It is important to have people in your life who will motivate you at a young age to achieve beyond what others might feel is possible. Having someone who believes in you can make a world of difference in life. I am fortunate that I have had many like that who have encouraged me to go above and beyond what even I felt was my greatest potential.
One of those individuals, unfortunately, passed away recently.
Jim Killackey was a longtime Oklahoman reporter who covered education and health-related issues for many years, some of those during the time I was a student at Oklahoma State University. He, indirectly, was one of those who helped encourage me without ever knowing it.
I had the opportunity and the pleasure to serve as a student senator and as the chairman of the Student Government Association Senate during my undergraduate years. In that role, I was a watchdog for my fellow students to ensure they were treated fairly as constituents in the student body. I often disagreed with members of the university administration and was vocal about my feelings. My path crossed Jim’s several times through phone interviews as he covered the student perspectives of what was occurring on campus. His work helped to make sure our voices were heard.
Jim helped inspire my dogged determination to fight for what I believed was right and my faith to trust journalists to report issues and uncover the facts that help protect us all. He made certain that students had their version of the story shared in these articles and that fair coverage was afforded to even those who did not have power or money on their side. Each time he interviewed me, he thanked me for speaking to him so a student voice could be heard in his article.
I never forgot the mark this man made on my professional life. Later on, as a lawmaker, that trust in him led me to work well with Capitol reporters regarding coverage of issues and to even write my own weekly columns to keep people informed about issues. I wish I would have told Jim this, but I am grateful for him making me a better public servant 25 years ago. He inspired me to be more involved and to fight even when the odds are stacked against you. Jim, if you are somewhere up there reading this: “Thank you.”
This week marks my second anniversary with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, and I am thankful that I still have the opportunity to fight for those who need a voice. The encouragement from Jim Killackey to be a voice back then still, to this day, inspires me to work with journalists to share the stories of those we should never ignore: the children of Oklahoma. I am thankful for each and every journalist today who does their due diligence to report on what young people face in our state. When the tale is told, people will listen and demand fairness.