On Thursday evening, both the Girls and Boys State programs joined together for an assembly in Hyland Arena, here at Lindenwood University. Anticipation built all day after delegates learned that current Missouri State Governor, Mike Parson, would be the keynote speaker of the evening. All individuals united together to learn from Governor Parson. Parson chose to highlight his opinions on servant leadership, as well as how chosen political leaders impact our democracy in a more impactful way than we often see. He expressed his gratitude for the delegate's current dedication to servant leadership and is excited to see their impact on our state and country.
Parson began his address by simply explaining how he related to the lives of the delegates more so than it may seem. Even with the title of Governor, he pressed hard on the fact that he was born and raised in the town of Wheatland, MO, which at his time had around 300 residents. He believes his humble beginnings as a farmer were a key part in the growth of his passion to represent all citizens of Missouri, whether they are from the biggest city or the smallest town. His story supported his later statements regarding his opinions surrounding the current critical issues of Missouri. When presented with these issues, the crowd was not afraid to hold back their feelings regarding hot topics, such as inflation, Medicaid, teacher pay, and voter fraud. Governor Parson explained his beliefs on how delegates can create change on these pressing topics.
At this week's programs, we have learned to use our voices to truly create change on any level. Whether this be lobbying for a bill, talking to a state election candidate, or seeking a position as a Supreme Court justice, our confidence to speak up on issues has grown and important discussions on these should continue to circulate. Parson, however, took a different standpoint on this topic, declaring that it is important for us to focus on electing stronger leaders, willing to create the change that we want to see. Implying that the majority of change comes from Congress, Parson finds more importance in finding trustworthy candidates willing to represent the people and using our voices to reach out to them.
While Governor Parson mainly spoke about the importance of politicians dedicated to making a change, he did not skip over the simplicity of what our mission in life should be. He stated that, as Governor, he believes all citizens of our state are equal and should be treated as so. As delegates and citizens, we must treat others with equal respect regardless of their skin color, sexual orientation, religion, background, and other differences. Our continued strengthening of this ideal for the next generation is extremely vital and it begins here at Girls and Boys State. Mike Parson expressed his support for this aspect of leadership in saying, “It’s not about being the best leader, but it's about making the people around you better.” The way that we treat one another reflects directly into our democracy and this topic should never stop being discussed and demonstrated. Parson also spent a portion of his speech using the metaphorical “American Dream”. Motivating delegates, he discussed how it is the new generations responsibility to continue fulfilling the principles of our democracy.
Finally, the topic that I chose to speak with Governor Parson about was conflict and disagreement. Even during his speech, Governor Parson shared that he values remembering where you came from and staying true to your beliefs. It is mostly common that on big topics such as abortion, gun control, etc. many people have set beliefs that are nearly impossible to change. However, Parson chooses to focus more on seeing what they agree on; hearing out one another and finding common ground. Not only is this important to make any change at all; it is for the benefit of the people and provides the most representation. Parson ended this interview by saying, “I’m never gonna agree with somebody on pro-life or pro-choice. I’m gonna move on to what I agree with them on; workforce development, infrastructure, schools, all of those types.” This is a critical idea for us to remember in the real world when many important issues are quieted. While this is a way that we can seek the most change, we cannot forget about quality. We must never forget about change revolving around the topics we care about. We cannot stop using our voices and only create change on the easy topics, because it is often the most controversial ones that are the most important to society. But how will you choose to create change in your community on the topics you care about? Remember to use the ideals that you have been taught this week at ALA Girls and Boys State. Use your voice, be a servant, and be the change that you wish to see in our world.