The keynote speaker at last year's Hamilton County Department of Education Superintendent's Honor's Banquet was "Miss Tennessee."
Tuesday night at the 2014 rendition of the annual event honoring the system's top high school seniors it was her counterpart, Mr. Tennessee, who congratulated the county's high achievers for their excellence in the classroom.
Gov. Bill Haslam gave the keynote address to 262 students from the county's 17 high schools and their families at the Chattanooga Convention Center after Ralph Miller and the Swingtime Orchestra dazzled the reception hall with a live set.
Before high school principals read the names of his schools' top-performing seniors, Haslam briefly encouraged the students to pursue a college education and remain in the state once they complete it.
"What you're doing in excelling in academics is obviously a credit to you," Haslam said. "But it's really important to us as a state for us to say our students can compete with anybody."
The governor praised a pledge made by the school system to offer teaching jobs to any of the students in the room who wanted to teach in Hamilton County after obtaining an education degree.
"What a great idea," Haslam said. "I don't know whose idea that was, but whoever it was, hats off to you. Everything we're doing depends on having excellent public educators in our schools. Without them, nothing works."
The governor also gave a warning to parents when he recalled sitting with his daughter at a similar ceremony in Knox County 10 years ago and musing at how quickly the time had passed.
"You haven't seen anything yet in terms of how fast it goes," Haslam said. "Enjoy this piece of life."
System Superintendent Rick Smith responded to a joke from Haslam about being a downgrade for the event after "Miss Tennessee."
"You were our first choice and our only choice," Smith said. "So thank you for being here. I know how busy you are."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at email@example.com or 423-757-6731.