Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vermont Statehouse Expedition

If I could have taken this particular expedition when I was in elementary school, I know I would have scored better on the exams where we were asked the capitol city of every state. I consistently had trouble remembering the capitol of Vermont, but now that I have been there and actually toured their beautiful Statehouse, I know I would get the answer correctly----it's MONTPELIER!!!! And what a lovely city Montpelier is. It holds the distinction of being the state capitol city with the lowest population number, AND, the only state capitol city that does not have a McDonald's Restaurant in it! The tour book describes the Vermont State House ( www.leg.state.vt.us ) one of the nation's oldest and best preserved state capitols, reflecting the elegance of mid-nineteenth century architecture and decorative art. Although there is a statue of Vermont folk hero Ethan Allen outside the massive front doors of the building, the statuesque figure in the foreground of the photo on the right is not him---it's me.

Although the Vermont Senate Calendar originally called for the session to be over the previous week, they happened to still be in session the day our group visited on May 11. That would account for the fact that the desks in the senate chambers where they met were piled high with papers, each probably representing someone's very important matter of business. ( You will be pleased to know I did not actually sort through any of the papers laid out on each congressman's desk!) Vermont likes to brag about their "citizen legislature", but I didn't want to press my luck( by going through their desk papers), beyond getting my photo made in the chairman's location, holding the gavel used to call the session to order (top photo). Since it was a few minutes before any of the congressmen were seated, my group was allowed to wander around on the same floor as the legislators. I would imagine that when the group actually convenes, visitors are restricted to the balcony seating area. I visited with the one lady who was sitting in the balcony when I was there. She had a bag beside her full of knitting supplies, and was contentedly "tending to her own knitting" before the session started. I asked her if she came there often, and she said "No, this was her first time, and she was curious to see what all went on." Judging from the amount of yarn she had brought with her, she expected to be there awhile!!

I mis-spoke when I said Vermont bragged about its "citizen legislature". If it's true, it's not really bragging! Would you believe our group was able to walk in, unannounced and without an appointment, and chat with the governor!!!???? I took this photo of Vermont Governor, Jim Douglas, as our group visited with him just minutes before the legislature was set to start up. He seemed completely relaxed, not rushed or distracted, and delighted to be able to talk with us! Perhaps his congenial attitude is one of the reasons that he has received more votes than any other person in Vermont history!! He has been elected governor in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008. (He can't run for governor in the coming election, so he joked that he perhaps could get a job as a "Walmart greeter" when his term as governor expires!) A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, he has a long history of service to not only his state's government, but also to his church: He has served as the President of the Vermont Conference of the United Church of Christ.

I had actually met Governor Douglas when I was on a group tour in Vermont back in 2007. Some people in the group were having their spouse take an individual photo of them with the governor. However, since I was traveling alone, I surveyed the crowd for a suitable person to ask to use my camera to take a photo of me with the governor. There seemed to be one man in the crowd who didn't seem to be with anyone in particular, and was not distracted by other conversations going on, so I asked him if he would take my photo with the governor. He kindly obliged, and then handed the camera back to me. I assumed that the man was one of the vendors at the event, so I asked him what company he was representing. He said he was the governor's body guard. You can imagine my embarrassment! That is why when our group was visiting with the governor this time, I jokingly asked Governor Douglas if his bodyguard might take a photo of our group with him. The governor said "No, but his assistant there in the room with him would be happy to do so." So that is how I happen to have this photo of some of our group with this wonderful public servant! We all want to express a big THANK YOU to the governor AND the photographer who so graciously took the picture. In closing, I want to quote Arkansas chaplain Paul Northcut, who wrote an exhortation recently to encourage citizen participation in government: "When we as Christians fail to participate in elections, we are effectively saying that we don't care who our leaders are, and don't care how important issues are decided. How can we be "salt" and "light" when we opt out of such an important societal function? If we truly believe that "righteousness exalts a nation," (Proverbs 14:34) then we will participate in all the ways by which our nation makes decisions, in an effort to create and maintain as Godly a society as we can. In Matthew 22:21, Jesus said give the government what is due them and God what is due Him. That verse and many others command that we be involved in the civil process; and informed, prayerful voting is the least we can do." Likewise, the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders. You can be sure that I have added Governor Jim Douglas to my list of leaders to pray for! Miles of smiles! Tricia-----------------------> For information on Montpelier and other great opportunities in Vermont, click on www.VermontTourismNetwork.com
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