Gov. Bill Haslam hopes the memorial service for the five Dallas police officers killed in last week's shooting can be an opportunity for healing.
Haslam says that while he believes "all lives matter," it's time for the nation to confront its legacy of racial disparity in policing.
The Republican governor adds that he's rooting for President Obama. Haslam hopes his speech to mourners succeeds in advancing the national dialogue around police shootings.
"He's uniquely qualified to do something to a country that's troubled," the governor told reporters shortly before Obama's speech was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.
Haslam says the big issue troubling the country is it hasn't fully overcome racism. He says African-Americans have a legitimate complaint about how they're treated, and it's difficult for others to hear that.
"We're not going to solve this overnight, but I do think we have to start having really hard conversations. The encouraging thing to me is you're seeing law enforcement officers doing that. You're seeing churches doing that. You're seeing those conversations happen."
Haslam says he's asked deputy to the governor Jim Henry and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director Mark Gwyn to meet with leaders in the African-American community to discuss policing.
He also praises the Tennessee Highway Patrol and police in Memphis and Nashville for working to defuse tensions.