UVM political scientist Frank Bryan to discuss Leahy's role in American history
Retired UVM political science professor Frank Bryan.

UVM political scientist Frank Bryan to discuss Leahy's role in American history

BRATTLEBORO — According to Robert Putnam, Harvard professor of public policy and author of “Bowling Alone,” retired UVM political scientist Frank Bryan is widely recognized as the world's leading expert on town meetings.

In the words of John McClaughry, founder of the Ethan Allen Institute, Bryan is “a backwoods libertarian, populist decentralist, ox-team logger, occasional deer jacker, junk car collector, great speaker, and full-time real Vermonter.”

On Thursday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m., Brattleboro will have a chance to form its own opinion of this singular Vermont scholar when Bryan appears at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) to give a lecture entitled “Small is Beautiful: How America Benefits from Vermont's Senatorial Presence.”

Bryan's lecture is presented in connection with the exhibit “World Leaders & Global Citizens: Photographs by Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator,” which is on view at BMAC through March 7.

Admission is $5 at the door, free for BMAC members and youth 18 and under.

“While the United States Senate is certainly not democratic in the sense that each American citizen's voice is equal in its chamber,” writes Bryan, “Vermont's magnified presence there has contributed greatly to the national enterprise. Senator Leahy's long and distinguished career represents the continuing importance of federalism in American political life."

Frank Bryan retired in 2013 as the John G. McCollough chair of political science at the University of Vermont, where he taught for 36 years.

He is the author of scores of scholarly and general interest publications, including “Yankee Politics in Rural Vermont” (The University Press of New England, 1974) and “Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How it Works” (University of Chicago Press, 2004).

However, Bryan's most widely read effort may be “Real Vermonters Don't Milk Goats” (The New England Press, 1983), which he co-authored with Bill Mares. It contains such insights as, “Real Vermonters don't wear bib overalls. They don't tie sweaters around their necks. They wear hats when it's cold, even if they have wavy hair.”

With a characteristic lack of pretension, Bryan told the Burlington Free Press, “It's short, there's cartoons, [and] you can read it in an hour."

“World Leaders & Global Citizens: Photographs by Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator” opened at BMAC on Nov. 1, 2014. The exhibit marks the 40th anniversary of Leahy's first election to the U.S. Senate.

Born blind in one eye, Leahy, the son of a printer in Montpelier, realized at an early age that “photography, like reading, was something I could do. You only need one eye.”

His earliest photographs were taken with a Hopalong Cassidy box camera he received as a gift from his parents. Today, the seven-term senator is rarely seen without a camera slung over his shoulder.

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