Of The People, with Senator Marsha Blackburn – Episode 419 of The Action Catalyst Podcast
- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On March 7, 2023
- 0 Comments
- alumni, Business, leadership, politics, sales, Senate, Southwestern Advantage, success, Tennessee
Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee State Senator, Tennessee Congressional Representative, 4-summer alumnus of the Southwestern Advantage program, and now United States Senator, chats about being only the fourth woman elected to Congress from Tennessee, and the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee, her surprising early role as a pioneer in digital entertainment, the importance of leadership on a national scale, how you lead people / you manage assets, and upholding her 5 personal pillars of Faith, Family, Freedom, Hope, and Opportunity.
About Sen. Blackburn:
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn was sworn in to the Senate in January 2019, representing the state of Tennessee. Before her election to the Senate, Marsha represented Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District.
Marsha’s public service is dedicated to promoting opportunities for women and making America a more prosperous place to live. Marsha’s leadership philosophy is based on her experiences in the private sector as a small business woman and author, as well as being a mother and grandmother.
Marsha went to college on a 4-H scholarship and worked her way through school selling books for Southwestern Advantage as one of their first female sales associates, and later as one of their first female sales managers.
She then became Director of Retail Fashion and Special Events for the Castner Knott Company, which was a Nashville-based regional department store. Later, Marsha founded her own business, Marketing Strategies, which focused on the retail marketplace, as well as electronic and print media.
Marsha began her career in public service in 1995 when she was named executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission. In 1998, she was elected to the Tennessee State Senate. In the state legislature, she earned a reputation for fiscal responsibility and government accountability by identifying waste and offering realistic solutions to Tennessee’s budget challenges.
While serving in the Tennessee Senate, Marsha led a statewide grassroots campaign to defeat a proposed state income tax. The tax was defeated, and Marsha’s leadership earned her a reputation as an anti-tax champion. In 2014, the people of Tennessee passed an amendment to the state constitution to expressly prohibit a state income tax – a fitting cap to a 14-year battle.
In 2002, Marsha was elected to represent the people of Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District based on her record in the state legislature. She brought her Tennessee values to Washington, DC, and became a leader in the fight for small, efficient federal government that is accountable to its citizens. As a Congressman, Marsha was often selected by her colleagues to lead the charge for principled conservativism. Her congressional career was also noted for her Chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, as well as bipartisan expertise in defending songwriters’ and performers’ rights.
Marsha is a member of numerous charitable organizations and is an active member of her church, Christ Presbyterian. Marsha and her husband Chuck live in Williamson County, Tennessee. They have two children, Mary Morgan (Paul) Ketchel and Chad (Hillary) Blackburn, two grandsons, and a granddaughter. Originally from Laurel, Mississippi, Marsha is a graduate of Mississippi State University.
Learn more at Blackburn.Senate.gov.
The Action Catalyst is presented by the Southwestern Family of Companies. With each episode, the podcast features some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Learn more at TheActionCatalyst.com, subscribe below or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to leave a rating and review!
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Adam Outland: Welcome to the Action Catalyst. Today we are privileged to welcome a true trailblazer, from her beginnings selling books door to door with Southwestern Advantage, becoming the company’s first female sales associate, and later the first female district sales manager, to becoming only the fourth woman ever elected to Congress from Tennessee, and the first woman from the state elected to the US Senate, Marsha Blackburn refuses to be held back. Senator Blackburn, thank you for making time for us today.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: Well, I’m excited to be here and excited to be on a podcast that is all focused on moving forward, doing better, using your gifts and your talents.
Adam Outland: Well, your track record is simply remarkable and we’re pleased to say that it all started right here at Southwestern Family of Companies.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: Oh, that is exactly right. I talk about those moments that truly are a catalyst in your life, that open doors of opportunity. And when I look across my life, I think about the windows that were open for me through four H Club and how that helped me to think bigger than the rural Mississippi community that I grew up in.
And then as my brother James Wedge. Went to work with Southwestern and then I wanted to sell books and we found out they didn’t have women on teams selling books, but we pushed against that and two of the sales managers were helpful to me in finding a way to learning how to sell, and then the opportunity of learning how to build an organization.
