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The indelible spirit of Vermont

Posted December 22, 2006

Calvin Coolidge once remarked, “Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.”

In 2006, Vermonters put themselves on the national stage in an effort to focus on issues that many in this country are concerned about — one-party rule in Washington and the ongoing Iraq War.

In this issue, we recognize several of the people who have helped to spread the ethos of Vermont abroad.

From the impeachment shots that were heard around the world thanks to Newfane Selectman Dan DeWalt to Marine Sgt. Liam Madden who called on Congress to support the troops by bringing them home, Vermont came to symbolize the ongoing national mood that soured on the Iraq War and the policies pushed by the administration of Pres. George W. Bush.

Vermont was also recognized for making some of the most far-reaching reforms in health care, via Catamount Health, that provides health care coverage for thousands of residents. While AARP gave Gov. Jim Douglas a coveted Impact Award, it was Democrats in the House and Senate who did much of the grunt work. Still, the governor has to be given credit for signing the legislation, rather than vetoing the bill for a second time (he had vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2005).

In a politically-charged year, the nation also turned to Vermont for other reasons: The election of Rep. Bernie Sanders to the U.S. Senate drew the attention, and money, of tens of thousands of people from throughout the country.

The race to be Vermont’s lone voice in the U.S. House also brought national attention from both Democrats and Republicans, and was considered one of the 10 most competitive races in the country. It was also seen as a seat that Republicans could potentially pick up, since it was being vacated by an independent, and Martha Rainville is a popular figure in the state.

However, it was Vermonters who decided to send to Congress Sanders, over a self-made millionaire, and Peter Welch, a Democratic state senator with little statewide name recognition, over Rainville.

And, with the change, they helped to put Democrats in control of both the House and the Senate (since Sanders will caucus with the Democrats). What Democrats do with this newfound, but slim, grip on legislative power remains to be seen.

For sure, Vermonters were loud and clear that they want an end to the Iraq War and have given those clear instructions to Welch, Sanders, and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who will assume chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January.

It’s not revenge that opponents to Bush administration policy want, it’s a halt to the erosion of the separation of powers, and a return to the checks and balances Congress is supposed to represent, especially in the cases of domestic wiretapping and the collection of student names by military contractors that flaunt our constitutional liberties.

It’s the simple notion contained in Coolidge’s quote — patriotism is more than a nod of the head and a “yes, sir.” It means looking out for your liberty and that of others around you.

There is another Coolidge quote — delivered in 1927 as he toured flood-ravaged portions of the state — that speaks volumes to the spirit of Vermonters to endure, and thrive.
“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.”

Here in Vermont, as in communities around the country, we are looking to restore faith and liberty in this country, and the will of the people is not something that should not be ignored, thwarted, or denied.