Richard Roberts Announcement For Congress
April 12, 2006
A few weeks ago, I had no idea I would be standing here on the steps of the Courthouse and asking my neighbors, my friends, and my family, to support me in this effort. And looking at this Courthouse, a lot of you who watched me growing up would have bet that I would have ended up somewhere else.
But somehow, my friends, my family, and my teachers saw that I might have potential and they stuck with me, pushing and pulling me along. If it hadn't been for all of them I would have never made it.
I have often said that the greatest good fortune in my life was not of my making. That good fortune was to have been born into a big Greene County family, with grandparents and parents who were teachers and farmers, 12 aunts and uncles and 18 of us first cousins - all growing up together and learning life's lessons from people who had lived them. A family that made sure that I went to Church, and went to school, and that I did the things that were important. I was blessed.
As I look out today, I see many from my growing-up days in Glenwood, including my first grade teacher Ms. Clayton. We talked the other day, and she said several nice things about me. She also promised that she would not tell about my first week in the first grade.
While most of my classmates were a little excited by the new experience, I was just plain old miserable. Instead of catching my ride to school, I decided I would hide in the woods. My lasting memory of that ill-fated start toward higher learning is the vision of my mother standing at the bend in the road with a baby on her left arm, and a switch in her right hand. I knew there was no turning back. Just like there is no turning back in what we are launching here today.
As I grew, I became a member of Timber Ridge Church, and graduated from Greeneville High School. It was in the 9th grade that I met my future wife, Imogene. It took me 30 years to convince her; but I am nothing if not determined, and I am so proud to have her standing here today.
After high school, I went down the road and got a degree from UT. But I bet many of you didn't know that I spent a couple of years in medical school before deciding that was not what I wanted to do.
I remember the day I had to explain to my mother just why it was that I didn't want to be a doctor. I know she loved me, and I believe she eventually understood, but I guess if there is one small consolation for her not being here today, it's that I don't have to explain why I am going into the world of politics.
Fact is, I am not a politician. I have never run for office, but I have helped run a company that has brought hundreds of good jobs to this district and has provided hundreds of additional jobs at 70 locations in 38 states. It's just that I have never had that burning desire to climb the political ladder, one political job after another, trying to go from one political rung to the next. But I have had a burning desire to represent individuals and businesses, as well as good causes.
I see my friend Scott Niswonger back there. Scott had the ideas behind the company I just mentioned. It was Scott who I helped when he wanted to create an education and scholarship fund that has benefited thousands of students from right here in the First District, helping many of them to go to college when there was no other way they could. And we did it without spending one single solitary dollar of taxpayer money. Not one. Thank you, Scott, for everything you have done for our community.
The motto of that foundation is "Learn, Earn, and Return." That is how I have tried to live my life.
I learned the lessons of life on a farm in Greene County. Most of what I really needed to learn, I learned from working on the farm in Glenwood. You haul enough hay on a 90-degree day, and you learn the importance of an education and the value of hard work. You just can't find an education like that in any book, but it doesn't make it any less valuable.
Because of my education, and what I have learned, I have been able to earn a pretty good living. I have been blessed! And now it's come full circle and I find myself wanting to return some of the many blessings that I have received.
In addition to my Greene County family, one of the important people in my life has been Sen. Howard Baker. When he heard that I was going to run, he called to wish me well. A few days later, he sent this letter, where he congratulated me and said how proud he was of me for my commitment to public service, and stated his belief in my ability to represent this district well.
Senator Baker was the one who asked me to go to Washington and work in his law firm. Working in Washington was a wonderful experience, but I always knew that my home was here in Tennessee. When I got the chance to come back, I took it.
When I told folks in Washington I was headed back to Tennessee, they asked: "Why?"
I thought the question should have been "Why not?" It's home!
The last time I went to Washington, I went by myself. This time, I want to take the concerns and needs of the people of the First District with me. You are coming with me in my thoughts, in my prayers, and in my heart.
I want to close by telling a family story. On a hot July day six years ago when we lost my Uncle Gordon, several members of the family gathered at the cemetery at Timber Ridge Church. For years it had been the tradition that the men of the Church dug the grave. When backhoes came along, they did the digging, but the family still made sure that the grave was in the right spot. As my Uncle Jack led the group that day, he pointed to the graves of grandparents, uncles, and cousins. But when we got to an open space, it was my cousin Doug that pointed and said, "and there is where we are going to put Richard."
It took a minute to understand that he did not mean that very day.
And that leads me to a question I want to ask all of you:
"How do you tell a New Yorker from a Tennessean?"
Answer: "A Tennessean knows where he's going to be buried."
And that is because he knows where he came from.
We have enough politicians, all running to get somewhere else. Let's send someone to Washington who knows where he comes from.
My name is Richard Roberts, I'm from Greene County, and I want to be your Congressman.
Thank you. And may God bless you all.