Lee University and community leaders welcomed U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander for a meet and greet Saturday afternoon.
President Paul Conn said the university hosted the “Lemonade with Lamar” engagement because the senator is an excellent public servant.
“Think about this: how many times does a college campus have the opportunity to host a person who was a former governor, former president of the University of Tennessee, the former Secretary of Education and senator,” he said. “We didn’t think of this as a campaign event. We just thought it was an opportunity to welcome a public servant.”
Alexander expressed his appreciation for the university’s hospitality.
He said he particularly enjoyed the music provided by the Voices of Lee prior to his presentation. The choir’s past performances persuaded the senator to invite Lee University to sing at the inauguration of President Obama in 2013.
Alexander took the opportunity to touch on a couple of topics before mingling with guests. He mentioned immigration, student loans, the possibility for Republican majority and the importance of voting.
A short interview after the meet and greet revealed what Alexander feels were his greatest accomplishments in the last legislative session.
“Student loans. Working with the House of Representatives, we cut nearly in half the interest rates of student loans for undergraduate students, saving them a lot of money while they go to college,” he said.
“It is a big success story because it involves $100 billion that are made every year and it reduces the interest rate from about 6 percent to below 4 percent.”
He said the second greatest accomplishment was dealing with the fungal meningitis outbreak in Tennessee that “killed so many people.”
According to Alexander, legislation was passed to make strengthen the safety regulations on medicine.
Alexander, who is up for re-election in the U.S. Senate, looked to the future to determine the biggest challenges the legislative body will face.
“I hope [Republicans] are in the majority. If we are, we need to replace Obamacare, number one. We need to reduce the trend toward a national school board, which means there are too many decisions about education being made in Washington instead of Bradley County ... where I think it should be made,” he said. “We need to fix the debt, and we need to make it easier to find a job.”
He said the needed changes required senators who are willing to work together for a result versus those who are only willing to make a speech.
Conn emphasized the recent interactions the university has had with the senator. The first involved the large student choir’s performance at the inauguration. The second involved Marian Dill, the director of student financial aid at Lee. She testified before a Senate sub-committee about financial aid in Washington, D.C., at Alexander’s request.
“I think it went very well,” Conn said of the meet and greet. “There was a nice, warm crowd and he made some interesting comments.”