Tennessee State Seal
Hargett tells UTM grads next challenge is servant leadership
(Published: May 8, 2014)
Ut Martin Commencement Speech

Secretary Hargett speaks to graduates
at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett told hundreds of graduates at the University of Tennessee at Martin on Saturday that they each have the responsibility of sharing their talents with the world around them in an effort to pay forward that which has been shared.

Hargett delivered the spring commencement address at the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center, according to a news release from the university.

"The challenge for each of us now is looking for ways that we can demonstrate the type of servant leadership that is so sorely needed but too often lacking in our culture," Hargett said. "Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn't encourage this type of leadership. It inundates us with messages that tell us we all deserve the biggest house, the fastest car, and to be the CEO of the company by the time we are 25 years old."

Hargett said that graduates constantly hear they should have everything they want, and they should have it now.

"Let me tell you from my own personal experience that one of the most difficult lessons any college graduate has to learn is that (unlike college) promotion doesn't come with each calendar year," he said. "It may be hard to accept that after four years of work, you probably will have not risen to the rank of 'seniors' in the organizations you join to start your career."

Hargett told graduates and guests to reach their potential they must give beyond themselves. "We have to be in touch with the world. We need to always search for ways that we can help others in the same way that others have helped us."

Hargett also encouraged collaboration. "We have an obligation to the community at large to be willing to engage in civil dialogue and collaborative action rather that retreating to our own little bubble and acting as if the affairs of the outside world don't affect us."

Lastly, Hargett told graduates to be people of integrity.

"Adhere to your core principles," he said. "It is incumbent upon leadership to be transparent and share the 'why' with others. Giving others context for your decision-making goes a long way in creating buy-in for your ability to lead. If you demonstrate integrity in your decision making, others may not always agree with you, but they will trust you. Only exceptional people work to improve the lives of others."

Hargett was elected by the General Assembly to serve as Tennessee's 37th Secretary of State in 2009 and was re-elected in 2013. He is the chief executive officer of the department of state with oversight of more than 300 employees, according to the release. He also serves on 15 boards and commissions.

UT Martin chancellor Tom Rakes welcomed the audience and presided over the event, the release said. Rakes and Katie High, vice president of academic affairs and student success at UT Knoxville, conferred the degrees.