Remarks of Gov. Jay Nixon
2012 Joplin High School Commencement
May 21, 2012
As prepared for delivery.
Thank you. Good evening.
Over the past year, the Joplin Schools have faced – and overcome – many daunting challenges. That was possible because of the vision, leadership and dedication of Superintendent C.J. Huff.
With unwavering courage and unshakable resolve, C.J. has led the Joplin Schools forward. He has been an inspiration to us all. I’m proud to have worked closely in partnership with C.J., and I’m even more proud to call him my friend.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking one of Missouri’s – one of America’s – finest leaders and educators, Superintendent C.J. Huff.
Exactly one year ago, I stood on this same stage to address the college graduates of Missouri Southern State University.
It was a time of optimism. A time to mark a major milestone. A time to look ahead toward the bright horizon, with full hearts and soaring hopes.
The next day… changed everything.
The next day changed all of us.
But what a difference a year makes…
And tonight, we gather together ¬— as we have so many times in the past year — to celebrate another Joplin milestone.
Joplin High School …Class of two thousand and twelve…Congratulations!
We are so proud of you.
All that you have achieved reflects your strength of character… hard work…and high aspirations.
It also reflects the character of this community.
This is a community of optimists.
This is a community of believers.
This is a community of fighters.
This …is a community that never gave up …never gave in …and with HOPE in its heart and steel in its spine….has come back stronger and better than ever.
From Day One, your faith and your fight have shown the world … that the spirit of Joplin is unbreakable.
Joplin lost many things in the storm….but never lost its heart or its soul.
Because the schools are the heart and soul of Joplin, as they are across our great state and our great nation.
Our schools are a unifying force, a source of identity and pride. They are citadels of shared values … cherished hopes … and common dreams.
Public education is a bond not only between students and teachers.
It is a bond between generations…between a community’s leaders and the children who, one day, will carry on their unfinished work.
Joplin schools became the rallying point for this community.
With classes set to resume on August 17th, there wasn’t much time. But with each passing day… as the storms of spring gave way to the heat of summer…Joplin’s army gained ground.
And Joplin became a rallying point for a much larger community. A community of people so inspired by your remarkable story… that they needed to be part of it.
They came by the thousands… from all faiths and all walks of life … from Alaska to Florida… from Sweden to Japan.
Brick-by-brick and board-by-board ... Joplin rose from the rubble.
In Joplin, the sun rises every morning on a different place… and sets every evening on a better place.
And so, just 87 days after the most devastating tornado in our history, Joplin schools opened — just as Dr. Huff promised — on August 17th.
That … is the spirit of Joplin…and each one of you is part of it.
This class…this school … and this community …will forever stand as a symbol of the best of our nation…and the best in us.
Tonight, we look toward the bright horizon stretched before the Class of two thousand and twelve.
With full hearts and soaring hopes, we celebrate the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors who have loved and supported the Class of 20-12 since they were in kindergarten.
The faith and values you have instilled in these young adults are the bedrock they will build their lives on. That foundation cannot be moved.
We celebrate the faculty, staff and administration of Joplin High School.
In a year like no other, you put your personal needs aside … and always put your students first.
For your abiding compassion and devotion, we will be forever in your debt.
We celebrate each and every member of the Joplin community who gave so selflessly… worked so tirelessly … to ensure a bright future for your children.
They will carry on your unfinished work.
Most of all, we celebrate you — the Joplin High School Class of two thousand and twelve.
The world will never forget what you achieved here.
You have been tried and tested, and are stronger for it…smarter, too.
You are now ready to take all that you’ve learned at Joplin High, and use it to pursue your dreams – to become a doctor or a dancer, a soldier or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur.
You have learned – perhaps too soon – that life is a fragile thread that binds us together. Never take a single moment for granted.
You know — because you have lived it — that from great adversity… great blessings flow.
And with teamwork… tenacity… and the grace of God … all things are possible.
Congratulations…and God Bless.
Just a few days after the tornado struck, President Obama came to Joplin. As we walked the ravaged streets … he spoke with many of our families … folks who had lost everything.
He prayed with us… remembering the courage of those who gave their lives protecting others…and asked the Lord to watch over us and guide us through the difficult days ahead.
The President pledged that our country would be with us … and stay with us …at every step …as Joplin recovered and rebuilt.
And he has kept that commitment…as a true partner and a true friend of Joplin.
Please join me in welcoming back to Joplin…the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.