And I use those. Today, learning how to communicate, learning how to do it concisely, how to craft that message that you’re wanting to communicate. I look at organizational skills and how important those are, whether you are in the corporate world or in public service. You know, one of the things that I realized through my Southwestern training, it really began to appreciate was that you lead people and you manage assets and learning how to build that organization and lead people, helping people to figure out what are their strengths and their weaknesses, how do they go about developing those strengths and weaknesses? Finding out what motivates them. What is at the base of their desires, helping them to realize they can dream those big dreams and they can make those dreams come true.
I realized through my days at Southwestern as a student salesman and then as a salesman manager, How important that is to invest that time that is necessary to build that relationship with people that you really do help them be the best that they can possibly be.
Adam Outland: You know, I think of the pioneering that you’ve done for women at Southwestern and then going on to pave similar paths in Congress. What advice would you have to young women just getting started on having the confidence to go for their dreams.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: I would say have a curious mind and ask a lot of questions. During my time selling as a student salesman, I realized the importance of asking questions and I had never really thought about that before.
So I like to tell students. Ask a lot of questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question, and there is no such thing as a failed test because you’re always learning and you want to have that curious mind that causes you to question things. How did this happen? Why did it happen? Why did it happen when it did, and not earlier or or later?
And whether it’s events, or whether it is science or whether it’s medicine, the field that you’re studying or looking at, just have that curious mind. And then the next thing is don’t accept no as an. Realize that if somebody tells you you can’t do something, you probably can and it’s probably going to be up to you to figure out how to do that.
And you look at some of our great innovations and some of our nation’s great innovators, so the world’s great innovators, they refuse to to accept no or to hear you can’t do that. And looked for a way to make that happen.
Adam Outland: After learning how to build your own business in Southwestern Advantage and then serving as Director of retail fashion and special events for a regional department store, you founded your own business marketing strategies, which focused on retail marketplace plus electronic and print media. What skills did you pick up during that time that served you later in your political life?
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: I loved working with the Kaner Kaut company and had a wonderful mentor there, Ralph Glasser, who was c e o, and we had stores in southern Kentucky, northern Alabama, and Tennessee. That was a tremendous experience and I really developed quite a bit of knowledge meeting every week with Mr.Glassfor and reviewing the promotions, looking at what was successful. Not successful learning to be critical and to critique my work. And many times that is something that people don’t take the time to do is to really critique their work for effectiveness and look at that time value. A situation, cross-platform as to what is the return for the amount of, uh, time that is invested.
So that was a skillset that I developed in that and then went into business for myself. I wanted the ability to control my schedule, which working with a corporate entity, I didn’t have the ability to do that. And as my children were young, I needed that opportunity to manage my own time. My husband was busy traveling in his work, and so it was up to me to be the chief chauffeur, the mom, filling in all the gaps, getting kids to where they needed to be.
When I went into that work for myself, what I realized was that there are hundreds of small businesses out there that need someone to bring focus. To their work to help them figure out how to do a proforma, how to price out projects, how to expand their communication, and to let people know that they’re there and the availability of.
The product or either the service that they are offering. So working with smaller businesses was really what I loved, even though I had some larger accounts that I worked with and I enjoyed those also. And the good thing was working for myself. I was able to work with different industries and develop an understanding of how different industries.
Adam Outland: And it sounds like that really laid the groundwork for when in 1995, you began your career as the executive director at the Tennessee Film Entertainment and Music Commission. What inspired you to make that jump into public service?
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: Well, I will say every one of us that goes into, uh, selling for Southwestern, every student that sells has a little bit of that entrepreneurial gene in their body. They’ve gotta have it to go work on a straight commission, which to me was exciting. I loved it. So you kind of carry that all. All the way through, and I had led a campaign for someone that was running for governor and they won and then offered me to come into that administration, into their cabinet.
What I wanted to do was take that old film. Commission office and turn it into film, entertainment, music, and interactive technology. That was the point in time when we were moving from analog production and transmission communication to digital. Communication, that’s when the internet was actually growing.
So I took that leadership role, and by the time I left, we had transitioned that we were focusing on a digital economy. We were focusing on digital production, which I felt like in that job I was taking my private sector skills and my love. Public service and bringing it to create the right environment for growth in the entertainment, the music, the film, the TV industry in Tennessee and different parts of the state seem to have a different role in Memphis.
