Chief Justice Gary Wade Delivers Keynote Address at MTSU Constitution Day Naturalization Ceremony on September 17, 2012

From the Daily News Jounal
By:  Emily Kubis

As a small-town boy growing up in East Tennessee, Chief Justice Gary Wade, of the Tennessee State Supreme Court, never imagined that he would one day see the Statue of Liberty firsthand.

“I was simply in awe,” he said. “The Statue of Liberty and the beautiful sonnet that adorns the statue has now become a symbol of not only freedom, but as a light of welcome to people who choose to immigrate to the United States.”

Justice Wade had an opportunity to relay the memory of his first trip to New York City to America’s newest citizens Monday when he delivered the keynote address at a naturalization ceremony at Middle Tennessee State University.

The ceremony was part of the university’s Constitution Day events, the significance of which was not lost on Justice Wade.

“The very foundation of the law is the U.S. Constitution,” he said, “So it’s basically getting back to your roots to celebrate the adoption of the Constitution.”

Justice Wade said that he hopes and trusts that the Constitution plays a role in the American dream that drives so many to be naturalized, such as the 300 who participated in Monday’s events.

“I think that, of course except for Native Americans, we all come from ‘aways,’ as we might say in Sevier County,” he said. “In that sense, we’re all naturalized as Americans in different ways, but it’s pretty special to me to participate in an event like this, because it’s not only a celebration of our Constitution, but it’s welcoming those who have, in the right way, gained citizenship in our country.”

In August, Chief Justice Wade succeeded Justice Cornelia A. Clark, who had served as chief justice since Sept. 1, 2010.

Born and raised in Sevier County, Justice Wade attended the University of Tennessee where he received both his undergraduate and law degree. He worked in private practice for 15 years, as well as serving as the mayor of Sevierville from 1977 to 1987.

Prior to his Supreme Court appointment, Justice Wade served on the Court of Criminal Appeals for 19 years, serving as presiding judge for eight years. He served as president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference from 1995-1996 and is the founder of the Tennessee Judicial Conference Bar Foundation, which provides scholarships to law students at state law schools.

In 2004, Justice Wade was named Tennessean Appellate Judge of the Year, and in 2006 former Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed him to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Justice Wade emphasized the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in his keynote address.

“Emma Lazarus wrote the beautiful sonnet that appears at the Statue of Liberty, and it seemed to me that might be a good place to start,” he said. “‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ What a lovely poem it is, and it is just a beautiful passage and it signifies America and how we should view our role in world affairs.”

Justice Wade was the first to extend a welcome in the spirit of Lazarus’ poem to 300 new Americans.

“I hope that we always have that open door policy as Americans, when we have good people come into our community and go through the naturalization process,” he said.