KNOXVILLE – On Feb. 10, Johnson University President Tommy Smith served as the “Minister of the Day” for the Tennessee State Senate, opening the Senate’s meeting by offering a prayer.
This opportunity allowed President Smith to meet with several of Tennessee’s representatives who are responsible for making decisions about state legislation which directly influence Johnson University students.
“We need good communication and good advocacy with our representatives, and particularly at the state level,” President Smith said. “It doesn’t matter Democrat, Republican, or whatever – these are our representatives, and we want to make good relationships with them.”
President Smith received the invitation from Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally’s office to serve in this position. The invitation was based on the recommendation of Senator Becky Duncan Massey, Senator of District 6, where Johnson University is located.
Due to guidelines instated by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Smith was given the option of recording his prayer on video to be shown at the opening of the Senate’s meeting, but he chose, instead, to make the drive to Nashville to attend in-person.
“Our relationship with our state representatives is really really important,” President Smith said. “I wanted to make sure that Senator Massey understood how much I appreciated the invitation – that I valued the opportunity – and so I just thought it was important to come and do it in person, and I’m glad I did.”
The TN State Senate opens each of its meetings with prayer led by various individuals. While each individual is invited to pray according to his or her personal religious traditions and convictions, it is asked that they keep in mind the diversity of beliefs held among the Senate and choose the words of their prayer accordingly.
President Smith began his prayer by recognizing God as Creator and Sustainer and thanking Him for the ways in which He has cared for His people, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He then went on to ask God to forgive the sins and shortcomings of His people, before wrapping up his prayer with careful attention given to the senators in particular, asking that God would help them as they make decisions. His prayer concluded with the words of the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” as he knew many of the Senators would be familiar with such hymns.
President Smith expresses great gratitude for this opportunity he was given.
“It’s a way for us to promote the school, but it’s also a way for us to support our elected officials,” President Smith said. “They catch a lot of negative stuff, and I just wanted to be very positive, showing support for the hard work that they do.”
This was President Smith’s first time at the TN State Capitol building since he was in eighth grade.