Three Maryville High School Rebels who have become state legislators also encouraged the next generation to be politically active while speaking at an event Tuesday.
In the first of a series of monthly alumni speakers celebrating the centennial of MHS, state Sen. Art Swann and Reps. Bob Ramsey and Jerome Moon, all Republicans from Maryville, spoke about politics and education to several classes of students.
“The two most powerful things you’ll ever have in your life are your vote and your dollar bills,” Ramsey told the students. “Where you spend your money and the people that you vote for is what’s going to determine your future.”
Moon noted that it took the late U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph, D-W.Va., 30 years of work for the voting age to be lowered from 21 to 18 with the 26th Amendment in 1971.
Speaking of his six years in the Navy immediately after graduating from MHS in 1965, Moon said, “I went to Vietnam and I went to a lot of other places, and I did not have the right to vote.”
Moon asked how many students are 18, and when Moon asked how many of those had voted in the most recent election, they dropped their hands. Then he asked how many will turn 18 over the next year.
“Please, please do your research and vote,” Moon said.
Swann recalled his father taking him to the Republican campaign headquarters as a child. But for the 1971 MHS graduate, his first political experience was becoming vice president of student government at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He went on to serve on the Blount County Commission before running for state office.
Moon and Ramsey, both from the the MHS Class of 1965, were drawn to run for the County Commission later in life because of specific issues.
Ramsey had been a dentist for 20 years before attending his first commission meeting as part of a successful fight against a medical incinerator being built in the county, and he ran for office after that.
Moon told the students, “Three of the six years that I was on active duty was in areas where people had no freedom. ... I saw how much we take our day-to-day freedoms for granted.”
After his military service he became publisher of the Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times. “It was never on my bucket list to become involved in a political office,” he said.
However, a friend asked Moon to run for the commission because of an issue involving zoning and private property rights. He was appointed to the District 8 state House seat last December and now is running for that office.
“What you can do as a representative or a senator, daily opportunities present themselves to help those who cannot help themselves,” Moon said. “It doesn’t always require a bill.”
Later, for example, he gave an example of helping to spur a change in state Medicaid rules to offer faster coverage to men with breast cancer, who had faced delays women with the same diagnosis didn’t.
The legislators shared their challenges and their successes with the students.
Short of math and foreign language, Swann quipped, the greatest challenge he faced was speaking on the floor of the state House for the first time, what he called a humbling experience.
Asked about his greatest achievement, Swann cited, “the tone that I’ve tried to bring to the body. I’ve tried to change some of the attitudes that people had about how they handle each other and how they showed respect for each other.”
“I won’t judge how successful I’ve been,” he said, “but at least that’s been my mission, when I was in the House, and it’s been my mission in the Senate.”
Swann also is running for election to a seat to which he was appointed last year.
A question from the students about having the state reimburse them for the cost of Advanced Placement tests if they score three or higher seemed to have support from the local legislators. “I think we could see it happen in the next session,” Swann said.
Tuesday’s panel was just one of a number of events planned during the school year as MHS celebrates the centennial of its first graduating class.
Tickets already are on sale for a gala Sept. 29. “We don’t want it to be just an alumni event,” said Sharon Anglim, director of communications for Maryville City Schools.
“It’s a celebration of 100 years of Maryville High School graduates,” and she hopes community members, current and former teachers and others will attend.
Next month’s speakers at MHS will focus on the history of the music programs.