tv Fmr. Gov. Bill Haslam Faithful Presence CSPAN November 27, 2021 7:10am-8:01am EST
masur, add these to your library, the legacy of institution building in america and the potentiality around building spaces and embrace the concepts of tolerance and justice is such a necessity so thank you for joining us and overwhelmed with joy. >> that wraps up our coverage of the boston book festival. watch every program you've seen today and more by visiting booktv.org and clicking on the book fair festival stat. and now on booktv more television for serious readers. >> hello. my name is nathan buttery and i would like to welcome you to the southern festival of books in southern tennessee.
whether you are watching us online or joining us later on c-span we have a great session for you today and glad you are with us. i would like to thank a few of the festival's key sponsors for their support. the metro natural arts commission, content group, the tennessee arts commission, vanderbilt university, we are grateful for your support. thank you for everything you do to help us make it a great festival every year. if you would like to purchase use e-books featured at the festival we encourage you to do that through the parnassus book link in the facebook, or youtube book section, support the festival and help to keep it free. we have a special guest today. our author is the former two term mayor of knoxville and two term governor of tennessee. during his tenure tennessee became the fastest improving state in the country and k-12 education and the first state to provide free community college, technical school for
all its citizens in addition to adding 475,000 net new jobs. bill haslam serves on the board of directors for teach for america, the whistler center and young life. he and his wife kristi have three children and 10 grandchildren. they appear today to discuss his new book "faithful presence: the promise and the peril of faith in the public square". he is my former boss and a special guest today. welcome to the southern festival of books. >> thanks for including me. i'm so unused to having people address me as another, i always wonder who is going to join us. i have to get used to being on the other side of the table. it is really fun to be part of this. >> that is what is cool about the festival. likely u.s. open you can qualify, one book gets you qualified. that is all you need. >> that is a good thing in my case. >> one of the things about this session we need to talk about,
we got 40 minutes here to talk so i thought we could jump right in. i have read your book and read through a couple times and i have some general questions that might be interesting for our viewers and for me and just to start us off tell me what inspired you to write the book and why you chose this topic and this time to do it. >> like almost everybody else in america, i am frustrated by what i see happening in our political arena. not just the polarization and partisanship because i might argue that's not all that new but with the hatred, and that is not too strong of a word that exists today, the feelings each side has toward the other. there is something called motivation attribution
asymmetry which is not how much you disagree with the other side but you think the other side is doing what they are doing or believes what they do for bad motives. the motivation attribution asymmetry, this is four years ago, when the country was greater between republicans and democrats than that between israelis and palestinians and this animosity toward the other side and this sense of the:an argument or discussion is to win, not to get to the right answer, concerns all of us. i wrote the book more pointedly towards people of faith. rather than being soft and light for christians the jesus asked us to be i feel like people of faith are acting like everybody else in the public square. what is the problem and what might it look like to be different?
>> based on your experience as governor, as far as political service is concerned can you share some examples where you were called into a situation where you had to have a faithful presence and what the alternative was if you had chosen not to be the faithful presence you are referring to in the book? >> having a faithful presence means not just in those big decisions that get a lot of attention but what we do every day. my argument is here is what faithful presence might look like in the public square. i would argue the same thing if you are a teacher or hospital administrator or whatever you do that there is a way to think
about who we are called to do and be and i will answer your question in a second. part of the problem is in politics we think about what is the christian position on this issue. on something that is really clear. we are supposed to be concerned for the poor. it doesn't tell us how to do that. a point i make in the book is let's say this is really clear. concern for the poor, feeding the poor is not up to do they. how do we do that in our economic system? it is up for debate and that is where we should engage fully to get the best answer. back to the question, circumstances, where i was called to have a faithful
presence, this is what i classify as this. part of having a faithful presence is having the humility to know that you might not be right. my first ever political boss, an intern in college, worked for senator howard baker, united states senator from tennessee became majority leader in the senate, to be ronald reagan's chief of staff, our ambassador to japan under george h w bush and had saying that said always remember the other fellow might be right. he was from a little country town north of knoxville. that was his way of saying every discussion i am and i'm going to work my hardest to remember the while i have my view of the right answer i need to walk into it with the realization that i might not have this exactly right. what happened when i was governor is particularly within our own staff is once the governor speaks, that is where we are, that's the administration's position but
