Alexander to Maryville High School Class of 2019: “Find the Good and Praise It”

Posted on May 10, 2019

MARYVILLE, Tenn., May 10, 2019 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told students in the 100th graduating class of Maryville High School to, as Alex Haley, the late author of Roots, said “Find the good and praise it.”

“As a boy Alex Haley sat on the steps of a porch in Henning, Tennessee, in the summertime listening to his grandma and great aunts tell stories about his African ancestors. He later turned his family’s stories into Roots, the Pulitzer Prize winning story. At that time, the ten best watched TV series were nine Super Bowls and Roots,” Alexander said. “It was in 1980 that our family met Alex Haley. I was the governor of his native state. He was the most celebrated author in the world.  …I never heard him say a bad word about anyone because of their race or because of where they came from. He never joined those who were busy finding everything wrong with America. That was a powerful message, coming from the grandson of slaves. He would find the good and praise it. 

“I hope you can see that those six words – Find the good and praise it – have something to do with where you go after tonight. You were only five or six years of age in 2007 when the iPhone was first released, when a start-up named Twitter gained its own separate platform, when Amazon released something called Kindle. In 1919, no one could have predicted you would carry around a computer in your pocket that would allow you to book an airline ticket home for Thanksgiving or video call your parents when you’re away at college. And, during your lifetime, even more technological miracles will happen.”

Alexander continued, “But your success will not depend upon how well you manipulated technology, but upon how well you live your life. The formula for that has not and will not change. Growing up in Maryville, you have learned not just academic skills, but good judgement that should remind you to keep your feet on the ground, tell the truth, serve some cause larger than yourself and find some good in everyone you meet.  

“Because of your time at Maryville High School — and 100 years of effort by those before you — you will be able to make more of your life and to make a greater contribution to your community and to your state and perhaps the world. As my grandfather Rankin used to tell me, ‘Aim for the Top. There’s more room there.’”

Alexander also talked about his experience growing up in Maryville, and the important life lessons he learned graduating from MaryvilleHigh School:

“[Growing up in Maryville], I learned the importance of the pledge of allegiance, of telling the truth, of the greatness of this country and of our civilization, or the value of working and being on time and of the difference between right and wrong. When I ran for president of the United States—a campaign I started right here in 1996— I said Maryville values were the values I hoped our country would have.  Bill Bennett, the former U.S. Education Secretary who was my campaign chairman, told me, ‘Lamar, not every town is like Maryville.’  I told him, ‘Well, they should be.’ This is a remarkable school because Maryville is a remarkable community.”