You have the live venues and you have a lot of. Production, middle Tennessee, you have TV and music production. You go over to East Tennessee and it is primarily showcases and the venues that are there with the large shows that are in East Tennessee, and of course you’ve got severe ville, you’ve got Dollywood that is up there.
So everybody kind of had their. Area that they were working from to bring all that together and then to look at the way we could advance cable TV and production. You’ve got discovery networks that are over in Knoxville. You’ve got jewelry TV that is over there. All of the country music, C M T networks.
You have the different telecommunications and broadcast networks, RFDTV, all of that that is there in Nashville. And of course we are seeing more of that move into the state. A lot of it is left California. A lot of the music industry has left and they have relocated. Now. Here was the bonus. We recruited about 4 billion worth of infrastructure into Tennessee as I did this transition with the state and recruited businesses and we focused on digital.
But here’s what we. Was that digital production and transmission wasn’t just all about the music industry. Financial services wanted to use these platforms. Healthcare wanted to use these platforms and the auto industry. Wanted to use these platforms. So we realized interactive technologies was going to be an important component of the state.
And when you look at the state today, and you look at the economic drivers in our state, especially in Middle Tennessee region, what do you see? You see these interac. Technology applications that are working in every industrial sector in our state. And much of it came about because we had that good basis in those entertainment related industries.
Adam Outland: Wow. So obviously that helped provide an important bridge to running for Senate. What was it like to walk through those Senate doors?
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: Well, the first set of Senate doors were the state Senate. When I was there in the state Senate, I led that four year battle, not days, weeks, months, but years to defeat the imposition of a state income tax, which has probably been the main driver for the growth in our state. So I led that fight. We were successful in that, and then went to Congress and served in the US House for 16 years, where I really developed a reputation for reworking taxes, working on our commercial, our energy and commerce issues, and then won that. For the US Senate and what an amazing opportunity that is to work with people all across the state and look at how we make certain that Tennessee is the very best place in the country to live, to work, and to rear your family.
Adam Outland: So from the states senate to House of Representatives, to US Senate, what are the major differences between operating at each of those levels?
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: You know, they are different sets of issues. When I was in the state senate, uh, we really focused on what happened within the borders of the state and how was tax policy going to affect that?
How was state-based regulation going to have an impact going to the us? You look at your district that you’re representing and you focus on that district. My district was middle to West Tennessee. So you look at the needs of those counties, whether they’re a suburban area or whether it is a rural area, and your policy decisions are crafted for how that is going to affect that specific district.
Then with the state, Representing the entire state. Uh, you are looking at the state as a whole in the different areas of the state, but your responsibility also has to be to look beyond the borders of your state, beyond the borders of your country. And I have a seed on Senate Armed Services, and I may be working on dealing with the Chinese Communist Party, or I may be looking at how we deal with the issues in Russia, Ukraine, but you always have that filter of looking at what the people of your state want and what they.
From their federal government, and I say I get up every day to work on five things, preserving five things, faith, family, freedom, hope, and opportunity, and the decisions that you make. I say, how is it going to encourage our faith? And strengthen our families and broaden our freedom, strengthen those freedoms.
How will it allow hope for today, tomorrow, and future generations? And how does it affect opportunity for each and every? American citizen, and so it means that with Senate Armed Services, we keep this nation strong with judiciary, that we remain a country that abides by the rule of law and realize the importance of that when it comes to.
Commerce, science and transportation. You’re looking at how you increase opportunities for everyone and Veterans Affairs. My other committee, how we make certain that we protect the men and women in uniform who have chosen to raise their hand, take that oath and defend this country and our freedom.
Adam Outland: Looking to the future, if there’s one central idea that you think would help steer the country in the right direction and keep us on the path to growth, what would that be?
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: We need to constantly remember that we, the United States of America, we are a government of the people by the people and for the people.
It’s important to realize that our founders did not spell people in small case letters. It is a capital letter. It is a formal noun, and that is us, the citizenry, the people, and it is important for us to realize that and the strength that comes from that. We’re the leader of the free world if the United States does not show up to fight for freedom.
If it is the people of this country that do not choose to fight for freedom, then there will not be someone show up to fight and defend this nation because we are a government of by and for the people.
Adam Outland: Senator Blackburn, you’re in inspiration to myself, to women across the country and to our listeners here on the Action Catalyst. Thank you for investing the time in us and we truly appreciate it.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Take care. Bye-bye now.