33rd Annual Truman Gala
Special VIP Session Featuring Q&A with Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-KS 3)
Welcome from Chairman Paul Wrabec and Master of Ceremonies Joel Nichols
Secretary of State Candidate Yinka Faleti
Sybil Daniels Young Democrat of the Year – Branden Haralson
Organization of the Year – Blue Springs South High School Democrats
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker
Harry Truman Man and Woman of the Year – John “Coach” Comstock and Velda Cook
Attorney General Candidate Rich Finneran
Trivia featuring questions about local and national triumphs and tragedies
Lt. Governor Candidate, Hon. Alissia Canady
Congresswoman Sharice Davids
Vice President Joe Biden
Ronnie DiPasco Public Service Award – Hon. Judy Morgan
State Auditor Nicole Galloway
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver
2020 Senator Ronnie DePasco Public Service Award - Hon. Judy Morgan
Judy Morgan is a proud, life-long resident of Kansas City, Missouri. While attending the University of Missouri at Kansas City, she pursued a career in teaching. In the fall of 1970 Judy began her teaching career and spent the next 29 years as a Social Studies teacher and counselor in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. Judy worked hard for her students and cared deeply about them. She often says that she
learned as much from her students as she taught them.
Having served in various leadership positions in her local union during her teaching career, Judy was elected President of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 691 in 1999. It was a fast-paced and demanding job that involved negotiating contracts, resolving work-related grievances, and keeping abreast of educational issues. After ten years as President of her local union, Judy retired in May 2009.
Judy came out of retirement to run for Missouri State Representative in November 2011 and she has dearly loved representing and serving the constituents of her beloved 24th District. Due to term limits, Judy will not be returning to Jefferson City in January 2021. But she still plans to stay involved in getting Democrats elected and working on behalf of good causes.
Judy married her college sweetheart, Gene Morgan, in July 1970. They are very proud of their only daughter Courtney, son-in-law Roby Baker, and grandchildren Alex and Olivia. And Judy and Gene made another addition to their family in the summer of 2011 – two miniature dachshunds by the names of Dylan and Leo.
2020 Sybil Daniels Young Democrat of the Year Award - Branden Haralson
After the 2016 election concluded, Branden, along with many organizers in the region, got together for drinks in Westport and decided to turn their disappointment into positive action. Thus, Heartland Alliance for Progress was born. The mission of HAP is to rally people-power and resources for progressive causes and candidates. Over the last four years, HAP has hosted almost 100 meetings with speakers and subject matter experts presenting on a variety of pertinent topics like immigration law, civil rights issues, local, state, and federal policy updates, reproductive rights, and healthcare policy, among others. Branden thanks his fellow “HAPpies” for their love and constant encouragement.
An artist first, Branden maintains a robust performance schedule working with many regional and national arts companies. In November 2019, Branden began his job as Director of Government & Community Relations at ArtsKC – Regional Arts Council, allowing him to fuse his passion for music and politics. Prior, he worked for several years in nonprofit advocacy at Nonprofit Connect. He has also volunteered his time with a variety of organizations including Human Rights Campaign – Kansas City, Kansas City Center for Inclusion, Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and Heart of America Young Democrats. Branden lives in the Waldo area with his dog and cat who don’t care how important their father thinks he is—their food bowls need replenishing. His family still resides in Southwest Missouri and love him despite his party affiliation.
2020 Harry S. Truman Award - Velda Cook, John "Coach" Comstock,
One of the most ever-present members of the committee, Velda Cook among the most active and reliable Democrats in the county. Always there with her trusty camera ready to get a shot of the action at every political event, be it a small meet and greet for a first time candidate or a major fundraiser for Gubernatorial candidates, Velda is ready to work any day of the week for the Democratic Party. She has been a long standing committeewoman representing Kansas City's 15th Ward, a member of Freedom, Inc., and has built one of the most extensive email lists around to reach members of the community about policy, events and news. Velda is honored to be named Truman Woman of the Year joining a prestigious list of past winners.
Born in Kansas City just 19 days after Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, John Comstock entered the world at a time when social justice was an issue and would always be a part of his life. A product of the Kansas City Public School system, he graduated from Southwest High School, then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Education from Southwest Missouri State University (today Missouri State University), with a comprehensive degree in Social Science. His love for the social sciences stems back from working with his mother, a school librarian, on the family tree. Knowing that his family can be traced back to John & Pricilla Alden of the Mayflower added a bit more interest around this thing called the “American Experiment.” Teaching and coaching would be his passion throughout his life.
