Democratic National Committeewoman and Shelby co-chair Gale Jones Carson starts the proceedings by gathering elected officials.
Several notables in the crowd, from Senator Beverly Marrero on the left, standing next to retired judge Russell Sugarmon, Nancy Kuhn (front left corner) Labor leaders Paul Shaffer and Howard Richardson (center of picture)
The Senator's best asset, Sara Kyle, who is a former City Court Judge, former Public Service Commissioner and current member of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
The Senator and his family.
While he's always been on target talking about issues, it was his communicative abilities on display today that stunned me. It truly was the best speech I've heard him give, and one that will resound with voters on the campaign trail. Here's the text, courtesy of the campaign:
Remarks by Senator Jim Kyle
August 11, 2009
I’d like to thank Bill Morris, Regina Newman and Gale Jones Carson, my Shelby County co-chairmen who I know will help make sure Shelby County is Kyle County in August and in November next year.
Also, thanks to Matt Kuhn, my statewide campaign manager. Matt is on one leg today, but he will be up and running soon just like I am up and running today.
Thanks to the University of Memphis for allowing us to use this beautiful venue in the center of a great university, which is in the center of a great city.
I would like to thank each of you for being here today, particularly my brother, sister, sister-in-law, Betty Belle and her children, Belle and Rachel Peery, and other dear friends and supporters.
My children are here and I appreciate them for being so supportive and involved in this event and for being the kind of kids that put up with a senator daddy. Would you please give my daughters Sarah, Mary and Caroline, as well as my son Jim a round of applause?
And last but not least, my wife Sara, what can I say, isn’t it great to see her on the campaign trail and wasn’t that a great introduction! She is truly the best.
While I was born in Memphis, I grew up in Capleville, which at that time was a rural community closer to Mississippi than Memphis. My dad, the late Jimmy Kyle, returned to the family homestead when my sister Pam was born, and on Highway 78, near Shelby Drive, I spent my childhood, across from the school yard and baseball field which were the centers of our community life. Dad drove a truck for railway express and my mother, Louise Kyle, helped build tires at the Firestone tire factory in north Memphis.
My mother will be 90 years old in October. She doesn’t handle the heat very well these days and isn’t here, but she has never lost a box for me and will be out in force next November.
My parents’ jobs were physical jobs, and both my parents worked hard. The values of being frugal, being honest, and being trusted were engrained in me early by depression-era parents who wanted more for their children.
My life has led me to lead many roles: college student, law student, husband, lawyer, senator, democrat leader, and chairman of the Shelby county delegation. But the role that has defined me more than any other is that of a parent, who like Jimmy and Louise Kyle wants a better world for our children and laments the opportunities we fail to capture.
You know, the man who got me into the senate is here today. He is my brother, Mike. You can thank him or blame him, but in 1980 we were living together in a small house in north Memphis when one morning after hearing me comment about our current senator for what he thought too many times, screamed at me “I am sick and tired of hearing you complain, either run against him or quit” to which I replied, “Okay, I will.”
So I started that campaign that afternoon with two votes – mine and his. And his was soft.
That morning ultimately led to my election on June 10, 1983 and since that day I have been involved in the issues of the day in Tennessee. From “master teacher” to “bicentennial highway”; from “B.E.P.” to “prison reform”; from fiscal crisis to budget surplus; from B.E.P. 2.0 to pre-k funding.
I have been tested by the issues of the day, elected 8 times by those who know me best, and trusted by my fellow democrat senators as their leader since 2005.
Now what I learned from reforming our prison system, to reforming public education, to sponsoring and passing seven consecutive balanced budgets is that you plan for the long term. I have worked in partnership with our current governor Phil Bredesen to pass his legislative initiatives and I have been trusted to sponsor and pass every major initiative of his administration.
I am proud to be from Tennessee. We have a beautiful state and we are still the “volunteer state” as many charities will attest. We have a culture of self-reliance and friendliness unparalleled in this country. We can all be proud of our state and its people.
But Tennessee has some things we should not be proud of: First, our unemployment rate is one of the nation’s top ten. Over 10%! To put it another way, one of every ten people you see today will be unemployed. But wages of those other nine with jobs aren’t doing that great because wages in Tennessee rank in the lower third of our country.
Finally, Tennessee lags behind other states when it comes to what the census bureau calls “educational attainment”, and by that I mean the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees. Only 23 % have a college degree. 42 states are doing better. This is the reason we are paid less and have fewer job opportunities.
We can do better. Our children are trusting us to do better. That unemployed Tennessean trusts us to do better.
Ladies and gentlemen I have been tested by this life of mine. And trusted my whole life to strive to make things better. And I tell you today. We can compete and we can win!
This is how we will change our state and change our community. We start by taking a long-term view to higher education. We are going to have a higher education system focused on graduating students, not enrolling them. We are going to tear down the barriers preventing our citizens from getting a college degree.
In the coming months I will put forward an education plan that will help more Tennesseans afford college in two different but very important ways
We are going to start with those who have been frustrated by our current system and who couldn’t finish. As I understand it, there are over 30,000 Tennesseans who are one year from graduation and have stopped their education.
I am going to make them an offer they can’t refuse. We will use some of the reserves from the lottery and we are going create an incentive scholarship program that will help students return to college and finish their degree.
When this happens, overnight, we will increase our education attainment percentage and make our state more competitive for the high wage recession-proof jobs going elsewhere today.
And second, I make this promise to every Tennessean who enrolls in a higher education institution in Tennessee. So long as you are making sufficient progress towards obtaining your degree, we will never, never, raise your tuition. What you pay as a freshman you will pay as a senior!
We will take higher education to a higher place. We will restructure and refocus and build upon the progress Governor Bredesen has made. We will recharge our colleges and universities to make them economic engines for our state workforce.
A better Tennessee is a smarter Tennessee…But to do this, I need you.
It’s hot today but it will be hotter before this election is over.
Please… stand with me…walk with me…do it for yourself and your family.
In the height of the depression, my daddy had to borrow a pair of trousers to attend his high school graduation. But friends, he graduated…and I’m standing here today because he graduated!...
Let’s make a government that measures its success one citizen at a time.
At this time…
At this place…
In this moment…
For these reasons…
With you people…
For our people…
With the tests of my life…
With the trust you have given me…
I hereby declare my candidacy to be the 49th governor of great state of Tennessee.
Thank you, and god bless Tennessee and the United States of America.