Senator Lamar Alexander on Saturday encouraged participants at Tennessee Boys State to live by the words of Roots author Alex Haley and “find the good and praise it.”
“It was 61 years ago almost to the day, June 1957, and I had been elected governor of Boys States in a four vote landslide in a three man race,” Senator Alexander said.
“The real governor of Tennessee, Frank Clement, spoke, and the only sentence I remember was that he said: ‘Someday one of you boys is growing up be to the REAL governor of Tennessee.’”
Senator Alexander said, “Today, I have six different words I hope you will remember. They are: ‘Find the Good and Praise It.’”
“1957 was also the year when 35 year old Chief Petty Officer Alex Haley of Henning, Tennessee, was in his 18th year in the U.S. Coast Guard. While in the Coast Guard, Alex discovered he could write better than most of his shipmates. So he began to write down the stories he heard from his great aunts on their porch in Henning, Tennessee. He took ten years to turn all those family stories into every family's story – the struggle for freedom and the struggle for equality. It became Roots, the Pulitzer Prize winning book and the best-watched TV series in history, transforming libraries all over America into places people search for themselves.
“But we don't remember Alex because he was famous. We remember him for those six words he lived his life by: ‘Find the Good and Praise It.’ Alex especially liked to say it to people who were always busy finding everything wrong with America. It was a powerful message coming from the grandson of slaves and the man who wrote the autobiography of Malcolm X.
“I hope you will think about those six words as you finish this week at Boys State. Learn to ignore the angry voices on cable news, talk radio, and the internet and instead remember what you learned this week. Find some way to serve our country. Make some money. Put down some roots. Start a family. Along the way find someone in politics you respect and learn from him or her and then jump in yourself.
Senator Alexander spoke at the closing ceremonies of the American Legion’s Boys State 2018 program in Cookeville. Boys State brings 600 high school juniors from every county in Tennessee together to spend a week imitating local, county, and state government by electing officials including a governor, working on legislation and holding legislative sessions, and running court proceedings.
Senator Alexander participated in Boys State in 1957 and was elected Boys State Governor that year. His platform included:
· Pass a resolution that the right to work should not be discriminated against – referring to union affairs.
· Civil Rights resolutions:
o (Persons of color) should have equal rights in schools and living conditions without discrimination;
o The Klu Klux Klan should be outlawed in Tennessee; and
o A resolution charging the other 47 states of the union to investigate civil rights within their own state before criticizing Tennessee.