Bill Haslam on elections: This is not a game.

Phyllis Y. Nichols, Knoxville Area Urban League president and CEO, with Bill Haslam, former Knoxville mayor and Tennessee governor.

Former two-term Knoxville mayor and two-term Tennessee governor Bill Haslam had strong words for attendees this week at a membership lunch for the Knoxville Area Urban League.

Stop playing games with politics and start electing people who are more concerned with solving real-life problems than with posting clever and mean things on social media.

“Outrage is the flavor of the day,” he said. “It is really easy to make a point. It is harder to make a difference.”

Haslam asked members of the crowd at the Knoxville Convention Center to raise their hands if they were “fed up with the state of politics.” All hands went up.

“We are really divided as a country,” Haslam said. “We are literally divided 50-50. We all live, worship and play with people who think like we do. And then we choose what news to watch based on what we believe. We all want to hear that we are right.”

But Haslam urged listeners to recall the words of his personal mentor, the late Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., who said, “Always remember that the other guy might be right!”

Haslam, a longtime proponent of public education, asked audience members what they most often hear that school boards are discussing when they hear news coverage of local school board meetings. “Masks,” the crowd retorted.

Bill Haslam

“Right, masks,” Haslam said, adding that school boards should be dealing with much more important educational matters.

“Public education is crucial to who we want to be,” he said. “This stuff really matters. Who we elect really matters. This is not a game. Solving real problems matters. We should elect people who have solved problems before. Not just someone who had a catchy put-down on Twitter.”

Haslam said that America always has been a country good at inventing things. “But we have moved from inventing to venting,” he said.

In addition to Haslam’s frank comments, lunch-goers also heard good news from local Urban League President and CEO Phyllis Y. Nichols who announced that the Knoxville Area Urban League has received a $1.4 million grant to hire local “health navigators” to help increase the number of people in our community who have received COVID vaccinations and booster shots.

The Knoxville organization was one of six Urban League affiliates across the country to receive the grants from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration. The funds, which came from the American Rescue Plan, are designated to increase vaccine access for “the hardest-hit and most vulnerable communities,” according to a news release from the National Urban League. The health navigators will conduct outreach and engagement activities, the release said.

The Moxley Carmichael table at the event. Clockwise from front left: Scott Bird, Maria McHale, Chris Weathers, Katherine Whitehead, Alan Carmichael, our friend and guest Tim Hill, Lauren Miller, Charley Sexton and Allie Clouse.

Civil rights leader and Urban League board member Rev. Harold Middlebrook delivered the invocation.

Knoxville businessman Tim Hill with Phyllis Nichols. Hill, a member of the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission, is running for an at-large seat on Knoxville City Council.

Cathy and former Knoxville Mayor Daniel Brown with Rev. Reneé Kesler, right, president of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

Jan Brown, director of ethics and compliance at the Tennessee Valley Authority, is chair of the board of the Knoxville Area Urban League.

Tim Hill, left, greets Gabriel Bolas, president and CEO of Knoxville Utilities Board and an Urban League board member.

Jim Nichols and Carmen Hicks.

Harold Hicks, left, and Alan Carmichael.

Tim Hill was really working the room! Here he is with Randy Merritt of The Christman Company. They were discussing downtown development projects, an interest for both.

Eleni and George Stratigeas. She has just rejoined the Urban League board after a brief stint in Florida. Welcome back!

Tim Hill again with Bill Haslam. The two are former neighbors and were catching up.

Another good thing about the lunch!


Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Bill Haslam on elections: This is not a game.

  1. Cindy Hassil, on February 18th, 2022 at 2:11 pm said:

    Wonderful words from a wise man. It would be amazing if we all took his advice and were more concerned with solving real-life problems than with posting clever and mean things on social media. Also, congrats to KAUL for the grant that will help Knoxville be a healthier, safer community!

  2. Bill Pippin, on February 18th, 2022 at 2:56 pm said:

    I hope that Mr. Haslam is considering another run for public office. We desperately need someone who can break out of the current state of partisan gridlock.

  3. Sandra Clark, on February 18th, 2022 at 4:47 pm said:

    Good coverage, Cynthia.

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on February 18th, 2022 at 10:18 pm said:

    Cindy: I couldn’t agree more! On both fronts.

    Dr. Pippin: I wish a lot of good candidates would take his words to heart. Of course, it would be great if he ran for something. But even better if multiple folks would follow in his footsteps. This partisanship is out of control. And a lot of our elected officials know better. They just need the guts to DO better.

    Sandra: Thanks, friend.

  5. Carolyn Jensen, on February 19th, 2022 at 8:28 pm said:

    Great advice from one who has really made a difference and majored on the important problems rather than finding someone to blame. Bill Haslam is one who gets things done without a lot of controversy. Congratulation to the Urban League on their awesome grant and the good work they do in the community

  6. Tara Sturdivant, on February 19th, 2022 at 9:39 pm said:

    Thanks for covering this event!

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on February 19th, 2022 at 11:40 pm said:

    Carolyn: Agree with you 100 percent!

    Tara: Thanks for reading the Blue Streak!

  8. Jean Ash, on February 21st, 2022 at 8:39 pm said:

    Bill Haslam showed some statesmanship. Great story and fotos, Cynthia!

Leave a Reply