get your feet apart and your arms up in the air: Jumping jacks
are now the state exercise.
Nixon signed House Bill 1603 into law recently. Henceforth
(starting Aug. 28, to get technical) jumping jacks "shall
be known as the official exercise of the state of
was not likely to comment, an aide said. The legislation ended
up on his desk after clearing the state House and Senate last
without any official hoopla — or a photo op, say, of the
governor jumping up and down on the Capitol steps —
supporters exulted in their hard-fought victory.
those supporters over the past six years have been kids at
John J. Pershing Elementary in St. Joseph, Mo. Pershing, the
Missouri-born Army general who led American forces in World
War I, is credited with inventing jumping jacks as a cadet at
the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
also, of course, the namesake of Kansas City, Mo.’s Pershing
Road, which runs along the north side of the National World
War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.
you haven’t been keeping track, the Show-Me State now has
more than two dozen official thingies — "symbols"
is the official term — including state insect (the
honeybee), state aquatic animal (the paddlefish), state grass
(big bluestem) and state dessert (the ice cream cone, which
debuted at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904).
states have their own symbols, but apparently just one besides
Missouri has an official exercise. That would be Maryland,
which officially endorses … walking. Ho-hum.
advance their calisthenics cause, Pershing Elementary students
testified before General Assembly committees and personally
lobbied legislators, handing out buttons and brochures.
was a lot of hard work for those kids, so I think they’ll be
grateful to know that it’s finally happened," said
Pershing fourth-grade teacher Kristy Lorenz.
just couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t see the same
thing they saw."
Rep. Pat Conway, a St. Joseph Democrat who introduced the bill
five times on behalf of the schoolkids, said that what might
have made the difference this year was presenting the
legislation as a way of honoring Pershing and all war
year marks the centennial of the beginning of World War I.
other side of it is, I have six classes of fourth-graders who
know more about the legislative process than probably any kids
their age in the state," Conway said of the tenacious
going to have a very firm grasp of how government works, at
least in Jefferson City."
Ryan Silvey, a Northland Republican, spoke against the jumping
jacks bill during a debate that the St. Joseph fourth-graders
got to see.
said he respected the kids’ efforts. But "I don’t
know that we need to be adding to the statutes as a civics
lesson," he said, unless it’s a "legitimate public
describes himself as "kinda the Grinch of state
symbols." He votes against new ones.
breaking point for him came several years ago when lawmakers
spent an hour debating the designation of a state mushroom.
jumping jacks, at least two Pershing biographies state that
long before the native son of Laclede, Mo., became a general,
he invented a version of jumping jacks. As a West Point cadet
captain in 1885, he used the exercise to haze younger cadets.
was "a champion at deviling plebes," one biographer
not exactly a warm and fuzzy anecdote, but then again, warm
and fuzzy people rarely become top generals. And almost never
do they inspire an official state exercise.