Interview with 1987 CBS Governor John Maisch

An Interview with 1987 alum JOHN A. MAISCH   June 2017

Image: John Maisch (Right) appearing with Don Wesley and Frank LeMere at Cornhusker Boys’ State 2017

BACKGROUND

John A. Maisch was elected Nebraska Boys State Governor in 1987, representing Bunker Hill. He would represent Boys Nation later that summer. A Grand Island Senior High graduate, Maisch went on to earn a business degree from Midland University (Fremont, Nebraska) in 1992 and law degree from the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1995. Following a year in private practice, Maisch became an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma in 1996. He returned to private practice in 2001, where he focused on commercial real estate transactions. In 2008, Maisch became the General Counsel to the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, where his responsibilities included prosecuting liquor stores and bars that sold alcoholic beverages to minors. He served as the full-time ABLE Commission’s General Counsel until 2012, when he became an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma, a four year, public university with over 16,000 students in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Maisch has been a member of several civic organizations, including the Oklahoma City Downtown Lions Club, where he served as club president in 2000, and the Downtown Rotary Club. He helped draft consumer protection legislation requiring Oklahoma audiologists and hearing aid dealers to provide refunds to the hearing impaired in 2001, and legislation that reformed Oklahoma’s alcoholic beverage laws in 2015. Maisch’s most recent work involved directing and producing a documentary about Whiteclay, Nebraska, an unincorporated town of less than 12 people in northwestern Nebraska. Located 200 yards from the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Whiteclay’s beer stores sold approximately 3.5 million cans of beer per year. The documentary, Sober Indian | Dangerous Indian, premiered at the REEL Recovery Film festival in San Francisco in 2014, and has been screened throughout the United States. The documentary was also screened at a film festival in Cape Town, South Africa.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOYS’ STATE MEMORIES?

A: “My father was a Korean War veteran, so I remember being honored to have been selected to participate in American Legion Boys State. Several Grand Island Senior High School professors played an important role in my election to serve as Boys State Governor: My English professor and debate instructor, Professor Cassey, who helped me sharpen my debate skills, and my economics professor, Professor Watkins, who loaned me a copy of a Milton Friedman book on the school voucher program. I was particularly thankful to my campaign manager, Raj Komenini, who was incredibly encouraging and motivated me to take the high road against my general election opponent, Norfolk’s Cory Barr. Shortly before leaving for Boys State, I remember being inspired by a 60 Minutes segment on a young father from Delaware, Joe Biden, who had successfully run U.S. Senate after the death of his wife. With a few exceptions, such as the proliferation of global terrorism and climate change, I suspect that today’s Boys State senators are debating basically the same topics that we debated 30 years ago. At Boys Nation, I was honored to get to greet President Ronald and Nancy Reagan on the South Lawn of the White House as they prepared to board a helicopter to Camp David. One month later, Nebraska Governor Kay Orr would invite me and the Girls State Governor to join her and President Reagan at a BBQ lunch at a North Platte ranch.”

Q: WHAT IMPACT HAS BOYS’ STATE MADE IN YOUR LIFE?

A: “American Legion Boys State reinforced in me the importance of sacrifice and public service. I chose a career in law, in part, so that I could position myself to serve others, especially those in the dawn, dusk, and shadows of life. Having a legal career has allowed me to serve as a voice to those who often don’t have a voice. I have been particularly grateful for the opportunity to work with another Boys Stater, Native American activist Frank LaMere, over the past five years. Co-starring in my documentary, Mr. LaMere and I have traveled across the country raising awareness about the humanity crisis in Whiteclay. During the past three years, I’ve had the chance to return to Nebraska Boys State to speak about the importance of multiculturalism, social activist. and public service.”

In Memoriam – Alden Johnson

By Aaron Zabawa

“It’s the relationships you make along the way” (In Memoriam)

As a delegate of Boys State 1987, I reluctantly made my way from Norfolk to Lincoln. When we arrived in Lincoln, we were treated to warm greetings, a t-shirt, name-tag, and a hand shake. That was the first time I met Alden Johnson, the Education Director of Boys State. Later, I taught and coached at Lincoln High, where “Aldie” Johnson was a living legend. As Alden ended his career, I was just beginning mine. He was an outstanding trailblazer, leader and coach. Over the years, Alden Johnson and my son Alden Zabawa were frequent buddies at Cornhusker Boys’ State. The Legend and his namesake were often found in the back row sitting together and sharing stories that remain between them. Alden celebrated his 90th birthday this past summer with a surprise party at a golf course here in Lincoln. Alden Zabawa’s mother, sister and I were able to attend, and he later told me how glad he was to see us. As Alden’s health began to decline, my son and I made multiple trips to visit. Late in the evening the night before he passed away, the Johnson family allowed us to visit one last time. We shared a tear together, “rest coach, we got this”. While it is odd for me to look from the stage and not see him sitting in the back row of Kimball Hall, I know he is still with us in the most meaningful of ways. “Face the worst, believe the best, do your most, forget the rest” he would always say or write to me. Okay. It is not goodbye, but so long for now, “rest coach, we got this”.

Coach Alden “Aldie” Johnson (10/4/1926 – 11/17/2016)

Boys’ State Visits the Capitol

An annual tradition at Boys’ State is the Friday trip to the state capitol.  The legislature debates in the Warner chambers, the  judicial branch hears cases behind the bench in the supreme courtroom, and delegates meet senators for a unicameral update.  Additionally, a highlight is exploring the magnificent capitol building and catching a view from the observatory.

     

Outstanding Citizen Medal Winners 2017

Eight Cornhusker Boys’ State delegates were named “Outstanding Citizens” during the 2017 graduation ceremony. The outstanding citizen medal is awarded to one delegate from each boys state town.  This award is particularly special because the winners are selected by a vote of their peers. Congratulations to the winners.

Bunker Hill – Philip Turner of Lincoln (Pius X)

Valley Forge – Riley Knust of Plymouth (Tri County Schools)

Yorktown – Josef Stevens of Norfolk

Gettysburg – Daniel Fu of Omaha (Millard North)

Alamo – Nicholas Koehler of Omaha (Central)

Manila Bay – Jonathan Copley of Offut AFB

Bataan – Noah Keck of Crete

Belleau Wood – Kevin Downs of Kearney

Courts in Session at the Capitol

The Cornhusker Boys’ State Supreme Court was in session in the Nebraska State Supreme Courtroom at the State Capitol.  In order to become a member of the judiciary, a CBS citizen must generally be appointed by the sitting Boys’ State Governor.

Citizens seeking a judicial appointment to either the Supreme Court or one of the two District Courts must appear before a nominating committee, typically comprised of each pair of candidates (Nationalist and Federalist) for high political office who survive the primary election. The nominating committee forwards it recommendations to the Governor for final appointment. Once appointed, members of the judiciary are formally sworn-in by a member of the Nebraska Supreme Court.  In addition, the Cornhusker Boys’ State Supreme Court traditionally participates in a mock case within the dignified courtroom of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

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