i'm and real quickly that didn't get us to the best answer. an example of realizing i might not always be bright was moving my chair from the head of the table when we had the senior staff meetings to the middle of the table so that i could make certain that my voice didn't cut off the discussion because i've and real quickly if the answer was the answer i walked in the door with it wasn't going to be as good as the answer all of us could walk out of the door with. >> that is true. talking about anxiety you have a couple sections in your book here, some on anxiety, some on humility. we know that anxiety and pride in the negative impact on us in our personal lives and how we act politically but in a competitive political climate, what are some ways we can win, if you're trying to get your
idea out and competes and put forth a good argument how is the best way to do that with humility and meekness? you mentioned those things in the book. >> let me start with meek does not mean week. jesus said blessed are the meek, they will inherit the earth but he also later told timothy we haven't been given the spirit of community. we know the meek doesn't mean week but it does mean as i was talking about before, a sense of i know i don't get things right all the time. today, if if i had a wrong meter that follows me around it would be at 2763 and it is a day off when i'm not doing much. that is true in my personal
life and everything else i do. that doesn't mean we are supposed to surrender the argument and say whatever you think is right. we are supposed to be about truth and we are going to work hard to get to the truth. we are about serving people. we are going to work to get to the answer that will serve the most people. we have to go about it without a sense that 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 guy is the problem we are trying to solve, too many people don't have education that will prepare them for the rest of their life, too many people don't have a job that can help feed their families. those are the issues, the folks that have a different approach to it, as long as we think they are the bad guy we are not going to have a discussion that will lead us to a better place.
>> that is true of both sides. a lot of people go finally, yeah hopefully those republicans will see that the democrats aren't all bad guys and vice versa but my sense back to what i talked about his motivation, attribution, that is where we are as a country, both sides think the others are bad guys. >> that is what is interesting about the book. it is not about political theory or one side or the other, it is about posture read that way to me. what posture are you in when you engage in political life or in the public square and why is it that all of us said in our gloves come off and commanders go away when we enter politics as opposed to when we are at a store buying something or on the playground or anywhere?
>> why do we seem to say we are going to put the rules for how we act on holes in the political arena. why do we say that? speaking to people, the view of the world i do in terms of approaching it as a christian. you can go to retreats, sessions galore about here is what a christian marriage looks like or here's what it looks like to raise your children in a christian home or if you're a businessperson this is what it looks like to be a business person in today's market. what we don't have much of his here's what it looks like to act like a christian in the public square. you don't hear a lot of sermons about that, one or 2 occasionally. we don't have a lot of
conferences in the streets about that. our conference is about how do we win on this issue so we haven't developed, this word sounds boring to most people. we haven't developed a theology of politics, how god sees this arena. how should we act? we haven't developed a theology of politics and i have heard this, i'm not kidding, i know you had a lot of this, just really really mad, being able to have civilized conversations with people who did not want to have a civilized conversation and their point was this. the stakes are too high.
we can't act by sunday schools because the stakes are so high and the other side is not going to unilaterally disarm. if we are going to start playing in a way that is humble and forgives the other side when they do us wrong we are going to get wiped off the table. the point i would bring up again to people of faith is this. we don't waive the rules in circumstances for other areas of life. in business we 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, promise 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 give ourselves those sort of passes in other areas
but we have in politics and we justify it by saying there is so much at stake, this matters so much that we have to play to win. >> you mention in your book, use your students as an example of how they are willing to see the ills of an institution or an organization but when it comes to personalizing it not quite as easy. >> we talk particularly about the issues around systemic racism or social injustice of some type that is real, in my opinion. we have places where injustice has become part of the system or the institution but it is harder for all of us to drill down and see our part in that, the system started with somebody like us making that first step in a way that wasn't just and it wasn't, didn't show
any kind of mercy and that became perpetuated and if that is true in these systems that have been built up it is true in the things we do in our lives as well. i'm struck particularly by the generation today that is in their 20s who are very quick to protest and march and talk about injustice in there, less willing to see injustice in here. >> compromise, you say compromise now means lack of conviction and has become a dirty word. we have a question from a viewer under the heading good, how do you draw a line between humility and tradition in an age when most leaders especially in the south feel
outdated a bit, archaic in their convention, do you think there is room for open-mindedness? >> i think the point i am trying to get across, really going to solve the hard political issues of today, we have to start with the realization that the country is pretty evenly divided. the last 10 presidential elections or 9 have been decided by single digits, the longest streak in history, the senate is 50/50, the house a 3 vote separating it, we are in evenly divided country and get we don't think we are evenly divided because everybody we are around thinks like we do. we tend to live in neighborhoods of people that think like we do, go to churches of people that think like we do, we can choose our news, i can choose them as nbc or cnn or fox or whoever i want to pick where i am on the
