U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, visited Dickson Saturday evening and told supporters it’s a “great privilege” to be a U.S. senator and represent the Republican Party and Tennessee.

Alexander was guest speaker for the Dickson County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday evening at Events on Main in downtown Dickson.

About 140 people attended the event, including several elected local officials. Local party chairperson Mike Petty was very pleased with the turnout. Local elected officials present were county Mayor Bob Rial; Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe; county Trustee Glynda Pendergrass; county Assessor of Property Gail Wren; Circuit Court Clerk Pam Myatt; county Commissioners Shane Chandler (District 3) and Tony Adams (District 9); ConstableJeffrey Eby (First District); Dickson City Councilperson R. Scott England (2nd Ward); Criminal Court of Appeals JudgeTommy Woodall; Cheatham County MayorDavid McCullough; and former state District 18 Sen. Kerry Roberts.

Alexander shared personal memories of past visits to Dickson, like the time he ran for US Senate and “Democratic opponent” employed protestors to show up at his local appearance. Alexander recalled shaking one of the protestors hands “pretty hard,” and the protestor filed a complaint with the District Attorney. Alexander noted the encounter earned him the nickname “Crusher” Alexander during introductions at future events.

Alexander also recalled spending time with Annabelle Clement O’Brien, who played piano, and Judge Clement, who sang. He also met late Gov. Frank Clement.

Charles Woodard is a friend of Alexander’s and introduced the senator before his speech. Woodard worked for Alexander when he first ran for governor, and recalled the then governor’s visits to Old Timers Day in Dickson.

After his re-election as governor, Woodard remembered Alexander shook hands with local folks until the moment he had to leave the Dickson event, escaping down an alley off Main Street and still shaking hands before climbing into a car that shuttled Alexander to another event.

Alexander said there are three reasons why he serves in the Senate and recently sought re-election: to fix the debt; to move decisions out of Washington and back to Dickson, Maryville, Nashville, etc.; and to reignite the free enterprise system “so people move from the back to the front of the line the way we’ve traditionally done it in the US.”

Regarding the debt, Alexander explained the state did not borrow money to improve highways while he was governor, rather paying for the improvements as the funding was available.

He explained the result is the state doesn’t have any highway debt; they saved hundreds of millions of dollars in interest payments; truckers have testified to the quality of Tennessee’s 4-lane highway system; automobile jobs were spread across the state; and the state gas tax is below the national average.

“So that’s what we did with no debt,” Alexander said. “Imagine what it’s like in Washington with a trillion dollars in federal debt.”

Money is being taken away from things we need to spend money on and jeopardizing programs people depend on, Alexander added.

He underscored the importance of cooperation and compromise between Republicans and Democrats, citing the Civil Rights bill of 1968.

Alexander said we need to fix the Medicare payment system, Medicaid trustees have said we won’t have enough money to pay the hospital bills in 10-12 years. Alexander reported he and U.S. Senator Bob Corker have a bill that will reduce spending in Medicare by a trillion dollars and other entitlements over the next 10 years.

Alexander noted, however, President Barack Obama must lead the way in fixing the debt.

“It’s the president’s job to fix the debt,” Alexander said, citing President Lyndon Johnson’s leadership during the Civil Rights Movement. “This president needs to go against his own party and cut out out-of-control entitlement spending in this country, get us back into a solid situation.”

Alexander also reported states should make their own decisions and Washington should trust their leadership.

Alexander said he’s noticed over the years “an airplane disease” – where he said people get on an airplane and fly to Washington and believe they are smarter.

Alexander quoted an economist, saying “states have a constitutional right to be right and they have a constitutional right to be wrong.” For example, Alexander likes Tennessee’s right to work law and no state income tax. He noted, if Kentucky doesn’t want a right to work law or wants an income tax, and the auto industry chooses Tennessee over Kentucky, then Kentucky has a right to be wrong.

Alexander also claimed Washington is throwing a “big wet blanket” over the American dream and hindering the free enterprise system.

“As Republicans we’re not doing a good job painting a picture of what makes America so special,” Alexander said. “What makes it so special is the American dream, the idea you can come here, start at the bottom and you can aim for the top.”

Alexander cited Obamacare as an example of a “big wet blanket” over the American dream. Alexander reported the cost of health insurance will go up drastically once the new laws take effect next year.

Alexander also noted “one of the most important things” he’d like to do is “get the teaching of American history back in it’s rightful place in our schools so our children can learn what it means to be an American,” which drew a loud round of applause from the crowd.