term governor of tennessee. during his tenure, tennessee became the fastest improving state in the country and k-12 education in first states provided free community college or technical school for all its citizens inl addition to 475,000 net new jobs. serving on the board of directors for teach for america, the wilson center and young wife, over 40 years and has three children and ten
grandchildren. he's here today to discuss his new book the promise of faith in the public square. he's also my former boss and special guest today. welcome to the southern festival of b books. a. >> thanks for including me. i'm not used to having people introduce me as an author. when you said our offer today i thought who's going to join us. i'm used to being on the other side of the table but it's nice to be part of q this tonight. >> that's what is cool look at e festival, kind of like the u.s. open. just one book gets you qualified. [laughter] >> that is probably a good thing in my case. >> one of theut good things we need to talk about we have about 40 minutes here to talk so i thought we could jump right in. i've read workbook a couple of times and have some general i thought would be
interesting for the viewers and me in general. to start off -- >> what we see happening in the political arena not just in the polarization and the the hatred that's not too strong of a word that exists today the feeling there's something called motivation asymmetry which is how much not just on the otherer side about how much you think the other side is doing for bad motives into the motivation attribution this is 40 years ago in the country was greater between republicans and democrats than that of palestinians and this animosity to the other side and this sends of the argument or the
discussion concerns all of us. i wrote the book more poignantly because rather than being the -- the christians jesus asked us to be to feel like they are acting like everybody else in a the public square, so this is my attempt to say what is the problem and what might it look like to be different. a. >> based onnc your experience as governor or mayor or just in life as part of the political services concern, can you share some examples of where you were kind of called into a situation where you had to have a faithful presence and what that looked like and may be the alternativey if you were chosen not to be the typeho of presence that you are referring to in the book lacks.
>> having a faithful presence means not just in those decisions that get a lot of attention, but what we do every day. my argument a here is about here is what a faithful presence might look like in the public square. i would argue it's either a teacher, hospital administrator, assembly line or whatever it is you do that there's a way to think about. a part of the problem is particularly in politics we think so much about the position on this issue. for some things it is clear we are supposed to be concerned for the poor. it doesn't tell us how to do
that. so i think the point to making a book is concerned for the poor. that's not up for debate. how do we do that in terms of economic systems is up for debate and that's where we should engage to get to the best answer. back to your question on the circumstances, where i was called to have a faithful presence, part of having a faithful presence is having the humility to know that you might not be right. my first ever political boss was an intern in college and worked for senator howard baker who was from tennessee, became the majority leader in the senate to be ronald reagan's chief of staff with our ambassador to japan under george hw bush. he had a saying that said i
always remember the others fellw might be right. he was from a little country town north of knoxville. that was his way of saying i'm going to work my hardest to remember i need to walk into it with a realization that i am mightnot have this exactly righ. so particularly within our own team and staff once the governor speaks, okay that's going to be the administration's position. but i learned quickly that didn't get us to the best answer. an example of realizing i might not always be right is when we our senior staff meetings to the middle of the table so i could make sure my voice didn't cut off the discussion because i learned quickly if that answer was the answer i walked in the
door with it wouldn't be as good as the answer all of us could walk out of the door with. >> that's true. talking about anxiety, you have a couple sections in your book, some on anxiety, some on humility. we know it has a negative impact in our personal lives and how we act politically or can act politically in a competitive political climate what are some ways we can win if you try to get your idea out there and compete and put forth, how is the best way to do that with humility and meekness and i know you mentioned those in h the bo. >> blessed are the meek that will inherit the earth but also
we haven't been given a spirit we know that meek doesn't mean we. what it does mean as you know there is a sense of i know i don't get things right all the time. just today if i had a little barometer that followed me around it would be at 2,763. i've been pretty much doing not much. i know that's true in my personal life i know it can be true and everything else i do so i thinknd the thing is it doesnt mean we're just supposed to surrender the argument and say whatever you think is right. no, we are supposed to be about truth and we will work hard to get to that truth and to the answer that will serve the most people.
we just have to go about it without a sense of if somebody is on the other side they are not the bad guy. at the person on the other side isn't the bad guy. of the bad guy is the problem we are trying to solve and too many peopley don't have an education that's going to prepare them for the rest of their life. too many people that don't have a job that h can help feed their family. those are the issues. the folks that have a different approach to it as long as we think they are the bad guys we are not going to have a discussion that is going to lead us to a a better place. and that is true of both sides. a lot of people will say finally, yeah now hopefully those republicans will see but back to what i talked about with asymmetry that's where we are as a country both sides thinking the others are the bad guy.
