tv Fmr. Gov. Bill Haslam Faithful Presence CSPAN December 31, 2021 3:13am-4:03am EST
you are watching book tvs coverage of the southern festival of books. >> hello, my name is nathan. i would like to welcome you to the southern festival of books here in nashville tennessee. whether you are watching us online or joining us later on c-span, we have a great session for you today and we are glad you are with us. before we start, i would like to thank a few of the festival key sponsors for their ongoing support. the arts commission, the ingram content group, the tennessee arts commission, vanderbilt university, we are grateful for your continued support. thank you for everything that you do to help us continue to make this a great festival every year. if you'd 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 youtube section. support the festival and help to keep it free. so, we have a special guest today. our author is the former to turn mayor of knoxville and former governor of knoxville tennessee. tennessee became the fastest improving state in the country in k-12 education in the first state to provide free community college or technical school for all of its citizens. in addition to adding 475,000 net new jobs. serving on the board of directors for teach for america. the wilson center and young life. his wife of 40 years have three children and 10 grandchildren the he is here today to discuss his new book faithful presence. a public face. welcome to the southern festival of books.
>> hi. thank you for including me. i'm not used to people introduce me as an author. kind of getting used to being on the other side of the table. >> you are welcome. that is what is cool about the festival. kind of like the u.s. open. >> that is quite a good thing in my case. >> one of the things about this session that we need to talk about his time. we have about 40 minutes here to talk. i thought that we could just jump right in. i read your book. i read through it a couple of times. i just have some general questions that i thought would be interesting maybe for our viewers and for me and in general. just to start us off here, tell me what inspired you to write the book and why you chose this topic and this time to do it. >> you know, almost like
everybody else in america, i am frustrated by what i see happening in our political arena not just the polarization in the partisanship because i may argue that that is not all that new. but with the hatred, and that is not too strong of a word, the feelings that each side has together. there is something called motivation attribution and symmetry, not just disagreeing with the other side, but you think that what they are doing is bad motives. the motivation attribution symmetry, this is 40 years ago in the country, it was greater between republicans and democrats and between israelis and palestinians. this kind of animosity towards the other side in the sense that the goal in an argument or discussion is to win, not to get to the right answer i just think
concerns all of us. and, i wrote the book towards people of faith because rather than being -- particularly for christians that jesus asked us to be, i feel that people of faith are as yay just like everybody else in the public square. what is the problem and what may it look like to be different? >> yes. so, based on your experience as governor, or as mayor, or just in life, as far as a political services concern, can you share some examples of where, you know, you are kind of called into a situation where you had to have a faithful presence and what that looked like? and maybe what the alternative was if you had chosen not to be the type that you are referring to in the book? >> i guess part of it would be
having a faithful presence means not just in those big decisions. what we do every day. my argument is here, a faithful presence in the public square. i would argue to have that same thing if you are a teacher or a hospital administrator or working on an assembly line or whatever it is that you do. what are we called to do and be? i will come back and answer your question in a second, i promise. particularly in politics, okay, the christian position on this issue. some things, it is really clear. we are supposed to be concerned. we are supposed to be the board. it does not tell us how to do that. and, so, one of the points of making the book, hey, this is
really clear. that is not up for debate. help me do that in terms of the economic system, i think that that is up for debate. that is where we should engage fully to get to the best answer. to your question, circumstances, where i was called to have a faithful presence, i think this is what i would classify as risk. it is having think humility to know that you may not be right. my first ever political boss was when i was an intern in college and worked for senator harold baker who which a senator for tennessee. to be ronald reagan's chief of staff. an ambassador to japan under george h.w. bush. and, baker had a thing that said, always remember that the other fellow might be right. he was from a little country
town north of knoxville. that was his way of saying, i will work my hardest to remember i need to walk into it with the realization that i may not have this exactly right. particularly within our own team and staff was, okay, that is where we are. that will be the administration's position. i learned real quickly that did not get us to the best answer. realizing i may not always be right is moving my chair from the head of the table when we had our senior staff meeting to the middle of the table. so that i could make certain that my voice did not cut off the discussion. if our answer was the answer i walked in the door with, it would not be as good as all of us could walk out of the door
with. >> that is true. >> you have a couple of sections in your book here. some on anxiety. some on humility. you know, we know that anxiety and pride have a negative impact in our personal lives and how we act politically. a political climate, what are some ways that we can win? trying to get an idea and compete and put forth a good argument. how is the best way to do that with humility and meekness? >> meek does not mean week. later, you know, tells timothy, we have not been given the
spirit of humility. it does mean you know the sense of i don't get things right all the time. if i'd a leader that followed me around, you know, a day off. pretty much doing not much. >> i know that it is true in my personal life. i know that it is true and everything else that ideal. the thing is, that does not mean we are just supposed to surrender the argument. whatever you think is right. no. we are supposed to be about truth. we are supposed to be about serving people. work hard to get to the answer that will serve the most people. go about it without a sense of if somebody is on the other side
of me, they are not the bad guy. the person on the other side is not the bad guy. the bad guys a problem we are trying to solve. too many people do not have an education that will prepare them for the rest of their life. too many people that do not have a job that 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 will not have a discussion that will lead us to a better place. >> by the way, that is true on both sides. hopefully those republicans will see that the democrats are not all bad guys or vice versa. getting back to what i talked about was motivation, attribution and symmetry, both sides thinking the other folks are bad guys. >> that is what is interesting about the book. it is not about political theory.
