MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Retiring U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander says our divided America needs more unity and less partisanship.
“President Lincoln, if he got mad, he wrote a hot letter, put it in a drawer, and probably never sent it. President Trump gets upset, he tweets it out immediately and 72 million people see it and off we go.” Alexander said.
Alexander, the only Tennessean ever elected both Governor and U.S. Senator, has a more United States of America on his mind.
“But we’ve still got to find ways to solve big problems and live with them and that’s what the Senate is for,” he said.
“Ben Hooks taught his students at the University of Memphis, America is a work in progress and we have a long way to go,” he said.
Alexander stepped away from Republican Senate leadership so he could work in a bipartisan way to solve problems.
When WMC Action News 5′s Joe Birch asked Alexander what the secret to successful bipartisan leadership was, he replied, “Focusing on a result.”
Alexander walked across Tennessee in 1978 from Bristol to Beale Street and was elected to two terms as Tennessee Governor. Thanks to his 1981 Memphis Jobs Conference, the Orpheum was renovated, a convention center hotel came to life, and Agricenter International was invented. Beale Street was revitalized, and in his three terms in the Senate, Lamar kept music makers on his mind.
“There are a lot of songwriters in Memphis and they’re getting paid more for their work and songs because of the music modernization act,” Alexander said.
As chair of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions committee, Alexander quietly helped pass bills that will fix our 419 National Parks, simplified FAFSA the long application form for low-income college students to receive federal financial aid, and sped up vaccines to fight COVID-19.
“The encouraging news is the vaccine is coming fast. Instead of 8 years, it’s coming in 8 months,” he said.
That vaccine will be rolled out at first by the Trump administration and then the Joe Biden team.
When Birch asked Alexander if he recognizes Joe Biden as President-Elect, Alexander responded with, “Well not yet. I think almost certainly. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the electors are not going to vote for him next week. You don’t really become President-Elect until they do.”
Now at 80-years-old, the former Governor, UT President, U.S. Education Secretary, and soon to be former Senator will return to his home in Maryville to reflect on his long public life.
“I woke up every day thinking I might be able to do something good for our country and went to bed most nights thinking I did,” he said.
Alexander also says he may write a book about his 50 years in public life and might call it: The best seat in the house.
He chose not to seek a fourth U.S. Senate term. Republican businessman and former Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty won the seat and will succeed Alexander starting Jan. 3, 2021.