Dolly Parton news
When Dolly Parton makes her commencement address today at the University of Tennessee, she'll set the record straight about wishes and dreams.
"There's a difference between wishes and dreams," the singer said Thursday afternoon at Dollywood. "I want to sort of define the difference for them. I want to give them some helpful hints."
Around 12,000 people are expected to attend the proceedings at Thompson-Boling Arena to hear the award-winning Sevier County native impart some of her mountain wisdom. Tickets for the event were snatched up weeks ago, with a packed house expected to turn out and see Parton in a rare Knoxville event.
Parton will be given an honorary UT doctoral degree - only the second one ever granted by the school -in humane and musical letters.
During her career, Parton has been given many honorary titles, including being a mayor and a law enforcement officer. But she's only been given two honorary college degrees.
Carson-Newman College gave her an honorary degree more than a decade ago.
In talking to the 1,000 graduates, Parton wants to help them understand what it takes to succeed and make their own dreams come true.
"I'll talk about planning. I'll talk about dreaming. I'll talk about sticking with it," she said. "I'll talk about how I, as a young girl, had some dreams and made them come true."
She'll perform a song and talk of her days of struggling as a young performer in Nashville, fresh out of high school and with stars in her eyes.
Parton never attended college and was the first member of her family to earn a high school diploma. Her father and mother never had a formal education.
Now an advocate of early childhood education and fighting the local dropout rate through her Dollywood Foundation, Parton admitted she was tempted not to finish high school.
"I didn't have to go to school, because my dad never realized the need to go," she said. "He never had to go. Nobody made me go to high school. I made myself go.
"I knew I couldn't really leave home until I was 18 or my family would have sent a posse after me. I thought I'd rather go to school, get to know kids and kind of socialize. So I made myself go. I hated it. I hated every minute of it.
"I wanted to go on to Nashville and live my dreams - which I did, but I did it when the time was right to do it."
Parton said she's proud to receive UT's honorary degree. "It always makes me feel good when the people back home recognize what I have done," she said. "I am proud they want to make me a part of (the ceremony) and that they claim me.
"We've become part of each other's lives."
And Parton has high hopes for the graduating class.
"You never know if one of those people out there will go out and change the whole wide world," she said. "It's possible. It can happen."
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445.
© 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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