>> it's not about political theory or one side or the other. it's about posture or at least it read that way to me. like what posture are you in when you engage in political life and the public square and why is it that all of a sudden, our gloves come off when we enter politics as opposed to when we are at a store buying something or we are out on the playground or anywhere? >> wired to be seen to say we are going to put the rules on the political arena that is kind of the question. ii think there's two reasons. it got us speaking to folks that have the view of the world that i do in terms of approaching it as a christian.
you can go to retreat into sunday school classes into sessions about here's what a christian marriage looks like or what it looks like to raise your child in a christian home or if you are a c business person hers what it looks like to be a business person in today's market. what we don't have much here's what it looks like to be a christian a in the public squar. there may be one or two occasionally. we don't have a lot of. we haven't developed this theology of politics. our view of how should we act is
the first reason. second i'm betting, not betting, i know, folks call up just really, really mad, having civilized conversations with people who didn't want to have a civilized conversation. but there point was the stakes are too high. we can't go by sunday school rules because the stakes are too highgh and the other side isn't going to unilaterally disarm so if we start playing in a way that is humble and forgives the other side when they do us wrong, then we are going to get wiped off the field. a. >> the point i would bring up we
don't wage the rules for circumstances we don't say in business we act as a christian believer unless your company is getting ready to go out of business and then in that case do whatever you need. you promised to be faithful to your life as long as you both shall live but we will suspend all that if a the person in the office next to you is really hot. we don't give ourselves those sort of passes if you will in other areas that we have in politics. we justify it by saying there's so much at stake this matters so much that we have to play to win. >> and you mentioned your students is an example how they are often willing to see the institution or organization but when it comes to personalizing it, not quite as easy.
>> i think we talked particularly today about the issues on systemic racism or systemic social injustices and that is real in my opinion. we have places where the injustices have become a part of the institution. i think it's harder for us to drill down and see our part in that that the system started with somebody like us making that first step in a way that wasn't just and didn't show any kind of mercy and that became perpetuated so if that is true in the systems that have been built up its true in the things we do in our lives as well. i am struck particularly by the generation today that'sla in thr 20s and very quick to protest the end of march and talk about
injustices and a lot less willing to see injustices in here. a. >> in chapter two you talk about compromising to say compromise means lack of conviction and has become a dirty word. we had a question from a viewer i wanted to share under that heading. how do you draw the line between humilityen and tradition in the age where those in the southfield outdated a bit and sometimes folks say that they are archaic in their conventions. do you think there's room for open-mindedness. if we are going to solve the hard political issues today we have to start with the realization that the country is pretty evenly divided. the last ten presidential
elections were cited. the senate is literally 50/50. with the three votes separating it we are in an evenly divided country yet we do not think we are evenly divided, because everybody thinks we are around what we think is true. here's the truth behind that and here's what i think. so evenly divided, but we don't think we are because everybody around us things like we do.
that's's where the humility coms in is to realize everybody doesn't think just like i do for me to understand the other side and professors that teach you to learn by making the best argumentnt for the other side on the case that you are in the middle of to really understand. i think the questioner asked on the southern culture there's things that are more southern tradition where we see bless your heart but behind your back we cut you up. i will argue that it's not humility at all.
it's recognizing that we are broken people and the opportunity to hear their point of view. a. >> a good book that is often used in schools talks about negotiation and finding out what's motivating, getting to know the people that you are motivating and what their position is. in the book you referred to a bunch of theologians, religious thinkers. how is their political and social climate with hours and how applicable are their words and blessings for us today? >> one r of the reasons i love things like this festival that reminded people of the value of
great books is one of the things you learn in the great books is people living in a different place and time then we do struggle with many of the same things. so read about trying to abolish slavery in the united kingdom .nd he ultimately lives to see the abolished united kingdom. how did it take them so long to do away with something that was so wrong. we read the arguments back and forth fantasy that it hasn't really changed all that much.
all that sounds great but you think he is living in a world where the nazis are bombing london where he lives. he then applauded them to the situation is i think one of the things we don't take advantage of. i know you've been on a tour making stops introducing people to the books. the content and what inspired you so i'm curious what's the response been when you meet with them in person and has anything surprised you and is anybody out right disagreed with you?