spectrum and we love confirmation bias is a real thing, we love it when people tell us that what we think is true really is true so i like the news a lot more when it tells me here is the truth behind that and that is what i think too, see, i am right. we are evenly divided but we don't think we are because everybody around us things like we do. that is where the humility comes in is to realize that everybody does not think just like i do. there's a real need for me to understand the other side. this really great professors that teach you to learn by making you make the best argument for the other side of the case that you are in the middle of. it is great training to really understand what is it that is drawing people toward that point of view. that is not -- there are things
- particularly in the southern culture, things that are more southern tradition, southern hospitality if you will where we say bless your heart to your face but behind your back we cut you up. that may be the southern tradition folks are talking about. i argue that's not humility at all. humility is recognizing we are broken people. i'm going to give a broken person on the other side of the table a little bit of grace and the opportunity to hear their point of you. >> a good book often used in schools, talk about negotiation, find out what is motivating, getting to know the people you're working with our negotiating with, find out what is motivating them that may help the process along as opposed to just what their position is. in the book, you refer to a
bunch of different theologians, religious thinkers, martin luther, william wilberforce, cs lewis. how does their political and social climate of discontent compare with hours and how applicable are there words and lessons for us today? >> one of the reasons i love things like this festival that remind people of the value of great books, one of the things you learn in a book or and a lot of the great books is people living in a different place in a different time we do struggled with many of the same thing so you read about william wilberforce trying to abolish slavery in the united kingdom and spent most of his adult life, he loses something like 20 times in parliament but through persistence and people working with him he ultimately lives to see slavery abolished in the united kingdom.
if you read the items how did it take so long to do away with something obviously so wrong? read the argument back and forth and we see the world hasn't changed that much more you think about cs lewis, a lot of his writings were during world war ii so we think okay, that sounds great but that's not the real world we live in. we are living in a world where the nazis are bombing london where he lives or on a regular basis. the ability to take truths people have written in the past in different times and apply them to our present situation is one of the important things too many of us today don't take advantage of.
>> you have been on a bit of a tour making stops, introducing people to the book. the content and what you went through to write it and what inspired you. what has the response been from people when you meet with them in person? has anything surprised you about their response and has anybody out right disagreed with you? >> great question. i didn't know what to expect out of that being a first-time author so a pleasant surprise has been it has led to lots of good thoughtful conversations with people. my experience is like being in public office, when you got in public people come up at a cost you all the time and tell you you are wrong and how bad you are, it happens 5% of the time. the rest of the time people come to you in public you have very helpful thoughtful conversations or encouraging conversations.
in the book because the book, a lot of them are just i read the book, loved it, thanks for writing it, whatever, but it has caused a lot more thoughtful conversations than i would expect from folks some of them are old friends, people i went to college with who email out of the blue, you wrote this book, it is interesting, can we talk about such and such and some folks you run into at restaurants who have read the book so that has been encouraging and fun to have this interchanges of people responding to something specific you have written and how they feel about that but overall the experience of how the book is going, one thing i didn't realize, don't know how your book is going, you hear from your publisher on a very infrequent basis about how many books you have sold, it is not like a business for every day,
here are the expenses and people go house the book going, really don't know but i had fun with it. >> the note section, it is a bibliography and references, how much of these references are things 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 and started writing the book about a year later in january of 20, february, march. in the meantime, come across something or be reminded of something, with the thought of things you want to put in the book so a lot of those that i
happened to have read recently enough that i remember them to look at the passage and some of them are things that once you start on the topic you dive into a little further or somebody tells you i read something interesting, you are working on that book and it is up to you but i love - i usually have 3 books going on at any one time of all different types and hope i always stay that way. >> i remember when you were governor, maybe it was a personal rule you had to read a certain amount of books, that remember what the number was but curious with the number was and if you made it and are you still reading at that pace? >> i have full time now. when i was governor i was trying every you to read 30 books, 2 and have a month and i didn't want to make it to where my life was so full that i wasn't making time to read and learn and so some of those
