(Host) Vermont and its citizens are
unique in the universe; everybody recognizes that. Writer and storyteller
Willem Lange thinks that Calvin Coolidge said it best.
1928 President and Mrs. Coolidge toured Vermont by train to see the
efforts at recovery from the disastrous flood the year before. On September 21, standing on the rear
platform of his train in Bennington, he looked at the crowd
in overalls and gingham who’d come out to see him, and became uncharacteristically
emotional. Grace Coolidge later said she was sure he had nothing specific
planned; but he gave a short speech whose last sentence is preserved in marble
in the Hall of Inscriptions at the State Capitol: If the spirit of liberty
should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions
should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by
the people of this brave little state of Vermont.
think I know just how he felt. Mother and I’ve lived here only about five
years now, and I’m just beginning to appreciate the uniqueness of the state.
some ways, Vermont is a lot like Texas: Both were once
independent republics; each, with considerable justification, considers itself
unique. Both have occasionally sported license plates warning, "Don’t
mess with us!" But while Texas seems to cling to the
cowboy values of the 19th century, Vermont, with about two percent
of Texas’ population, seems to
be venturing into the unknown territory of the 21st.
the healthiest state in the Union, and the best
educated. It’s the least religious, probably because of the
unpredictability of its climate. It has one of the lowest percentages of
uninsured citizens. Other states in my experience – mostly to the east of
us – seem to regard new ideas with hostility: If it were a good idea, we’d’ve
had it 200 years ago. Vermonters seem to say, "Well, it sounds a little
odd. But let’s try it; doesn’t work out, we can always repeal it."
And with only about 600,000 people (and shrinking), we can! The current
debate over the Death With Dignity bill is a perfect example.
some of us may think of our unique Act 250, it’s responsible for a lot of the
preserved natural beauty of the Green Mountain State. We have no
billboards, and have only to drive through Ohio to appreciate how great
farms are sprouting quietly all around Vermont. Gay marriage is
an accepted fact of life; even those who object to it seem content to wait and
see if it’ll work. We’re exploring statewide single-payer health care,
with the goal of improving our own system and demonstrating to other, skeptical
states that it can work. Maybe it can’t – there are many skeptics – but
at least we’re working on it. Calvin Coolidge was right: This is a brave
Vermont’s motto is "Freedom and
Unity," which I frankly find confusing; somebody had a bad motto day. I
much prefer the alternative that I hear frequently all over the state: "Let’s
get ‘er done!"
is Willem Lange in Montpelier, and I’ve gotta get
back to work.