Cookeville High School’s Coleman Hawkins accomplished during his nomination speech for governor of Tennessee American Legion Boys’ State delegates what few candidates experience: complete silence and rapt attention in the audience.
That connection with almost 600 delegates resulted in Hawkins being elected the 2012 ALBS Governor. Hawkins, the son of Chris and Tera Hawkins and the grandson of Barbara and Jim Hawkins and Diane and the late Mike Nivens, successfully campaigned for office against two other candidates.
“I didn’t intend to run for governor, but I fell forward,” said Hawkins, an all-state choir member and captain of the CHS football.
In his speech, Hawkins told delegates that he was nervous, that he always gets nervous before playing football or getting up to sing. He said his whole family sings and performs, so his dad told him being nervous is just part of having a passion for what you are doing.
“I get nervous because I care about those things. I’m nervous because I care about you,” he said to delegates.
A youth leader at Washington Avenue Baptist Church, Hawkins focused his message on a Bible passage, Matt. 20:25-28, which calls him to serve.
“I didn’t quote scripture to be popular or to just have a slogan,” he said. “It was a theme that fit what I experienced.
“I learned that all the things that put me in this office, talking to people and caring about people, are not from me. There’s nothing I can do apart from Christ,” he said. “I learned that if your goal is to glorify God in whatever you do then that’s what life is about.”
Hawkins says a person’s youth should be no excuse to sit back and let others lead and serve. He told delegates he expects more of himself and his peers.
“Many times in this world people will tell you to be normal, to act like everyone else,” he said. “But I want you to do big things, to be great people and to start now.”
Hawkins says he’s not sure what his college major will be, but that he will continue to embrace leadership and service.
“I enjoy being a person who has a God-given ability to lead,” he said.
“I would love Boys’ State delegates to remember I wanted to serve them with the same heart Christ has,” Hawkins said. “It’s worth it to serve people. There are not many better things.”
Hawkins will be inaugurated on Saturday in Tennessee Tech University’s Hooper Eblen Center. Retiring TTU President Bob Bell will be the main speaker. The last Tennessee ALBS governor from Cookeville was Sean Ochsenbein, who was elected in 2006.
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The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, mutual-help, war-time veterans organization. A community-service organization which now numbers nearly 3 million members -- men and women -- in nearly 15,000 American Legion Posts worldwide. These Posts are organized into 55 Departments -- one each for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, and the Philippines.
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