Outgoing Missouri Democratic head of state Jay Nixon hosted his last Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Jefferson City Thursday.
His featured speaker was Pastor Randy Gariss of Joplin, who’s a nationally known voice on justice.
Gariss spoke about the need for people with sharp disagreements to embrace each other. Afterward he acknowledged politics and religion exist in a world of tribalism, but said barriers can be broken when people become friends.
“We’ll disagree” said Gariss. “We’ll even talk and, like brothers, it might even become a bit of an excited conversation. But that conversation, when it ends, your worth in value is not decreased one ounce. You don’t earn the right to be loved by me because you agree with me.”
Nixon said despite obvious differences with incoming Republican Governor Eric Greitens, he’s offered advice during the transition period.
“It’s a busy job” said Nixon. “And if you even make a decision, and if you’ve got the information in front of you to make that decision, go ahead and make it, because the next hour will bring another problem. I think getting up to decision speed is one of the challenges.”
In what could have been his final press conference as governor with the media in Jefferson City after the Prayer Breakfast, Nixon indicated he wouldn’t be making a lot of public comments about policy decisions made by Greitens.
“I want to be somebody that if he’s got a difficult challenge, that he wants another perspective from, that he knows that it’s going to be for him and him alone, that it’ll be me. I’ll be one of those people. There are people who have provided that service to me. That’s the important part for me. I don’t want to be overly critical of him. And I’m confident he’s going to do some things I wouldn’t do. But that’s not the point.”
While having said in the past that he wouldn’t be watching over the next governor or judging that person’s job performance in public, Nixon said Thursday he’d continue to speak out on three issues.
One of them is Medicaid, where he’s hopeful Missouri can follow in the footsteps of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s state of Indiana which expanded the service.
“I think the vice president-elect’s person that expanded Medicaid in Indiana, being the head of CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) for the United States of America, is a clear path forward for conservative and progressives to agree about how more people can get health care in a cost acceptable way.”
Greitens and his wife were seated on the stage for the prayer breakfast, as was Senate Republican President Pro Tem Ron Richard, Democratic Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh and Nixon’s wife.
Greitens spoke and led the audience in a prayer during the event. Although the tenor of the Prayer Breakfast was distinctly Christian – the theme was “God is Our Refuge and Our Strength” – Pastor Gariss made numerous references to the Muslim faith, at one point noting a Mosque in Joplin had reached out to his church after the city’s devastating tornado in 2011.
Presiding over the Prayer Breakfast and also seated on stage was Major Mike Roberts of the Missouri National Guard.