Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) spoke at Missouri Boys State in Hendricks Hall on the campus of the University of Central Missouri on Thursday evening:
...You know, when I took this job as Secretary of State, one of the things I have to do is hire a lot of people, so plenty of resumes come in. And it's gonna, it's gonna be interesting if you look at resumes. I don't know how many of y'all have done this. But a lot of times people's, you know, credentials, they're all pretty impressive. The real question is which one of them has the integrity and the passion to do what I need 'em to do. That's never on that piece of paper. I remember talking to a guy who ran a, a HR shop in a big company and he told me that integrity was such an important part of what they looked for when they hired people that he asked this question in every interview. He asked, has there ever been a time in your life when you stood alone on the side of what was right and it cost you something? [pause] That is sort of a telling moment, isn't it? When you're doing something that isn't along with what everybody else does, or isn't what the crowd, or isn't the easy choice. And yet, in the end, that is what tells you who you are inside. And that is what ends up mattering to people the most. The best part about that is that you get to decide those things. It's sort of an amazing thing how many choices you have in life. And I know when you're young it seems like they're just so many choices. It is so cool that you get to decide your path. That's a great thing about America, is we don't live in this place where where you're born is where you end up. We live in a place where you have the choice and you're empowered to do those things.
You know, there's a great story about a couple of young men that were born not too far from each other in Germany back in the late eighteen hundreds. They were alike in a lot of ways, they were born like two hundred miles apart, they were both altar boys at their church, both really creative, one was big into the arts and another was into music. Both of them wrote books. At one point in their lives they talked about their life's philosophy. One of the young men, he wandered around Europe as an artist and tried to sell all of his stuff and failed at that and went back and joined the army, found out that he was really good at leading people and went on to do that. His name was Adolph Hitler. [voices: "Oh."] Another guy who grew up two hundred miles away from him, liked music. Very, very talented. He became a master organ builder. One of the most, foremost authorities about Bach. Earned a degree in theology and philosophy. He had all this talent and everybody in his town thought he could do anything he set his mind to do. The world was his oyster. But here's where the story gets interesting. This young guy, when he was in his mid twenties made a couple of really profound decisions about his life. He decided that until he was thirty years old he was only going to study things he was really, really interested in. When he got to be thirty he was gonna go to medical school. After he got done with medical school he decided to go to Africa. He started a leper colony and a hospital. People back home in Europe couldn't understand how this brilliant mind was being wasted. That he had made the choice to waste his life. He has so much to offer in Europe, and yet he went to equatorial Africa to be a doctor. Anybody know who I'm talking about? Albert Schweitzer. You're right. Albert Schweitzer, a man who went on to make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. These are two people who grew up in very similar areas, who made life choices that were dramatically different fro the world.
Just like you they had to make a choice about who they were. The choices that you make are profound for your community and for your country. Second, second question, told you there were three. Second question, again, pretty simple. Reminds me of another story of a scientist, I love this. It's about Albert Einstein. He was a professor at Princeton University. The story goes that he was on a train going someplace and the conductor comes down and starts taking tickets, to all the people on the train and came to Dr. Schweitzer [Einstein] and, and he couldn't find his ticket. He's looking around, he's looking in his pockets, he can't find his ticket, he's looking in his briefcase, he can't find the ticket. The conductor says, Dr. Einstein, don't worry about it, I know who you are, don't worry about it, I'm sure you bought a ticket, you're fine. Conductor went on, going down the aisle, taking the rest of the tickets and he's about to leave the car, when he turns around he sees Einstein, like on the floor looking around still. And so he rushes back and says, Dr. Einstein, really, we know who you are, I know you bought a ticket, don't worry. And Einstein got up and stopped and looked at him and said, young man, I, too, know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going. You can laugh at that, that's supposed to be a joke. [laughter] Come on. [laughter] I actually thought was sort of funny. [applause] You've never had that happen before. [applause] You guys. Ah, should have told a joke first. Okay. No, but it's true.
You gotta know where you're going. It's a question that haunts everybody. Doesn't matter who you are, the goals and directions that make a difference, people struggle with those. Sometimes they don't even bother because it's such a hard thing.
It's sort of fortunate I grew up in this family, you heard from my bio, people involved in politics. I discovered at an early age that people in my family didn't really didn't struggle with having big dreams. Have 'em all the time. Sometimes we'd get, we, sometimes we achieve 'em, sometimes we don't, but we never lack for having a big dream. And I know that one of the stories I love is when my grandfather, I was growing up. He was born in the late eighteen hundreds, he was one of nine kids, he was the only one that went to college, went to become a school teacher, but he had these big ideas about what he wanted to do. Even though there was no real reason to think any of this would ever come true, but he still had 'em. And this great story, about the day he walked in to the house and announced to my grandmother that he intended to run for Congress. Well you can imagine my grandmother's surprise. She thought this was a terrible idea and said so. She said, don't do it, you can't win. He's a big dreamer, hard headed, went to the neighbors, told the neighbors he intended to run for Congress. They said, ah, don't do that, you can't win. Told the local politicians he intended to run for Congress, they're all like, no, no, don't do that, you will never win. Well, he was a dreamer, went on, ran for Congress anyway. And guess what happened? [voices: "He won."] He lost. They were right. [applause] He lost. He didn't win. But it turns out that's not the end of the story. Because, of course, it was a setback not to win, but that didn't change his ultimate goal just because there was a setback. Two years later he ran for Congress again and he won. And he kept winning and serving in Congress for fourteen years. Went on to be a delegate to the United Nations and served as an ambassador in west Africa under President John F. Kennedy. It's a long way from where he started.
Goals and dreams have a way of keeping you on track and giving you a purpose even when they're hard. And for those of you in this room, this is especially important, having those goals and having the direction, because the chances are, there are gonna be people behind you wanting to follow in your footsteps. And so you all knowing where you want to go will make a difference not just in your life, but in the lives of all those around you.
Okay, last question. What difference will you make? [pause] You ever notice there are some people who seem to live their lives, they wake up in the morning, they go to work, they go home, have dinner, watch television, collapse into bed, and do that same thing again the next day. Their lives are focused narrowly, just on what they can do for themselves, and sometimes they're pretty successful. But there are other people who not only figure out ways to succeed but they also figure out ways to help others. These are the ones that volunteer at the school, these are the ones that are here at Boys State helping, these are the ones that lead Boy Scout troops, or get involved in campaigns, or help clean up a polluted stream, or get involved at church or a local hospital. You know those people.
You know, the ancient Rabbis had a name for this, they called it tikkun olam. It means repair the Earth. [pause] To me that seems like an incredibly powerful mission to repair the Earth. To right the wrongs that mankind has done to each other and to our planet. And for some of you in this room repairing the Earth might mean running for office, it might mean joining the military, it might mean volunteering at a homeless shelter, or coaching a little league baseball team. Each of you is in a very unique position. To serve. And I hope before you leave here this week you figure out how you can do that when you go back home. 'Cause service isn't just about some big idea. It can be small things.
When my father was Governor of Missouri one of the things he did to repair the Earth he never talked about. Live out in the country, and he would go for a walk along our county gravel road he always had a plastic bag with him. He was picking up trash. The Governor of Missouri was picking up trash. He was busy reforming education, doing other things to get money and change things around to make the state better, but he also picked up trash.
So don't think that you can't find a way to serve. [applause]
So, that's my message tonight. Three questions. Now, my challenge to you is to answer those questions for yourself. Who am I? Where am I going? And what difference will I make? And as you do that I hope you'll consider the words of President Kennedy who said, with a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth and lead this land that we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on Earth God's work must truly be our own.
So, thank you all very much. [applause]