Petersen Delivers Bredesen’s Commencement Address

KNOXVILLE — Bad weather prevented Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen from attending the University of Tennessee Fall 2004 Commencement Friday, but it didn’t stop his words from being heard by the more than 1,600 scholars receiving undergraduate and post-graduate degrees at Thompson-Boling Arena.

UT President John Petersen told the audience that he had the honor of delivering Bredesen’s address in the governor’s place.

“A few minutes ago, Bredesen informed us of his travel delay and asked me to give some remarks in his place,” Petersen said. “But after reading the text of his speech, I realized that’s the message you all should hear, so I will read it to you now.”

Bredesen’s message of the day for the graduates, Petersen said, was to be sure and “put more back in than you take out” by giving more time and energy and love to family, co-workers, friends and society than you take from them.

Petersen read the story that Bredesen tells about himself, when he was a young man and kept a hand-written list of goals and objectives in his pocket.

The first item on the list was to form a few genuine loving relationships. The second item was to develop the capability to take action to overcome obstacles and achieve his goals.

The third item on Bredesen’s list was to keep in touch with what he called “the life of the mind,” the search for greater knowledge and wisdom, Petersen said. The fourth item was to be open to change, and the fifth item was to put in more than you take out.

“These mileposts along the road of life have a way of making us pause a moment,” the text of the speech read. “We look back over our shoulders to the road we’ve traveled, we peer down the road ahead, at least until it bends out of view, and we reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s the moments we do this that make us uniquely human.”

Petersen said the governor’s remarks closed with this advice: “God has given us a gift we cannot begin to comprehend: a soul, a capacity to seek meaning in our lives, a spark of consciousness in a universe so immense and so beautiful. Use this gift.”