Eric Greitens is a Jewish American politician, author, and former Navy SEAL currently serving as the 56th Governor of Missouri, since January 2017. At age 42, he is the second youngest incumbent Governor in the United States, after New Hampshire's Chris Sununu. Greitens is Missouri's first Jewish Governor.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Greitens graduated from Parkway North High School before attending Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. After attending the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and earning a PhD, Greitens later became a Lieutenant Commander of the Navy SEAL, serving four tours of duty around the world, commanding an Al-Qaeda targeting cell and earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart among other decorations. Following his military service, Greitens founded The Mission Continues, a non-profit organization serving veterans which he led until 2014. His work led Time Magazine to recognize him on their list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013.
Previously identifying with the Democratic Party, he announced his candidacy for governor as a Republican, campaigning on a platform centered around ethics reform. After defeating three other candidates in the Republican primaries, he faced state Attorney General and former Republican Chris Koster whom he defeated in the general election on November 8, 2016.
Greitens was born on April 10, 1974 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Becky and Rob Greitens.
Greitens attended Parkway North High School and was named a member of the 1995 USA Today All-USA Academic Team. Greitens was an Angier B. Duke Scholar at Duke University where he studied ethics, philosophy, and public policy. After graduating in 1996, he was selected as a Rhodes and Truman Scholar. Greitens attended Lady Margaret Hall, a constituent college of the University of Oxford, where he earned a D.Phil. in development studies in 2000. Some of his photographs appear in the publication Children in War: Community Strategies for Healing.
Greitens is a former Senior Fellow at the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri. In the past, Greitens has taught classes at both the University of Missouri in Columbia and at Washington University in St. Louis.
Greitens attended Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001, after graduating from Oxford. He began Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) and graduated with Class 237 in Coronado, California, in February 2002. Greitens was a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Reserve, and he was deployed four times to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. He served as the commander of a joint special operations task unit, commander of a Mark V Special Operations Craft detachment, and as commander of an al Qaeda targeting cell. Some of his personal military awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
In 2005, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a White House Fellow. As a White House Fellow, Greitens worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and developed a new program to assist with the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina. The program, called the Universities Rebuilding America Partnership (URAP), was a $5.6 million effort to engage architecture and engineering students in the continued effort to rebuild New Orleans. During his time as a White House Fellow, he also co-founded the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Program.
Strength and Compassion is a collection of photographs and essays by Greitens. Published in 2008, it is Greitens' first book, with a foreword by Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina and an introduction by Bobby Muller, co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
Greitens' second book, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL, was published on April 11, 2011, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Heart and the Fist is Greitens' memoir of service, featuring stories of his humanitarian work, his training as a naval officer and SEAL and the military experiences that led him to adopt the paradoxical philosophy that you have to be strong to do good, but you also have to do good to be strong. The book was ranked 10th on the New York Times bestseller list for hard-cover nonfiction in May 2011 and debuted on The St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance Best Sellers list at No. 1 for the week of April 17, 2011. The following year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt also released a young adult edition of The Heart and the Fist titled The Warrior's Heart.
In March 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released Greitens' book Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life. It draws on letters Greitens wrote to a fellow SEAL struggling with PTSD.
As an author and former SEAL, Greitens is represented by the speakers’ bureau Leading Authorities. In 2016, an anonymous attack group charged in a YouTube video that he exaggerated his record and was unduly benefiting from his time in the SEALs; Greitens later debunked the claims in a video he uploaded to his channel. The dispute revealed a widening rift among Navy SEALs, provoked by what leaders and many in the ranks described as rampant commercial and personal exploitation of a brotherhood that once prized discretion.
Governor of Mussouri
On September 26, 2015, Greitens officially announced his candidacy for Governor of Missouri as a Republican.
Greitens won the August 2 Republican primary with 236,250 votes (34.6%), defeating businessman John Brunner's 169,425 (24.8%), Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder's 141,498 (20.7%), and former Speaker Catherine Hanaway's 136,350 (19.9%). Greitens faced Democrat Chris Koster in the general election on November 8, 2016 and won with 51.3% of the vote to Koster's 45.4%.
Greitens assumed office as Governor on January 9, 2017. His first two executive orders banned employees in the executive branch from accepting gifts from lobbyists and froze all new regulations through February 2017. Greitens expressed interest in working with the Missouri legislature to pass Right to Work legislation, which would allow Missouri workers to hold unionized jobs without having to pay any of the cost of union representation. He also remained opposed to accepting the federal Medicaid expansion in Missouri.
On February 6, 2017, Greitens signed a bill into law making Missouri the 28th right-to-work state. In response, unions, who opposed the law, filed a referendum to overturn the law for 2018.
Honors & Awards
On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush personally awarded Greitens the President's Volunteer Service Award outside Air Force One at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, for his work at The Mission Continues.
Greitens was honored with the HOOAH Award, commissioned by the Major George A. Smith Memorial Fund in 2009. Greitens was named the 2010 Reader of the Year by Outside magazine.
In June 2010, Major League Baseball and People Magazine announced Greitens as a winner in People Magazine's All-Stars Among Us competition. He was selected to represent the city of St. Louis and the Cardinals at the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, California.
On May 20, 2012, Greitens was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Tufts University when he gave the commencement speech at the school's 156th commencement. That same year, Greitens received the Bronfman Prize, which recognizes dynamic leaders whose innovation and impact serve as inspiration for the next generations.
In 2014, Fortune Magazine featured Greitens as one of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders. On April 18, 2013, Time magazine named Greitens to its 2013 one hundred Most Influential People in the World.
Greitens has appeared on NBC Nightly News, the Today Show, the Colbert Report, and The Daily Show.