Former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander is the 2018 recipient of the Excellence in Governance Award from the Student Government Association.
SGA created the Excellence in Governance Award in 1985 to honor the public service of James C. Kirkpatrick, who served as Missouri’s secretary of state for 20 years.
“I am honored to receive it, particularly from a group of young people who aspire to be a part of making our communities better, because I feel like a big part of my role and my usefulness is in inspiring the next generation to step up and do great things,” Kander said.
Zachary Walker, Internal Issues committee chair of SGA, said they chose Kander because he has done things at the state and national level that go beyond the Warrensburg community.
“One of the reasons we chose Kander was the prestigious honor, again, for his dedication as the secretary of state of Missouri. Also, part of the Army National Guard,” he said. “There have been policy decisions that he has voted for because people here at UCM advocated for it and I know he doesn’t support the budget cuts that Greitens is doing,” Walker said.
Recently, Missouri colleges could see higher education funding cut by about $70 million under Greiten’s new budget proposal.
Walker said one example of Kander’s excellence in government is his work with voters. He has an organization called Let America Vote, which fights voter suppression. This organization battles politicians who try to make it harder for people to vote in elections.
“I’ve been in 34 states in the past year talking to audiences about voting rights and I’ve also been invited often to talk about how Democrats stand up for what we believe in,” Kander said. “And I think at the end of the day, the most important thing for any politician is to say what you truly believe because even if voters don’t agree with everything that you say, they will always give you credit if they notice you truly believe what you’re saying and that you believe it because you care about them.”
Beth Rutt, director of Student Activities and adviser to SGA, received the award last year, and said she was humbled and even concerned that SGA should reconsider.
“I just felt rather inadequate to receive such an honor,” Rutt said. “When you look at all the others before me and those since then, I feel very blessed but still a little out of place.”
Rutt said she would like the community to come to Kander’s ceremony and support SGA as they recognize him and remember James C. Kirkpatrick.
“Public service is very important to me,” she said. “Today we can become very discouraged when we look around at the circumstances in our world and listen to the news. But Jimmie Kirkpatrick wasn’t a person who I ever saw swayed by the ways of the world. He remained engaged, happy and always wanting to be a part of the change to make life better… Jimmie Kirkpatrick had an enthusiasm for life and community service. That’s what the folks that have been awarded the Excellence in Governance Award have been recognized for.”
Kander said his main advice for anyone going into office is to focus on making change and not “being somebody.”
“Rather than try to be something, focus on doing something,” He said. “Focus on the change that you want to see and if there’s an office between you and that change, then you run for that office. But, if you start with trying to change something rather than just trying to be something yourself, you’ll be a lot happier.”
Rutt said Kander’s award ceremony will be the first one that Doris Kirkpatrick has not attended. Doris Kirkpatrick died this past weekend, Feb. 24.
Doris Kirkpatrick was the wife of the late James C. Kirkpatrick.
“It will definitely be different without Doris,” Rutt said. “She, in her own right, was a woman of dedication to her community, family and the university.”
The award ceremony for Kander is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 19 at the JCKL Atrium. The ceremony is free and open to the public.