Sunday, May 22, 2016
Nixon: JHS graduates inspired the state, the nation, and the world
Gov. Jay Nixon today told the 455 graduating seniors of Joplin High School that he has learned from them several lessons over the past five years – resilience, the power of teamwork, perseverance, and gratitude. The Governor gave keynote remarks at the commencement ceremony, held on the five-year anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin and took 161 lives, including seven students of Joplin Schools and one staff member.
The historic tornado destroyed or damaged nine Joplin public schools, including the high school; re-opening the schools on time was a successful priority of Gov. Nixon during the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the storm. Four all new school buildings, including the combined high school and technology center, have been built since 2011.
“You have lived through an extraordinary time in Joplin’s history – and responded in an extraordinary way,” Gov. Nixon told graduates. “You will always be part of an extraordinary community of fighters, builders and believers who never gave up, who endured a catastrophe, and emerged stronger than before.”
The Governor said that while graduation speakers often talk about the value of what the graduates have learned in school, he would talk about the value of what those Joplin High School seniors had taught him, and how they had inspired the state, the nation and the world.
In addition to teamwork, perseverance and gratitude, the Governor said one of the lessons was resilience: “Resilience is the ability to endure tough times, to remain hopeful that a brighter future lies ahead, and to prepare for what that future should look like…Your resilience shows in the fact that you are sitting here today in those caps and gowns.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Gov. Nixon said, “What matters most to me is the life you will build on the unshakeable foundation laid in your hometown. Because when you succeed, Missouri succeeds. I will never forget the lessons of Joplin, and I will always be profoundly grateful to you.”
After the commencement, Gov. Nixon also spoke at the Gathering of Remembrance and Hope ceremony held at Cunningham Park. The park was directly in the path of the tornado.
The Governor was one of several speakers at the community event, which also featured prayer and inspirational music, as well as a tolling of bells at 5:41 p.m., the moment when the tornado hit Joplin in 2011.
“The world has watched in awe, as the city has risen anew, brick by brick and board by board, better than before,” Gov. Nixon said. “It is the work of steady hands and steadfast hearts – never idle, ever hopeful – through seasons of grief and seasons of joy.”
Under the direction of Gov. Nixon, the state’s response to the Joplin tornado began immediately with the declaration of a state of emergency, the mobilization of the Missouri National Guard, and the sending to Joplin of hundreds of Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers to lead the largest law enforcement response in state history. The response included the clearing of more than 1.2 million tons of debris; the opening of a recovery center to help residents over the course of several months with housing, insurance, health and documentation needs; resources to assist impacted businesses in staying open or re-opening; and the marshallng of mental health resources to help both children and adults.