Stories were shared about Nigh’s experiences. While governor, he periodically conducted trade delegations with China. Once when he visited China, he was supposed to have the Oklahoma flag behind him at a conference. Instead, he spoke in front of a Japanese flag and kimonos. Nigh later asked, “what was the deal with the flag?” As it turns out, there had been a miscommunication and the Chinese thought they were meeting with the governor of Yokahama.
Welcoming an Oklahoma treasure
Former Oklahoma Senator Jim Howell and his wife Diann were there to support and introduce Nigh. “George Nigh is absolutely an Oklahoma treasure,” Howell said, “He authored the piece of legislation that made ‘Oklahoma’ the state song.”
Nigh thanked Howell for the kind words. “A treasure? I don’t want to contest that,” Nigh said, “I’m just glad I’m not a buried treasure.”
Nigh talked about when he was feeling overwhelmed as governor, the then-president of OSU offered him some perspective. “He said to me, ‘when my governor is down, my state’s down,’” Nigh said, “That was the best advice I’d ever received.”
“I’m not a lawyer,” Nigh said, “but I did go to law school. I lasted six weeks.”
While politicians don’t practice law, they write legislation that can eventually become law.
When you’re a professional politician
Nigh defended the position of professional politicians. “A politician? He’s got to be a crook,” Nigh said, “I just want to tell you students, I don’t mind being introduced to you as a politician.” He pointed out how students here want to get an education to be professional in their chosen fields.
“If my car broke down on the way here, who would fix it?” Nigh said, “If my tooth starting hurting and I had to go have it pulled or worked on, who would I have to fill it? If you want a professional banker, insurance agent, dentist; what’s wrong with being professional in government, as long as you do the right things?”
“You can’t be drafted for President of the United States,” Nigh said, “Why wouldn’t you want someone who works at it professionally and does it decently? Why wouldn’t we encourage people to be in government instead of discouraging them?”
The second half of Nigh’s remarks were focused on those who get carried away. That’s where the trouble starts; not just with politicians, but all professions.
“Don’t get carried away,” Nigh said, “That’s one of the big problems today.” Despite what some politicians think, they’re not invisible.
Nigh emphasized the need for professional politicians to exercise judgment. “It’s not wrong to change a law,” Nigh said, “Sometimes laws need to be changed, but don’t change them if they don’t need it.”
The most worthless word in politics was discussed. “Throw out the word ‘compromise’ from politics,” Nigh said, “Replace it with ‘consensus.’ What can we agree on?”
Nigh talked about when a ramp was installed at the Oklahoma governor’s mansion. He compared making buildings accessible for everyone to making higher education accessible for everyone. Colleges such as Rose State are like sensible ramps at a door. They help the highest number of people get where they need to go.
“As you celebrate Law Day, think about justice for others,” Nigh said, “Go Rose State. Go Rotary. Now, go home.”