Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Civic Education Volunteers Appreciation Luncheon
Oct. 23, 2017

Thank you, Mike (Buenger), for the introduction, and thanks to you, Sara (Stiffler), for organizing this event.

Today is a special day because we are here to recognize you -- the dedicated volunteers who share your time and knowledge with the thousands of visitors to the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center each year.

Your knowledge and enthusiasm are appreciated throughout this building by the staff and the justices.

Those of us who work here are so proud of what you do.

Our pride in you is reinforced whenever we come across a tour in progress – or when we receive letters from visitors about their experiences here.

You help the Supreme Court of Ohio fulfill a very important mission – to increase the public’s knowledge of the role and responsibilities of the judicial branch of government.

Many worthwhile organizations have volunteer opportunities available – so, we appreciate your decision to spend your volunteer time helping shine a light on Ohio’s court system and the judicial branch.

We’re gathering here to acknowledge 14 of you.

Eleven (11) have tenures stretching from nine months to 12 years.

Three of you are in training and have been following tours and preparing to lead tours this school year.

Sara told me that your all-volunteer meeting today includes information about the interior and exterior designs of this incredible building, along with:

Our newest exhibit in the Visitor Education Center -- on GPS tracking by law enforcement.

Opportunities to share best practices and tour tips with each other.

And a Statehouse tour so you can help school groups make connections between the two buildings – and related programs, and branches of government.

I also understand that you are having a security briefing. That’s such an important part of your training. The parents and teachers of our visiting students  place the safety of their children in our care.

We must be always mindful of situations that could cause harm to them or any other visitors.

Part of your training will be a “Code Adam Drill” (named for Adam Walsh), which is simple but so important: Make sure you count the number of children at the beginning of a tour -- and count again at the end, and let security know immediately the result of your count.

I enjoy reviewing the data – the numbers – that reflect your work:

For calendar year 2016, guides volunteered approximately 456 hours -- leading tours of the building and the Visitor Education Center.

During the 2016-17 school year, which ended in May, volunteers helped to lead 284 tours for 11,195 visitors.

One of the most rewarding things for me to do is to read the survey comments from teachers whose classes toured the building.

Here are some excerpts this past school year. I will quote each one directly:

“Everyone was so wonderful to us when we arrived! My students loved everything and couldn’t stop talking about it when we got back to school.” 

“This was an amazing experience for our students and for the adults. Our tour guide was fantastic and seemed very in tune to the age of our students, and presented everything right on their level. “
“The interactive nature of the tour was great! We appreciated that everyone we encountered was very welcoming and helpful. THANKS!”

“This field trip is absolutely fantastic! The kids are always engaged in the pre-trip lessons and enjoy their experience there. Thank you!”

“In my 31 years in education probably the best experience my students have had. To listen to the actual Ohio Supreme Court and hear Oral Arguments was extremely valuable.”

“This experience really helped solidify my students' understanding of the judicial branch of government.”

“The tour guides were well-informed, entertaining and very helpful.”

“This was an excellent learning experience for the students. Thank you to all who worked to make it such a pleasure to visit the Ohio Supreme Court.”

That was just a sampling of the feedback we received.
So, thank you all again.

And now, to further show our appreciation, we would like to give you each a pin to wear during your tours.

We thought that a pin depicting our unique building would be a special way to honor you for your time and dedication.

I will call your names, and the year that you first conducted a tour. Come up to the front and Sara will hand you your pint.

From 2017:
Galen Graham
Kate Graham
And Monica Leck

From 2016:
Elise Porter

2015:
Marty Lighttiser
Karen Saffle
And Phil Smith

2013:
Susan Voorhees-Murphy
Also, Patricia Davidson, who started in 2013, couldn’t be with us today.

2012:
Paul Braunsdorf
Catherine Stroup

2011:
Dan Bennington
And David Binkovitz

And the guide who has been with us for 12 years, from the inception of the Visitor Education Center in  2005: Toba Feldman

Have a great meeting this afternoon.

Thanks to everyone -- and here’s to another successful tour season!

May God Bless.