books were about something i wanted to study and read more about that was a plan for tainted job and some of them are just a great novel that can take your brain somewhere else at the end of the day when you spent too much time wrestling through hard issues and do with a lot of great books to, take you to another time and place outside of your own daily wrestling. >> you read fiction and nonfiction? >> i love both in the answer to your question, i read more now because i have more time than i did when i was in office but i love history. i love great fiction and i love books that are trying to explain something i'm trying to figure out. i usually have one of each going on, sometimes history related, something that is addressing some subject i'm trying to wrestle through and
of fun or great novel. >> do people recommend books to you? do you have a book club? how does this governor find his books? >> when you are in office you wouldn't believe how many books you get, i literally had a closet full of books, people want you to understand their argument or where you are coming from. the governor would just read this book he will see the world the way i do and so you get a lot of that and you get a lot of authors who have written a book and think it wouldn't -- didn't hurt to have one of these in the governor's hand, maybe he will like it and read it and tell other people about it and you get a lot of books that way but i've always been one who i read through book reviews, get a subscription to something that comes out monthly that recommends books. i read books in the newspaper and sometimes i love wandering
through books, one of the sponsors of this, spent some time wandering through and picked up 3 books and do the same thing and not in other places. >> there's a lot of authors and readers, would be authors and readers tend - what was your experience as a first-time author writing a book about something you are passionate about, what did you learn, what could you tell or share with would be writers or first-time writers? >> in your footnotes when you're putting them down don't think i will find that later. i'm kidding about that but so many things i would write down a quote for and say i know where it is, in this magazine article or this book.
i keep finishing the chapter which led to a lot of long nights when i was finished and trying to find that article or where that quote was in the book. i say that is a joke but the main thing i would say is this. i have a new respect for real authors as i call them because it is a lot harder than i thought it would be to come up with a coherent argument throughout the book but stated the issue, made the case, here is what we do about it, that arc of the story the good story writers have, harder to do than i thought and the flipside is it was a great experience for me personally to sit down and say this is something i feel strongly about, need to put in paper the argument i wanted to make, put that on paper, was
really helpful to me in terms of wrapping my arm around my own understanding of the situation. >> host: there are some passages that i flagged when i was reading the book and i will give you a couple examples of them that i thought stand out. real leadership, however, is about connecting legitimate problems facing those voters with a difficult reality of governing and working to solve those problems. another example of a sentence or a statement or a conclusion later in the book, knowing that the church today can and should be people known for entering the public square effectively with humility rather than pride and arrogance. it is simply the only way. scripture doesn't come with exceptions for certain situations like politics. did you have these thoughts,
were these ideas you wanted to build a framework around when you were writing the book or did you come through the book of land on these things and they became pillars of the idea you were sharing? >> your question is a great one. the first that leadership is about solving problems was one of my main motivators for writing the book. in today's politics we've gotten to where the folks who get the attention and people think of as a strong mayor or governor or president or whatever are those folks who make those statements that people most are willing to jump up and say yeah, there is somebody who sees the problem the way i do but most of the time those statements they are making are doing nothing to solve the problem. they are stating the obvious about something and stating it
in a way that leaves other folks going yeah, finally, you told it like it is 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 elections and not do it just by who is saying things that you think that sounds great but who is solving problems. at the end of the day this is important stuff government is supposed to do and these are is sense of great talking points seem to mean a lot more than has that person ever solved the problem they are addressing now. that was part of the thing i wanted to talk about in the book. the other, the second idea you
brought up coalesced, the more i thought this is how i feel. >> in chapter 12, speaks to what you were saying about the difference between someone who makes a great punch line or says a something that rallies people but not about solving problems which is, we can't react in hostility to those who differ from us politically when we are supposed to love our enemies. if we are going to have a faithful presence that cannot be marked by fear of changing circumstances and anger at the person who think differently than we do. >> if you think about it a lot of the worst tendencies of politics today are because we are reacting out of fear. i know as christians we are supposed to -- we are told don't fear more than almost anything else in the bible. we know fear is a bad place to
come from yet that is marking the discussion was the second things this idea the person on the other side is the bad guy. the person on the other side is as we believe they are, created in the image of god, look at them in a whole different way. as christians that is a fundamental truth that all men are created in the image of god. if it is true then that person in my neighborhood who has the yard sign i can't believe they are supporting that candidate or the person that is sending out these tweets that drive me crazy or the nightly news show that i to yell at the tv about because i can't believe they are saying that i can't react in the same way that i think that person is created in the image of god.