it's not one side or the other, it's about posture. or at least it read that way to me. what posture are you in when you engage in political life or the public square. why is it that all of a sudden our gloves come off and our manners go away when we enter politics as opposed to when we are at a store buying something or on the playground or anywhere ? >> we are going to put the rules for how we act on hold in the political arena. why do we say that? i think that there are two reasons. speaking to people that have the view that i do in terms of approaching it as a christian. >> you can go to retreats and sunday school classes and
sessions galore about here is what a christian marriage looks like or here is what it's like to raise your children in a christian home. this is what it looks like to be a business person in today's market. what we do not have much of, here is what it looks like to act like a christian in the public square. you do not hear a lot of sermons about that. maybe one or two occasionally. we do not have a lot about that. we have conferences about how do we win on this issue. we have not developed a theology we have not developed this. our view of how god sees this arena. how should we act. i think that that is the first
reason. the second is this. believe me, i have heard this. i know that you heard a lot of this. folks that called up just really, really mad. nathan was famous for being able to have civilized conversations with people that did not want to have a civilized conversation. their point was this. the stakes are too high. we cannot go act by sunday school rules because the stakes are so high that the other side will not unilaterally disarm. if we do not start playing in a way that is humble and actually forgive the other side when they do what's wrong, then we will get wiped off the field. the point that i would bring up again is this. we do not waive the rules for circumstances in other areas of
life. we do not need to act ethically as a christian believer unless your company is getting ready to go out of business. in that case, do whatever you need. we don't say in marriage, you promised to be faithful to your wife as long as you both shall live, but we will suspend all that stuff if the person in the office next to you is really hot we don't get to give passes and other areas. but we haven't politics. we justify it by saying there is so much at stake. this matter so much that we have to play to win. >> you mentioned in your book, you use your students as an example of how they are often willing to see the innards of an institution or an organization, but when it comes to personalizing it, not quite as easy. >> we talked particularly today about the issues around systemic
racism or social injustice of some type. and that is real, in my opinion. we are places where injustice becomes part of the system or part of an institution. i think that it is a lot harder for us to drill down and see our part in it. that started with somebody like us making that first step in a way that was not just and it did not show any kind of mercy. that became perpetuated. if that is true in the systems that have been built up, it is true and the things that we do in our lives as well. i am struck particularly by the generation today that is in their 20s or very quick to protest and march and talk about injustice out there. a lot less willing to see injustice in here.
>> in chapter two you talk about, i think it's chapter two, compromise. it now means lack of conviction. it is now become a dirty word. i want to kind of share under that heading. how do you draw the line between humility and tradition. an age where most leaders, especially in the south feel outdated a bit. they are archaic in their conventions. do you think that there is room for open-mindedness. >> well, i think that the point i am trying to get is this. if we really 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 10 presidential elections have been by single digits.
literally 5050. the house, three votes separating it. and evenly divided country yet we don't think we are evenly divided because everyone we are around think like we do. we go to churches with people that think like we do. we can choose our news so i can choose msnbc or cnn or fox. whoever i want to pick. we love kind of confirmation bias as a real thing. we love it when people tell us what we think is true really is true. i like it a lot more when people say here is the truth behind that. i say that is what i think, too. see, i am right. we are evenly divided, but we don't think that we are. that is where they humility
comes in. everyone does not think, just like i do, that there is a real need for me to understand the other side. they are some really great professors that teach you to learn by making the best argument for the other side of the case that you are in the middle of. really understand what it is that is drawing people toward that point of view. i think the question, particularly in the southern culture, a more southern tradition, southern hospitality, if you will. bless your heart. behind your back, we cut you up. a southern tradition that folks are talking about. that is not humility at all. humility is recognizing that we are broken people.
