Speak for Yourself

by David Callis, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

From an early age, we’re taught to speak for ourselves. It’s part of the process of growing up and developing our own identity. “Please, may I have some more?” eventually gets you more food. Pointing out that your malicious sibling broke the lamp may keep you out of trouble.

You gain confidence and a sense of self-worth.

Mark Twain put it this way: “Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians. … You cannot shirk this and be a man.”

When we speak for the electric cooperatives of Tennessee, we do so out of a sense of duty and responsibility. We also do this because we are the electric cooperatives. Our directors and officers are members of the cooperatives. So, we are the members that we represent. We know what our communities need, and we know what is harmful to our communities. We work hard to get the facts right.

And we speak up for ourselves.

Co-ops are ingrained into the communities we serve. When people rely on you, it’s important that you do your work honestly and with unquestioned integrity. Your community’s reputation is on the line — as is ours. We take that charge seriously. It’s important to us that we get the facts correct when we speak.

You’ll always see our names on the byline of any story.

Doing so eliminates confusion. When the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association addresses an issue, either in the media, legislature or community meetings, you can take confidence knowing that we’re being honest and forthright — in the light of day, in the glare of the spotlight.
A number of “news” sources these days allow anonymous posting of comments. In fact, it’s become a vocation for a certain segment of our society. No identification, minimal fact-checking and, all too often, no honesty.

It’s also difficult at times to tell where some news stories originate. Some entities use willing third parties — obscure entities with important-sounding names and clever acronyms — to push their agenda. To use Spiro Agnew’s term, these “nattering nabobs of negativity” exist mainly to promote someone else’s scheme without attaching their names. The days of needing a news bureau and skilled pressmen are gone; all that’s needed now is a cool-sounding name, a website and flashy graphics.

All too often, those entities specialize in duplicitous, fact-deprived stories, usually aimed at maligning someone else’s good name. Not patently false, but rarely identifiable as the truth. And far, far away from being fair and honest.

The goal is twofold: It purposefully creates confusion about an issue and hides the identity of the entity that’s up to no good. Online, drive-by character assassination. The journalistic version of a schoolyard bully.

That’s not how we operate — we never have, and we never will. Whether it’s in the pages of The Tennessee Magazine; on tnelectric.org, Facebook or Twitter; or in the halls of the legislature, when we speak for you, it will be bold, direct and honest.

“It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside.” It’s a responsibility from which we’ve never shirked.

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