i have to react in a different way. it doesn't mean we are supposed to be -- we are supposed to be people of the truth and if we are called to government service it should be about getting to answers that serve people well and i have strong views about what does or doesn't do that but i can't if i am saying i am a christian, can't approach the argument the person on the other side is not created in the image of god. john lewis without the civil rights movement or the interesting quote lewis has about how much of the civil rights movement, the foundations are all about that idea but we are created in the image of god and that is the argument, very successfully,
about why the racism they were working to end was so wrong. >> host: you mentioned in the book the netflix portrayal of politics and people involved in politics. what would you say to people of faith who feel they have a contribution to make but feel like the climate is one that isn't ready to listen to what they may have to share or it may not be useful or interesting or winnable? >> guest: the addition to everything you just listed, doesn't do it. the whole thing turns me off. a pox on both their houses. i'm frustrated with both sides. one of the quotes i have in the book from martin luther said send your very best into the
public arena. preaching the holy spirit does all the work. the ambiguities of the public arena are such we need our best people to be a part of that. i would say this. and in the book of jeremiah, in babylon, nebuchadnezzar, one of the worst guys of all time, and rights to them. if i am being held captive somewhere, i'm coming to get you, keep your head down, stay out of trouble. jeremiah likes of them, basically says get used to it. you are going to be there a while and go home and plant gardens, raise your children,
have your children marry, seek the welfare of the place where i have called you. in its welfare you have found your peace. think about the welfare of the place we have been called. it is a horrible place. we are being kept as slaves by nebuchadnezzar, he is a horrible bad guy. what do you mean seek oil for this place but that is what jeremiah tells him to do and too many of us reacted by saying look at what our culture has degraded to. look at the state of our country. the message back to us that god would give is the same one jeremiah sends to israel, we are supposed to seek the welfare of the place we've been called, if you have the best
government in place possible, one of the biggest things i learned being in office was how much difference it makes who we elect, having the right person on school boards, and in the white house, all of that matters more, it was before then. if we really care about the world that god has asked us to seek the welfare of. one of the ways to best serve that, an area that the response is to say i will worry about things.
>> a section here, at the end of chapter 12. it is for a time that christians are called to the public square. and they are accompanied by humbling worshipful spirit, these require citizens committed to truth and love, not one or the other. the places we have been exiled knowing god has tied our welfare to the welfare of the places he called us. >> that is the argument i was just making. when i speak to audiences it is more of a religious -- from a faith angle. he starts with religious people.
and but jesus does get to her and says, he says whichever one of you is without sin cast the first stone and beginning with the older ones they drop their rocks away. in matthew when jesus gives the sermon on the mount the most famous sermon ever he talks about christians are supposed to be soft and light. it was a preservative to keep the meat from going bad. today christians are saying can you believe how horrible the
culture has gotten and jesus's words that is what the self is supposed to be doing. if the meat is going bad don't blame the meat. if the meat went bad, power went out in the refrigerator kept going, going on vacation for a week, and those great steaks with that on me, the freezer didn't do its job didn't keep the meat frozen. jesus as the meat is not mad at the world around you, looks bad because the salt lost it and the same thing, don't blame the darkness. you are supposed to be the light. kind of the call of my book is for believers to think through what does it mean to be soft and light in a world that feels
very contentious and hateful and seems to be trying to win the argument. >> we are close to the end of our discussion. it has been great talking with you. i have one quick question since i've got you captive here. we've known each other for 12 years, over that time i am curious, now that you look back, what surprises you about what happened? >> guest: i would walk up the steps of the capital every day and i can't believe we get to do this was the first might we send in the residence, someone will get us out of here. we snuck in here and that since
of who am i that you brought us this far the david talks about and the second one that i am talking about on this, none of this matters more than we think in terms of electing the right people. it sees the world, i still want somebody that addresses the economy of the way i do and different issues but even more now, i want to have people in office who are intent on solving problems and in a divided world like ours solving problems means the ability to listen and understand the other side and be committed to getting to the best answer and not just my answer. that was the big truth i walk
out of the office with. >> host: thanks for being with us and sharing your book "faithful presence: the promise and the peril of faith in the public square". i want to show our viewers, if you would like to get a copy of this book please use the parnassus link to do that. it will allow us to continue to make this festival free and if you want to donate, please go to the website, thank you for your time. >> enjoyed it. thank you. >> his look at publishing industry news. donald trump is releasing a book of photos from his time in office. the book title our journey together is published by winning team publishing cofounded by donald trump junior and will go on sale december 7th. the annual list of the 100 notable books of the year, this
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