i will give the broken people on the other side of the table, a little bit of grace and the opportunity to hear their point of view. >> a good book often used in schools. getting to yes. getting to know the people you are working and negotiating with find out what is motivating them. that may really help the folks along. in the book, he referred to a bunch of different theologians or religious thinkers. how does their political and social climate compare with ours and how applicable are their words and their lessons for us today? >> one of the reasons why i love things like this festival that remind people of the value of great books is, the things that
you learn in the great books is people living in a very different place in a very different time then we do struggle with many of the same things. you read about trying to abolish slavery in the united kingdom. he spends basically most of his adult life, he loses something like 20 times. his bill loses in parliament. through persistence and people working with him, he ultimately lives to see slavery be abolished in the united kingdom. if you read the arguments back and forth at that time, how did it take him so long to do away with something that was obviously so wrong. we read the arguments back and forth and we see that the world has not really changed all that much. you think about cs lewis hill a lot of the writing was during world war ii. we think, okay, all of that
sounds great, but that is not the real world that we live in. he is living in a world where the nazis are bombing london where he lives or, you know, on a regular basis. the ability to take tunes that people have written in the past at very different times and applied them to our present situation is one of these important things that too many of us today do not take advantage of. >> i know you have been on a bit of a tour, making stops, introducing people to the books, the content and, you know, what you went through to write it and what inspired you. i am curious, what is a response been to people when you meet with them in person? has anything surprised you? has anyone just outright disagreed with you? >> that is a good question. i did not know what to expect
out of that being a first-time author. it has led to a lot of really good thoughtful conversations with people. my experience has been a little bit like that about being a public office. do people come up and, you know, accost you all the time and tell you you are wrong and how bad you are? the truth is, it happens about 5% of the time. the rest of the time, you have very helpful thoughtful conversations. very encouraging conversations. a lot of them are just, hey, read the book, loved it. thanks for writing it. it is a lot more like thoughtful conversations and i would expect from folks. about were old friends. people that i went to college with. i wrote this book. it is interesting. can we talk about such and such. some are just running into
people at a restaurant that read the book. that is encouraging and fun to have those interchanges of people who are actually responding to something specific that you have rated and how they feel about that. >> overall, people asked me how the book is going, they don't really know how your book is going. you hear from your publisher on a very infrequent basis on how many books you have sold. it is not like a business where every day, okay, here is what we sold, here are our expenses. >> i have had fun with it. >> that is good. that is good. the note section of the book, essentially, a bibliography. you know, a look inside your personal library. how much of these references are things that you have been reading or have read and how
much research did you have to do for the book? >> i left office in january of 2019. i started writing the book about a year later. january of 20. maybe february or march. in the meantime, i was kind of thinking i may want to write this. you come across something or you're reminded of something. you go back and look at it again with the thought of starting this style about things that you wanted to put in the book. a lot of those books that i happen to have read recently enough that i can remember them, some of them where once you start on the topic, you actually dive into it a little bit farther. someone tells you i just read something interesting. i know you are working on that book. i usually have three books going on at any one time. you know, of all different types
i hope that i always stay that way. >> maybe it was a personal goal that you had when you were governor. reading a certain amount of books. i cannot remember what the number was. are you still reading at that pace? >> every year read 30 books. two and a half a month. i just, i did not want to make it to where my life was so full that i was not taking time to read and learn. something that i really wanted to study and read more about. some of them were just a great novel that could bring you somewhere else at the end of the day when you spent too long rustling hard issues. take you to another time and place. outside of your own daily wrestling spirit. >> fiction and nonfiction.