Landing a job with the Shawnee Mission School district, he would teach 31 years full time, most of which was at Shawnee Mission East. Given the opportunity to teach United States History, World Geography and Sociology, he would end his full-time career teaching Psychology. At East, he would build up the Psychology program to not just include teaching standard High School Psychology but would also teach Advanced Placement Psychology and International Baccalaureate Psychology, for over a decade. In 2010, when he took early retirement, he was the Department Chairman for the Social Studies Department at East. After retirement, he could not stay away from the classroom. For the past 10 years he has substituted the district, most of the time in long-term positions, and has taught an array of subjects in all five high schools within the districts. During these years, he would teach Psychology for a short time at Brown Mackie College. Teaching being his passion, he was named to “Who’s Who of American Teachers” three different times. But the greatest joy in teaching is working with students.
The nickname of “Coach” was not given haphazardly. It was given in the 1990s by a group of friends, since he coached both high school swimming and diving as well as having a U.S. Swim summer team in Mission, Kansas. After being 4-year lettermen in swimming, both in high school and college, his attention turned towards coaching as part of his career in education. His coaching spanned close to three decades, which again gave him an opportunity to work with young adults and children. When he retired from The City of Mission Swim Team, Coach had over 200 swimmers from ages five to eighteen. As a high school coach, at Shawnee Mission North, he had several state champions in Kansas including a 4-time Diving All-American state champion in the 1990s. Coach expanded his working with athletes by working as an official. During the spring, you can find him clerking High School track meets for Shawnee Mission as well as referring to Swim & Dive Meets for the district, both during the winter and the spring. In the fall, for over 30 years, he has judged High School Girls Gymnastics for the State of Kansas, and currently is the Judge Interpreter for the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
Beyond sports he continued working with young people. Early in his career he would work with Student Council sponsors as well as being class sponsors from time to time. His love of oration helped him work with the Debate and Forensics squad at East for many years. In this capacity, he was asked to be the Judge’s Coordinator for the National Qualifying Tournament for the East Kansas Debate & Forensics League, which he served for roughly a decade. Outside of school activities and sports, Coach’s work in the community extended further including four years on the NTDF (Neighborhood Tourism Development Fund) Committee, being on the executive board of the Volker Neighborhood Association and currently serving on the Advisory Board for Allied Health at KCK Community College.
His love of teaching in the social sciences has always kept him close to the social justice and political world we live in. In the 1990s, he would be a founding member of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) of KC and served on its executive board This would lead to other possibilities in the 21st Century. During this time, he would help sponsor the first Gay/Straight Alliance in Shawnee Mission at East. He, along with a couple of teachers, would approach the Superintendent of the district, Marge Kaplin, about including the idea of LGBTQ within the district’s non-discrimination clause. At the beginning of the 21st Century, he would become an active member of the County Democratic Circle. His first direct work was on a campaign for the state house seat, trying to elect Terry Norman for that seat. At this same time, a new political club would be formed to support him and LGBTQ issues, which Coach was a founding member. The club was called Kansas City PRIDE Democratic Club and would receive Democratic Club award from JCDC. For over a decade he would be on the club’s executive board, first as Treasurer then as President, having the chance to work alongside individuals both on the County Committee as well as elected officials. It was at this time he would meet his political mentor and ultimately his partner in the 5th Ward, “Dutch” Newman. This would be the start of a strong friendship.
In 2006, Coach ran and won the committeeman’s seat for the 5th Ward, cementing what would be a solid bond with Dutch and would help her continue the fight for the ward, county, and state. Even before he was on the committee, he found himself as a member of the Truman Day Planning Committee, grabbing knowledge of how the committee and even the county worked. As a new committeeman that year, he would be elected to the Executive Board as Treasurer of the County Committee. He has held this position for the past 14 years serving with four Chairmen. During the past 14 years, he also had the chance to serve alongside of Dutch in different political activities including four years on the State Party Committee and on the State Platform Committee.
His feelings about receiving this award is stated as follows, “It is a true honor to receive this award, but the true honor has been in the pleasure and enjoyment of working with so many different people of this party. The true blessing is who you meet in the journey of life and without a doubt I have been blessed.
2020 Harry Wiggins Award for Best Democratic Organization - Blue Springs South High School Democrats