Dr. Dolly Parton!

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On May 8, the University of Tennessee granted an honorary doctorate to Dolly Parton. It’s only the second honorary degree they’ve ever given, and my question is – what took them so long?

We all know Dolly the entertainer, but fewer know Dolly the philanthropist. Some years ago she founded the Imagination Library in her home county in Tennessee. Every child in the county gets one book a month from the Imagination Library from birth until he or she turns five, and the program has been such a success that variants of it are now up and running in 47 states. More than 20 million books have been distributed through the Dollywood Foundation, and the number grows daily.

Dolly’s not known as a speechmaker, but she gave quite a commencement address to the U of T grads: dreams are important, she told them, but only hard work will make those dreams come true. Few have dreamed bigger, and few have worked harder than she has. You can watch the whole thing here.

Of course she sang as well as spoke – she preceded her speech (and followed Tennessee Governor Bredesen’s introduction) with a rousing version of Rocky Top (the official state song of Tennessee) and finished up with a song I’ve never heard her sing before, Try. A little corny? Sure. A lot inspiring? Absolutely. Listen, enjoy and TRY!

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