>> ideal. i love both. to answer your question, i actually read a little bit more now because i have more time than when i was in office. i love history. i love fiction. i love books that are tried to explain something that i am trying to figure out. i usually have a little bit of each going on. something that is history related, something addressing some subject i am rustling through. either a fun or a great novel. >> do people recommend books to you? do you have book club? how does a governor find his books? >> you would not believe how many books you have. i literally had a closet full of books. wanting you to understand their argument or where you are coming from. the governor just read this book, he will see the world that i do. you get a lot of those and then
you get a lot of authors that have written a book and think it could not hurt to have one of these in the governor's hands. maybe he will like it, read it and tell other people about it. you get a lot of books that way. i read, you know, i go through book reviews, we have a subscription to a book that comes out monthly that recommends books. i read book reviews in the newspaper. sometimes i still end up wandering through book stores. talking about one of the sponsors with this. in nashville last week. i spent some time just wandering through. >> yeah. >> there are a lot of authors and readers and would be authors and readers who attend session. i am curious, what was your experience as a first-time
author, writing a book about something you are passionate about. what did you learn? what from that book could you tell or share with writers. >> write down your foot notes and your sources when you are putting them down. don't think i will go back and find out later. i am sort of kidding about that. so many things that i would write down a quote for and i would know where it is and then i would keep writing, finishing up the chapter which led to a lot of long nights when i was finishing trying to go back and find that article or where that quote was in the book. .... .... they coherent argument,
stated the issue, made the case, here's what we do about it. to build that arc of a story that good story writers have was harder to do that i thought. the other thing was, the flipside is it was a great experience for me personally to sit down and say this is something i feel strongly about. the need to actually put in paper the argument that i wanted to make, to put that on paper it was really, really helpful to me in terms of wrapping my arm around the own situation. >> there are some passages i underline when i was reading the book. i'll give you a couple examples of them, i thought just stand out. real leadership however is about connecting the legitimate problems facing those with the reality of governing and actually to solve the problems.
another example of a sentence like that, a statement almost a conclusion this was later in the book knowing the church today can and should be people who are known for entering the public square effectively with humility rather than pride and arrogance. it is simply the only way. scripture does not come with exceptions for certain situations like politics. did you have these thoughts for these similar ideas you build the framework around when you're writing the book? to did you comb through the book in a land to these things and they became sort of pillars of the idea you were sharing? >> the first one of those leadership is about solving problems was one of the main motivators for writing the book. i'm afraid in today's politics we've gotten to the place to get the attention of people
thinking there are a strong mayor or governor and those folks who make those statements that people most are willing to jump up too. >> they are somebody who sees a problem the way i do. but most of the time the statements they are making will do nothing to solve the problem or they are stating the obvious about something and stating it in a way that leads other folks finally but telling it like it is is not solving the problem. one of the things i hope the book does is encourage people to think about who they are supporting in the election. not do it just by who is saying things that you think boy, that sounds great. but who is actually solving problems. this is different stuff
government should do. these are hard issues. i am afraid we have let rhetoric overcome her resume with great talking points seem to mean a lot more that person actually solved a problem anything like the one they are addressing now. i think that was part of it they are really going to make certain i talk about in the book. the second was i coalesced around the more i wrote the more i thought this is exactly how i feel. >> another one and chapter 12 speaks to a little bit about what you're saying the difference between someone who makes a great punchline or says something that rallies people but not necessarily about solving the problems but we cannot react out of hostility of those who dilute from us politically were supposed to love our enemies.
if are going to have a faithful presence at present cannot be marked by fear, ever-changing circumstances. in anger of those who think differently than we do. >> if you think about it, i think a lot of the worst thing in politics today is really acting out of fear. i know that as christians we are told don't fear almost more than anything else in the bible. we note fear is a bad place to come from. that is what's marking the discussion. the second thing is the idea of the person on the other side that they are the bad guy. if the person on the other side if we in the christian faith as we believe they are created in the image of god.
all men are created in the image of god. i can't believe the supporting that candidate. sending out these tweets that drive me crazy if i actually think that person on the other side of the argument was created in the image of god. i want to be really clear that doesn't mean were supposed to be my sheet whatever, or call the government service with strong views about what does and doesn't do that.
i can't approach the arguments the person on the other side was not created in the image of god. one of the quotes lewis has about how much of the civil rights movement as he did the foundations are all about that idea we are created in the image of god. why the racism they were working to end is so wrong. >> you mentioned in the book the netflix betrayal of politics and people involved in politics. what would you say to people of faith who feel like they have a contribution to make, but feel like the claimant is one that is not ready to listen to what they may have to share.
