Is our governor tone-deaf or, alternatively, keen of hearing? Or does he merely listen to other drums that, say, his predecessor in office, Don Sundquist, could not discern? In any case, Governor Phil Bredesen made his opinions heard loud and clear at a conference on tourism in Gatlinburg last week: He wants a new state slogan. The existing one, "Tennessee Sounds Good to Me," sounds just plain lousy to Bredesen. "I've never liked that phrase," the governor said. "There's nothing that brands Tennessee in a phrase like that. ... You would like a phrase not just to rhyme but to do work -- to explain what is different, what is unique about Tennessee."
Elaborating in a phone chat with Tennessee reporters this week, former health-care executive Bredesen boasted that he was "somebody who has done some marketing" and decried the existing slogan again as "a white-bread sort of solution" to the state's image problem.
We don't mean to sound a discordant note here, but the current governor may have missed the point. "Tennessee Sounds Good to Me" may be a tad over-subtle -- we don't doubt that -- but its meaning as a phrase summing up the three rather disparate grand divisions of Tennessee seems fairly clear to us: It denotes the state's capacity for generating influential strains of popular music that end up captivating the nation (and which would presumably also lure the visitor to Tennessee). From bluegrass in the east through that commercial country stuff they do in Nashville to the Grand Ole Boogie which has, in so many forms, always emanated from Memphis, the state excels at music. It, er, sounds good. Get it?
Governor Bredesen doesn't. And maybe he's right that it's time for a change. But what else other than music actually connects the separate parts of this somewhat disjointed state of ours? Good luck, governor. Changing the tune isn't going to be easy, but, if it helps, we'll ask our readers to sound off on the subject.
In his latest speech to the United Nations, President Bush was considerably more conciliatory in his rhetoric than in his previous appearance, just before he ordered a "pre-emptive" invasion of Iraq. Though he still maintained that "the regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction," Bush also recognized "that some of the sovereign nations of this assembly disagreed with our actions" and spoke of "unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations."
The president made an effort to embrace several commendable -- and universal -- goals. He spoke against child abuse and the international "sex trade" and on behalf of nuclear anti-proliferation. He even threw into the goodie-bag a pitch for international AIDS efforts in the manner of his State of the Union address of earlier this year. As many pundits observed, the moderating hand of Secretary of State Colin Powell was much in evidence.
But there was no apology for the Iraqi adventure itself, no admission of error, and his call for other nations to "contribute ... to the cause of Iraq self-government" fell far short of the need, as many see it, to turn over jurisdiction of affairs in Iraq to the U.N. itself.
The president made at least an effort to catch up with world opinion, but he still has a way to go.
This week it starts in earnest — the questioning. You can't escape it. It comes from your spouse, your kids, your parents — at the breakfast table, in the car, on the phone, via email: "What do you want for Christmas?" ...