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Gary Grigsby (left) at the American Legion Boys State of Missouri on June 20th.

Sometimes it’s not just statewide office holders who make those memorable speeches.

Gary Grigsby was recognized by Missouri Boys State on Friday evening for his thirty years of volunteer work on behalf of the organization. Gary is a Warrensburg businessman and musician (ask him about his favorite musical). He is active in his church and in the community. He serves as President of the Johnson County Democratic Club. He has volunteered for and worked in numerous roles for an uncountable number of Democratic political campaigns over the years.

From 1997 to 2002 we ran a mom and pop legislative district polling operation. Gary Grigsby is an expert in voter file and database management. In the almost twenty years I have known Gary Grigsby I continue to learn some new things about his life story.

Gary grew up in Slater, Missouri in Saline County about which he’s fond of saying about politics when he was growing up: “It wasn’t until I was twenty one years old and could vote that I realized there was a general election, because my county was so Democratic that when the Democrat won the primary that was it, they took office.”

Gary Grigsby’s remarks:  

Thank you Bill, Mr. Director, staff, Boys State citizens – because you’re what it’s all about, my family – in the balcony, and my fellow Legionnaires.

In 1962 four young men from my home high school and I traveled to Warrensburg. And we came to Missouri Boys State here on the campus of what was then known as Central Missouri State Teachers College. And like you, we knew little of the impact that this week to shape a lifetime would have. Now, I recall a Jim Whitfield who was Dean of Counselors and having much darker hair, ran us from the dorms, and I mean ran from the dorms, which were over near where you are to over near the Multipurpose building where you had your pictures taken yesterday. Most of the staff of my Boys State had fought in World War II and the Korean war. A few…even in World War I. Now today some of our veterans from Vietnam – my era, Iraq, Afghanistan and others. My Boys State was maybe four hundred and eighty. Six hundred was a number that came along, just over nine hundred a few years ago. And you’re the largest Boys State that we have had. Nine hundred and eighty one. [applause]

Now why do we do this? In the words of John Adams, written over two hundred years ago, he said, and I paraphrase:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, etcetera.

Our founding fathers wanted a better life for us, and for the future generations, for you and for those that are yet to come.

It’s my sincere hope that we can one day move from a time when our world is no longer focused on war and the resources that that consumes.

There is no other program for which doctors, lawyers, judges, businessmen, soldiers, college professors, and students alike would come to volunteer their services, yes volunteer. Most even take a week of personal vacation time to be here and take part in your week to shape a lifetime.

In 1962, then as now, the American Legion was actively keeping the torch of freedom burning brightly. And as your session of Missouri Boys State draws to a close I ask you to reflect on the changes which most certainly have occurred in each of you. In, two major changes, that occurred to me directly, resulting from this week of Boys State. One, I lost an election for the first I ever experienced that. I lost to Jim Heffenstreet [sp]who was then elected governor. I lost in the primary. Number two, I continued to lose sleep, what seems like a lifetime of sleep, for you, coming back to these sessions.

When you go back to your schools and communities you are tapped, you’re called, to lead. Grasp the opportunities which come before you, for they come only once. I look at serving on the MBS staff as an opportunity to give back to the program, for what was so long ago given to me. I’ve never gotten over that week. I hope this too has been for you a week you’ll never forget.

It was at my Boys State where the legislature passed legislation that led to you getting the Boys State manual ahead of time. Imagine coming to Boys State and not having the opportunity to read  that manual before you got here. Tough, huh? Oh yeah, I’m sure you studied it [garbled]. [laughter]

My family know that the week that Boys State is here is sacred. No vacations are scheduled because I’m going to be here with you, my extended family.

After graduation from MU I went on active duty in Spring of 1968. My Marine officer basic school was in Quantico, Virginia. And one of my friends, a Missourian, who had been to some of my pre-officer training with me, J.W. Simms from Carrollton, Missouri came to basic school about a month after me. Many times he came to me and begged for me to help him study for a test because he wanted to be an infantry officer. He wanted to be a Marine officer on the front line and tell his troops, “Follow me.” J. W. Simms was awarded several service awards, including the second Purple Heart, which was awarded posthumously. He died in Vietnam. He was charging some objective, that was a military objective, and saying to his troops, “Follow me.”

So tonight I challenge you to take up the fallen banner of my friend J.W. and many like him, of our fellow Legionnaires in the balcony, who died defending freedom for you and me. Take it up. And charge forward against those who would suppress our freedom and life and liberty. Grasp each opportunity that comes before you, for they only come once, saying, “Follow me.” Thank you very much. [applause]