may not be useful, interesting or winnable if you will. >> or the thing in addition to everything you listed, i heard much differently. it's too muddy i don't want to do it. the whole thing turns me off. i am frustrated with both sides. one of the quotes i have in the book, martin luther you mentioned earlier, said send your very best. to send your very best into the public arena. impeaching the holy spirit does not work. the ambiguity of the public arena are such that we need our very best people to be a part of that. i think i would say the verse that actually got me too first decide to run for mayor which led to running for governor was in the book of jeremiah.
people of israel being held captive in israel. i'm sorry and babylon. it's nebuchadnezzar one of the worst guys of all time, really bad ruler. jeremiah's back five been held captive somewhere, i hope you write me sam coming to get your bill. keep your head down stay out of trouble. jeremiah writes him and says something he basically says get used to it, you're going to be there a while. is it build homes and plant gardens. raise your children have your children marry. then he says in 29 : seven said seek the welfare of the place where i have called you. for in its welfare you will find your peace. think about what he's saying the welfare of the place we have called? this is a horrible place. we are being kept as slaves by nebuchadnezzar he is a horrible bad guy. what do you mean seek the welfare of this place? that is what jeremiah tells
him to do pretty afraid to many of us have reacted by saying this is horrible. what's what our culture has degraded two. look at the state of our country. i think the message back to us that god would give what jeremiah sent to the people of israel paris post to seek the welfare of the place we have been called third part of the weight you do that is make sure you have the very best government employees possible. one of the biggest is having the right person on school board in the white house, all of that matters way more than i thought before i got in. and i thought it was important before then. if we really do care about the
world that god has asked us to seek the peace of if you will. one of the ways we can best serve that is in the whole public arena. it is an area that our response is to say, away with all that i'm going to worry about eternal things. i think we are missing part of it. >> is another section here that sums that up well with what you are saying. it's very end of chapter 12, i think there is a time like this that christians are called to the public square. but not in the ways we have traditionally approached it. these times call up for people who understand our cries for justice have to be accompanied by a humble and worse and spirit these require citizens who are committed to both truth and love not one or the other. we can be people who truly seek the peace of the places we have been exiled knowing
god has tied our welfare to the welfare of the places he has called us. >> that is obviously the argument i was just making. here's one of the messages when i speak to audiences it is more of a religious situation and people are purely coming at it from a faith angle. jesus always starts with us. he starts with religious people. we think about the woman is called into adultery eventually gets to her, go and sin no more.
those without sin cast the first stone arguably the most famous sermon ever, he talks about christians are supposed to be salt and light salt in those days was to keep a preservative it was to keep the meat from going bad. today i think christians are looking out saying can you believe how horrible the culture has gotten? can you believe are we are as a country? i think jesus words would be i think that's what the salt is supposed to be doing. if the meat is going bad don't blame the meat. if the meat went bad the power went out in our house for been on vacation for week their spoiled meat and are free as it will be like thing i can't believe those great steaks
went bad on me. we'll be saying that freezer did not do its job. it did not keep the meat frozen. that is what jesus is saying. he's saying it's because the salt has lost its saltiness for the same thing don't blame the darkness, you are supposed to be the light. so again the call of my book is believers to think what it means to be salt and light in a world that is very contentious, hateful, and seems to try to be when the argument. >> were coming close to the very end of our discussion. it has been great talking with you. i just have one quick questions for you since i got you captive here. we've known each other for about 12 years and worked together. over that time i am curious,
now that you look back what surprises you the most about all that has happened? >> really quick i can't believe i got to do this. i literally walk up the steps of the capitol every day saying i can't believe i get to do this for the first night we spent in the governor's residence somebody's going to come get us and throw us out of here at. [laughter] they're going to find we snuck in here and throw us out. but the sense of who am i that you've brought us thus far that david talks about. the second one really would be what i was talking about just a second ago. it matters more than we think in terms of electing the right people. in the old days i would have said that means somebody who
sees the world exactly like i do. i still want somebody that addresses the economy the way i do. and addresses different issues. but even more now, i want to have people in office who are actually intent on solving problems. in a divided world like ours, solving problems manger going to listen to and to the other side. and to be committed getting to the best answer and not just my answer. that's a big truth i walked out of the office with. >> thank you so much governor for being with us. thank you for sharing your book faithful presence. i want to tell our viewers, thank you for joining us pretty flights get a copy of this book please use the link to do that. it will allow us to continue to make this festival free. also if you want to donate to humanity's tendency please feel free to go to the website.