Many Govs got the chance to meet Tennessee’s newly sworn-in Governor, Bill Lee, at the Governor’s Luncheon. 

President White was invited to attend the Governor’s Luncheon during the Tennessee Press Association Conference. President White also invited members of The All State to attend as well and represent APSU.  

The luncheon took place on Thursday, Feb. 7. Leaders and student newspapers from the University of Tennessee, Volunteer State Community College, Middle Tennessee State University and the Tennessee Technological University were in attendance as well.  

A keynote address was given by Gov. Bill Lee, but presidents and associate vice president of the visiting college and universities also spoke briefly.  

Both Lee, as well as the various schools, spoke on the importance of the free press, while also speaking on the value of education and pointing towards the various school newspapers in attendance as a cross-section of the two.  

White also addressed what she saw as some key similarities between the two fields. 

“Those of us in education are called to it, and I believe the same is true of a journalist’s life because you wouldn’t be in journalism is you didn’t have a call to do something big and something outside of yourself,” White said. 

White also revealed her background teaching in Mass Communication prior to becoming president of APSU, giving her an additional understanding of an appreciation for the press. 

Lee also mentioned one of his goals as governor, as advertised during his campaign, was to focus on promoting education, especially higher education in rural areas.  

Lee has a background in higher education since he served on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. 

“I have a fundamental belief that a good education from K through 12 and into post-secondary is absolutely key to the future of our young people, but also to the future of Tennessee,” Lee said. “The foundation to that better life for six and a half million people is better education.”  

Lee also referenced his background as an engineer to address what he sees as the side of education that is currently being neglected: vocational, technical and agricultural education. 

He served as President and CEO of his family’s construction company, Lee Company, holding the position from 1992 until 2016. 

“All industries are rapidly changing, and we need to adapt to that, and changes in our education system apply to journalism and the press industry as well,” Lee said. 

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) President Sidney McPhee also discussed listening to the industry’s needs and building programs that are tailored towards specific careers citing their program in mechatronics engineering, fermentation sciences, as well as, their school of concrete and construction management. 

“We at TSU produce what they call ready-to-work graduates who get the skills, experience and education they need in a program that values hands-on experience,” McPhee said. 

Lee also discussed how the press is responsible for reporting not just what is happening in the government but what is happening in our lives. 

“Your ability to analyze information, your integrity, your courage and your ability to put things in perspective is what’s going to help you make a difference in your communities. We’re all interested in educating the rural communities, but I want the journalists to be committed to hometown journalism as well,” White said. “We need you to tell the stories of your communities.” 

Lee also took time to commend the work done by the Tennessee Press Association. 

“To the Press Association I would like to reiterate the comments I have already made about value, the responsibility that you have but the value that you bring to the taxpayers and citizens and the public, making certain that we the public know all that we should know,” Lee said. 

In relation to the discussion of [the] free press, many speakers, as well as Lee in his keynote address, mentioned the importance of transparency in the government. 

“We do want open access to the public of information, but it’s not just having access; it’s the ease of that access,” Lee said. 

Lee also noted how freedom of the press is key to maintaining transparency by holding leaders accountable and keeping the public informed. 

“For those of you who are in the journalism field and who are associated with the TPA, you are those who will make certain that the First Amendment is protected and defended and carried out and manifest,” Lee said. “Without a free press, we don’t have a free country. So, I commend you for your career choice and for what you’re doing with your lives.” 

During the luncheon, speakers noted the students in the room, many from student papers, and addressed them specifically. 

“I want to applaud all of you who have blazed a trail for our students, but I also want to say take heart to the students who are entering the profession, because you have a great responsibility and a great opportunity,” White said. 

Lee also had some words for the students in attendance. 

“To the young people that are here today, I do what I’m doing and most of us in this room and certainly those of us that are public servants do what we do for your future and the lives that will follow us. You all are doing a very important role yourselves in what you’re doing right now in creating the next generation of leaders in this state,” Lee said.