Sara's Column: Politics sit one out amid state's education success

I had the opportunity Thursday to attend Gov. Bill Haslam’s big education announcement at West Wilson Middle School on Thursday.
Nov 7, 2013
(Sara McManamy-Johnson • Lebanon Democrat) Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen joined Republican Gov. Bill Haslam at West Wilson Middle School on Thursday to annouce Tennessee’s educational gains were the most in the nation.

I had the opportunity Thursday to attend Gov. Bill Haslam’s big education announcement at West Wilson Middle School on Thursday.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t too surprised with the fanfare when I showed up, even though I didn’t know ahead of time what he planned to announce. I learned really quickly when I became a reporter that state government likes to announce with a flourish, shall we say.

I knew there was something different about it when I saw former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, show up.

Maybe I’ve become overly cynical in my old age, but seeing a Republican governor share the proverbial spotlight with his Democratic predecessor, or vice versa, tells me something big is up.

My Spidey senses didn’t fail me this time.

When Haslam announced that Tennessee students led the entire country in academic progress, all those three-piece suits in the audience may as well have been Big Orange jerseys, judging by the cheers.

When the two governors spoke – each with very disparate political views in many respects – they each made sure to acknowledge the other’s role in what is unarguably a huge success for everyone involved.

It wasn’t a success for Democrats and it wasn’t a success for Republicans, it was a success for people who care about seeing children reach their fullest potentials.

All too often, we see the issue at hand being overshadowed by the party politics. When I turn on Fox News or MSNBC and see all these talking heads debating this issue or that, particularly when elections are approaching, I can’t help but wonder how many of these stances are honest beliefs and how many are calculated to draw the most votes.

I’ll take the politician whose stances reflect honest convictions, not the party line, any day, even if that stance does not coincide with mine.

What struck me about the event Thursday was that it felt like both sides were saying, “It doesn’t matter whose way got us here, what matters is we’re here.”

And that’s the type of attitude that prompted a younger and more idealistic version of me to further explore politics and government.

Unfortunately, the version of me that’s become cynical in my old age says that attitude is depressingly rare in today’s government and politics.

Nonetheless, it was nice Thursday to see party politics set aside to celebrate the accomplishment of Tennessee’s children, educators, parents and yes, politicians.

Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.


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