i didn't know what to expect out of all of that. as a pleasant surprise has been its lead to lots of really good thoughtful conversations with people. so my experience has been a little bit like that. people come up and tell you you're wrong and how bad you are. the truth as it happens about 5% of the time. the rest of the time when people come up to you in public you have very helpful or encouraging conversations. in the book, because the book thanks for writing it, but it hass caused a lot more thoughtfl conversations than i would have expected. peopleab i went to college with.
it's interesting. can we talk about such and such. so that's actually been encouraging and fun to have those interchanges of people responding to something specific that you've written and how they feel about that. but overall one of the things i didn't realize is you don't really know how the books go from a very infrequent basis on how many books you sold or anything like that so it's not like a business. i don't know, but i've had fun with it. >> the note section of the book essentially is a bibliography with references.
how much of these references are things that you havece been reading, and how much research did you have to do for the book? >> it's interesting. i left office in january of 2019 and in started writing january 4 march. in the meantime i kind of was thinking i might want to write to this and you come across something or you need to be reminded of something you go back and look at it. a lot of those were books that i happened to have read recently enough that i could remember them to look up the passage. once you start on the topic you dive into it a little further. i usually have three books going
on at any one time of all different types and i hope i always stay that way. a. >> to read a certain amount of books i can't remember what the number was but are you still reading it at that pace? >> every year, it is two and a half a month. my life was so full that i wasn't taking time to read or learn. at the end of the day when you've spent much time rustling through hard issues take you to another time and place outside of your own daily rustling's.
>> so you read fiction and nonfiction? >> i do, i read about. i have more time now than when i was in office, but i love history. i love fiction and books trying to explain something i'm trying to figure out. some are history related, something addressing a subject i'm trying to wrestle through and then a fun or great novel. a. >> do people recommend books to you, do you have a book club? >> when you're in office you wouldn't believe how many. they want you to understand their argument. if the governor will just read
this book you get a lot of those and then you get a lot of officers that have written the bookyo and think it couldn't hut to have one of those in the governor's hands. you get a lot of books that way but i've always been one to read through book reviews. coone that comes out monthly i read a book reviews in the newspaper and sometimes i used to love wandering through bookstores. i spent some time just wandering through and picked up three. a. >> there's a lot of authors and readers and would be authors and readers in the session and i'm
curious what was your experience as a first-time author writing a book about something you're passionate about. what did you learn and what would you share with the would-be writers? >> when you are putting them down, there are so many things in this magazine article or book and i keep writing and finishinw the chapter with a lot of long nights when i was trying to find that article or where that quote was in the book. the main thing i would say it's a lot harder than i thought it would be to come up with a
coherent argument throughout the book that made the case. here's what we do about it to build the ark of the story that go to story writers have was harder to do than i thought. the other thing was, the flip side it was a great experience for me personally. this is something i feel strongly about to put in paper the argumentr i wanted to make was helpful for me rubbing my arms around the understanding of the situation. a. >> some delight underlined and flagged and i will give you a couple examples that stand out. of the leadership is about connecting with a legitimate problem facing voters with a
difficult reality of governing and working to solve the problems. another sentenceceot like that, almost a conclusion this has been later in the book with humility rather than pride and arrogance is simply the only way. did you have these thoughts or ideas that you wanted to make sure you build the framework around rewriting the book or did you comb through the book and land on these things and they became sort of pillars of the idea that you were sharing? >> the first one is leadership is about>> solving problems was one of my main motivators for writing the book.
we've gotten to those that get the attention that people think of as a strong mayor, governor, those folks who make those statements people are willing to jump up and say that somebody that sees the problem the way that i do. most of the time the statements are doing nothing to solve the problem. they are stating the obvious about something in a way that leads to others saying you tell it like it is. a telling it like it is isn't solving the problem. one of the things i hope the book does is talk about who they are supporting in elections and saying things that you think that sounds great but who is
actually solving problems. at the end of the day this is the stuff the government is supposed to do and these are hard issues. icthe rhetoric overcome the rese in the sense that the talking points seem to mean a lot more anything like the one they are addressing now. that was part of the thing i wanted to make certain i talk about in thee book. the second id that you brought up the more i thought this is exactly how i feel. a. >> another one in chapter 12 speaks to what you were saying about the difference between someone who makes a great punchline or says something that rallies people about mop some of the problems in chapter 12 you write about we couldn't act out
of hostility when we are supposed to love our enemies. if we have a faithful presence it cannot be marked by fear of our changing circumstances and anger at the people who think differently than we do. >> so, if you think about it, i think a lot of the worst tendencies of politics today are because we are reacting out of here and i know that as christians, we don't fear more than anything else in the bible. we know fear is a bad place to come from. that's what's marked the discussion. a second, on the other side, that they are the bad guys.
