Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Tale of a New Sagamore

Dear Friends and Family,

This started out as a lengthy email. I decided to post it as a blog, so I could include some photos and links without overwhelming your inboxes.

Our daughter Sarah joined the staff of then Indiana governor Frank O'Bannon as a "Governor's Fellow" shortly after she graduated from Indiana University in 2003.

2003-2004 Governor's Fellows (L-R) Aaron Smith- Indiana Univeristy; Stacey Martindale, Indiana University; Sarah Johnston, Indiana University; Emily Jones, Purdue University and Matthew Ewing, Indiana University (from )

Posted by Hello

Sarah and the other Fellows (and most of us Hoosiers) were shocked and saddened by Governor O'Bannon's untimely death in September, 2003. Joe Kernan, the Lieutenant Governor under Gov. O'Bannon, was sworn in as Governor, and the state moved forward under new leadership.

The Fellows with Governor Kernan. Posted by Hello

Joe Kernan is a native of South Bend, Indiana. He was a Navy pilot in Viet Nam and was shot down in 1972 and spent 11 months in a POW camp. After repatriation, he completing his service and returned home. After several years in business, he entered public service as the controller of South Bend. He served three terms as mayor of South Bend before being elected Lt. Governor in 1996 alongside Frank O'Bannon. He is a man of tremendous character and integrity. I'm delighted that my daughter had the opportunity to serve under him.

A sidebar: One of Governor Kernan's first official acts was to nominate Kathy Davis as the new Lieutenant Governor. Lt. Gov. Davis had a degree in engineering from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. She originally came to Indiana to work at Columbus-based Cummins Engine Company in the 1980's and later gravitated to public service. We saw this as one more affirmation of the innate intelligence found in the midwest: In the same month that California elected a swaggering body-builder as their new governor, Indiana's General Assembly unanimously confirmed one of the most intelligent, articulate people you'd ever want to meet as Lieutenant Governor. Sorry, California. We got the better deal!

Governor Kernan initially said he would not seek reelection, but after several months in office, changed his mind and announced his candidacy. The Fellows cheered...along with a lot of Hoosiers. In her off-hours, Sarah was an active campaigner for the Kernan/Davis ticket. But during business hours, she was rigidly non-partisan. As interested bystanders, we were impressed by the message that was drilled into the consciousness of the state government staff by the Governor: "We are here to serve all citizens of Indiana, regardless of their political affiliation. Don't forget!" Our discussions with Sarah's friends and colleagues confirmed that this was part of their DNA. Even in the midst of a contentious election year, they embraced and lived out their mission to serve all Hoosiers.
Unfortunately, Joe lost the election, and this coming Sunday will be his last day in office.

For the past several months, Sarah has been working in the Governor's Residence, a beautiful home and meeting center in a fine old Indianapolis neighborhood. Her final assignment as a Fellow was as an assistant to Maggie Kernan, our First Lady. This past summer, after she completed her year as a Fellow, Sarah was selected to be the first Director of Mentor Indiana, a program initiated by Mrs. Kernan to recruit 1,000 adult volunteers to mentor disadvantaged middle school students. I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Kernan when she and Sarah visited Columbus to recruit volunteers.

Sarah, Mrs. Kernan, and me in Columbus. Posted by Hello

I volunteered, of course.

Earlier this week, Sarah was working at home (her office in the residence was being transferred to a new building as part of the transition to a new governor, and her car was in the shop), when she got a phone call from the Governor's office asking her if she could come in, right now. This alarmed Sarah. She worried that, like many of her cohorts in government, she was about to get the axe as part of the regime change. She was quickly reassured -- "This is a good thing." When she said she'd have to take a cab, they replied, "We'll send a car for you". So she changed out of her jeans and waited for the ride...wondering what was going to happen next.

When she arrived at the Governor's residence, she was shown into one of the meeting rooms where the Governor, the First Lady, and a group of staff members had gathered. The governor called her to the front of the room and presented her with a certificate naming her a "Sagamore of the Wabash". The term "sagamore" was used by the American Indian Tribes of the northeastern United States to describe a lesser chief or a great man among the tribe to whom the true chief would look for wisdom and advice.

The official proclamation. Posted by Hello

The text of the certificate reads as follows:

State of Indiana
Council of the Sagamores of the Wabash

Joseph E. Kernan
Governor of the State of Indiana
Know All Men by These Presents:

WHEAREAS, the Greatness of the Sons and Daughters of Indiana derives, in part, from qualities possessed by the noble Chieftains of the Indiana Tribes which once roamed its domain; and

WHEREAS, it has been the immemorial custom of the State of Indiana to attract to its support those who have exhibited such qualities; and

WHEREAS, there has endeared herself to the Citizens of Indiana, one

Sarah Johnston

distinguished by her Humanity in Living, her Loyalty in Friendship, her
Wisdom in Council, and her Inspiration in Leadership:

NOW, THEREFORE, recognizing her greatness and desiring to avail myself of her counsel, I do hereby appoint her a Chieftain upon my Staff with the rank and title of


WITNESS my hand and Seal of the Council of the Sagamores, at Indianapolis, Indiana, this the Ninth day of January, in the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Five.

Joseph E. Kernan
Governor of the State of Indiana

We just thought you'd like to know that we have a Chieftain in our family.
Congratulations, Sarah!

Mike/Pop & Mary/Mama


Anonymous said...

The week has been long in South Florida--school out until the 10th, a lot of crap at work, little or no time for the private side of lives we live too publicly. So I'm up late, unwinding and postponing getting Maria out of our bed so I can go to bed--her sleep is all messed up again.

All this is a long-winded preamble to telling you that I got tears of pride in my eyes as I read about your new Sagamore. It feels corny to say "I remember when Sarah was a little kid--but I do. I remember her well. And I am so glad to get to hear this part of the story. Congratulations to her. Cheers to you who helped her raise herself. It is incredibly nice to read something like this tonight and I just wish we could all sit together around some bread and some wine and celebrate. We all love you muchly---Rosa, Sherod and Maria...

Anonymous said...

This heart-warming story brought a few tears for this former Hoosier, too, as I learned more about this truly remarkable young lady's most recent accomplishments and recognition; as well as for the tremendous pride and love shown through her dear Father's words. Here's a virtual hug from Michigan to Mike and Mary for making all of this possible, and a "You Go Girl" to Sarah whose leadership is destined for even greater things!


K said...

Thanks for creating a blog entry, Pop. This way, I can send a link to all of my friends because I have been telling *anyone* that will listen that the Johnston family now has its own Chieftan! I am so proud of my sister, even though she wasted no time bossing me around, calling me and anyone else within earshot her "tribespeople"! I give that kind of talk about 2 more days before I slug the Governor's newest Sagamore.

Anonymous said...

We were so happy to hear about Sarah's award. What an honor! Congratulations to Sarah and her deservingly proud parents! And to top it all off .... she's so beautiful too! We are happy to be your neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Congratulaions from the Archers. You leave Tennessee and then you get famous!!! This is just the beginning of many great things to come. I'm like Rosa - I remember when you were little and used to play dress up with my guys. I never knew a Chieftain was in our presence. What an honor. I wish you luck with law school. It's alweays nice to know a lawyer personally - I may need your services one day.
Congratulations to Mom and Pop, too. See, they really do go on and do great things in spite of us!

Love, Julia, Gene and the gang

Anonymous said...

From what I know of Sarah she is, in addition to being exceptionally intelligent, uncommonly funny, a fantastic writer and a warm-hearted person, eminently deserving of this award.

Congratulations to her and to your family!

-- LeB