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At today's First Tuesday club
meeting, Bill Haslam took an unexpected question from the audience of hard-core Republicans. It had nothing to do with guns, God, abortion, taxes or weird conspiracy theories. It was about helping poor people and whether a rich guy like Haslam can relate to their needs. Haslam said he once thought about becoming a pastor. The question came from attorney Lee Barfield, brother-in-law of Bill Frist:
I was with a good Republican last night and they said, 'You know I'm worried about Bill Haslam because he comes from a wealthy family, a very successful family, and I wonder if he can really understand the poor, the disadvantaged, the disabled, and what state government needs to do for those ... What's Bill Haslam going to do about that?' And I said, 'I don't know but he's going to be in town tomorrow. I'll ask him."
That's a good question. Our family's been incredibly blessed, and if you didn't know that, my opponents will remind you pretty soon I'm sure. I'll answer that two or three ways. No. 1, there's no more hands-on job in terms of taking care of people's needs than being a mayor. You know, when you're the mayor, people grab you everywhere, at church, grocery store, when you're jogging, in the middle of a 10K and they want to talk about their problems, OK. Come be mayor for a while. We're there. ... No. 2, the business I've grown up in is the truck-stop business. I don't know of a more blue-collar, dirty fingernail business than that. We're open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. ... The third thing is this, ultimately you have to know why somebody's running. ... Again, I know this will sound corny. But there's a lot of different ways to serve. At one point in time, I flirted really hard and came close to going to the seminary and thinking about being a pastor. But I became convinced that for me, this is the way to serve that fits best. ... If you're serious about that at all, the call to serve the least of these is one of the clearest calls there is.