all created in the image of god. the person that has the yard sign i can't believe they are supporting that candidate or the person that's sending out these messages that drive me crazy or even the nightly news show i want to yell at the tv about because i can't believe they are saying that, i can't react in the same way if i think the person on the other side is created in the image of god. i want to be clear it doesn't mean we are supposed to be people of the truth and if we are called to government service it shouldn't be getting to answers that actually serve people well and i have strong views about what does and what
doesn't. but if i'm saying i'm a christian and i can't approach the argument of the person on the other side is not created in the image of god it's interesting if you read about the civil rights movement, one of the interesting quotes is about how much of the civil rights movement is rooted but the foundations were all about that idea created in the image of god and that's the argument that they made very successfully i would argue about why the racism that they were working to end was so wrong. >> you mentioned the portrayal of politics and people involved in politics. what would you say to people of faith that feel like they have a contribution to make but feel like the claimant is one that
isn't ready to listen to what they may have to share or that it may not be useful or interesting or winnable if you will. >> it's all too muddy. i'm frustratedru with both side. send your very best into the public arena. in preaching the spirit of the work. but the ambiguities of the public arena are such that we need our very best people to be a part of that. i think i would say this is what got me to first decided to run for mayor was in the book of
jeremiah. people are being held captive in israel and one of the worst of all times. if i'm being held captive somewhere and i hope that when you write me you say i'm coming to get you, stay out of trouble. he says get use to it, you're going to be there a while. then he says build homes and plant gardens. seek the welfare of the place that i called you and you will find your peace. when he says the welfare of the place we've been called. we are being kept as slaves by a horrible bad guy.
that's what jeremiah tells him to do and i'm too afraid many of us have reacted by saying this is horrible. look at what our culture has degraded to. look at the state of our country. i think tha the message back to us is we are supposed to seek the welfare of the place that we've been called. it's to make certain you have the best government in place possible.. one of the biggest things i learned is how much difference it makes in who we elect. all of that matters way more and i thought it was important before that. if we really do care about the
world that god had asked us to seek the welfare and peace of then one of the ways we could best serve that is in the whole public arena. to say i'm going to go worry about eternal things, we are missing part of what our calling is. a.re >> there is another section that sums that up with what you were just saying. at the end of chapter 12, i think it is for a time like this that christians are called to the public square but not in the ways that we have traditionally approached it. it's for people that understand the cries for justice have to be accompanied by humble and merciful spirit and citizens committed to both truth and love not one or the other. those that seek the places that
have been exiled not knowing that god has tied our welfare to the places that he's called us. >> that is the argument i was just making. here is one method when i speak to audiences that it's more of a religious situation, people that are purely coming in from a face angle. when the woman is called in that famous scene where they bring the woman who's been called in adultery jesus eventually gets to her and says go and sin no more about the first he deals with the religious sites and says whichever of you is without
sin, cast the first stone. beginning with the other ones they drop their likes and walk away. in that view when they have the most famous some men ever, he talks about christians are supposed to be salt and liked. it was a preservative to keep the meat from going bad. today in the world, christians are looking out saying can you believe how workable the culture has gotten as a country. i think jesus' words would be that is what the salt is supposed to be doing. if the meat is going bad, don't blame the meat. if the meat went bad, if the power went out into the refrigerator quit working and we came in after being on vacation and if there was still meat in
our freezer it would be like i can't believe those great steaks went bad on me. of the world around you look so bad but it's because the salt has lost its saltiness. don't blame the darkness. the call of my book is to think through what does it mean to be sold in light in a world that feels very contentious and hateful and seems to be trying to win the argument?
i'm curious what surprised you the most about all that's happened? >> i can't believe i got to do this. i would walk up those steps of the capital every day thinking i can't believe i get to do this. somebody is going to come get us and throw us out of here. the second one would be what i was talkingas about a second ag. none of this matters but we think in terms of electing the right people.
to see the world exactly like i do i still want somebody that addresses the economy the way that i do and different issues. but even more now i want to have more people in office that are intent on solving problems and committed to getting the best answer granted not just my answer. that was the big truth that i walked out of the office with. a. >> thank you for being with us and for sharing your book. i want to tell the viewers thank you for joining us if you would like a copy of the book please use the link to do that and it will allow us to continue to make this festival free and