Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks of Sen. Alexander - Howard Baker Center Groundbreaking Ceremony

-As drafted-

Posted on November 15, 2005

Mr. Vice President, Governor Bredesen, Congressman Duncan, Dr. Peterson, ladies and gentlemen. There was a time in 1829 when Andrew Jackson was president of the United States, Sam Houston was governor of Tennessee, Davy Crockett was a congressman from West Tennessee, Andrew Johnson and James K. Polk were waiting in the wings...and the two-party competition was fierce. Crockett made Jackson mad and the Jackson people beat Crockett in the next election causing him to mount the courthouse steps in West Tennessee and tell his audience what every defeated politician has always wanted to say to such voters, "You can all go to Hell,” Davy Crockett said, “and I'm going to Texas." That rough and tumble competition made Tennessee the center of American politics before the Civil War. Howard Baker’s election in 1966 as the first ever popularly elected Republican United States Senator from Tennessee rejuvenated that two-party competition and once again made Tennessee a center of American politics. In the last half of the 20th century, Tennessee sent a steady procession of leaders to the national stage—Senate majority leaders, governors, party chairman, White House chief of staff, vice president, presidential candidates and ambassadors—of both political parties. And the end of this procession is not yet in sight. During the last forty years Howard Baker has inspired and challenged three generations of political leaders to try to be at our best. In the l980s when United States senators were polled to determine the most admired senator, both Democrat and Republican senators said, “Howard Baker.” Former vice president and senator, Dan Quayle, once said, “Well, there’s Howard Baker…and then there’s the rest of us senators.” Through it all he has managed to keep his feet on the ground. My friend Roy Blount once said, “You start getting into trouble when you stop sounding like where you grew up.” Howard Baker never stopped sounding like where he grew up, because he never stopped living where he grew up. We used to say when we saw Senator Howard Baker on TV that he made us Tennesseans look better to the rest of America. We said after his time as ambassador to Japan that he made us look better to the rest of the world. Now with this Baker Center at his University of Tennessee we can say that our children and grandchildren will also have the privilege of being inspired by the man whose example brought out the best in so many of us.