The hope of spring, the hope for justice

The wheels of government turn slowly, but patience and perseverance can be valuable

PUTNEY — While the early bird does get the worm, it's also true that, often, the second mouse gets the cheese. So, being first isn't always optimum, and taking one's time can have its own benefits.

We like to think that way in the Legislature as our state constitution provides for a long, deliberate process before an idea becomes law. That can be frustrating for some, especially in our instant-gratification culture.

But I liken it to the slow food movement. Good things take time.

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With the Legislature nearing the halfway mark of the 18-week session, our process has produced some news that's worth sharing.

There's the basic nuts-and-bolts stuff we work on that helps keep things running, like keeping our roads and bridges passable or making sure the Dummerston branch of the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles stays open so we have a local office.

And then there's the other basics, such as health care, education, agriculture, housing, and commerce.

While the lens of Covid is hard to ignore in whatever bill we're looking at, we hope that we're gaining on Covid and that we can look ahead with climate and racial/social justice also on our priority list.

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On a larger scale, we have also set our future course for the state by passing proposals to amend our state constitution.

Proposal 2 clarifies our constitution's language on slavery and helps provide for a more-welcoming environ to Vermonters of color descended from Africans forcibly enslaved.

Along with that, Proposal 5 clarifies support for reproductive freedom. We want to show the country that little old Vermont can lead on ensuring access to reproductive health care options so others can follow our path rather than the lead of states like Texas, Florida, or Mississippi.

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That said, some will be frustrated that a particular bill hasn't moved, and there's little comfort in the realities that a part-time Legislature can't get to everything we might want to in an 18-week session.

Or there's little consolation in the advice of Calvin Coolidge in his famous quote: Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

But patience and perseverance can be valuable and often pay off, as for that second mouse who gets the cheese.

Former State Rep. Ron Squires of Guilford was an example of leadership and patience, even if he didn't live to enjoy the fruits of the law he got passed.

When I meet with students, I share his lesson on leadership and on justice, about how when he was in the Legislature in 1992 he got the law on discrimination to include LGBTQ Vermonters.

Several years later, in 2000, Vermont passed civil unions and then, in 2009, full marriage equality. That arc of justice took many years.

But among those who persevered was a lawyer named Beth Robinson. She argued the case for civil unions before the Vermont Supreme Court and won. Later, she was appointed to that same Vermont Supreme Court by Gov. Peter Shumlin. She has subsequently been appointed by President Joe Biden to the federal bench.

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The struggle for justice is, and always will be, one of the oldest stories humans tell. It's one of the reminders I take from the Jewish ritual of the Passover Seder, as the stories of seeking justice from the Haggada are interspersed throughout the meal.

And every year we are reminded of the need to stay the course, to keep working for justice, and to have faith - just like believing on the coldest of winter days that spring is really coming.

These mornings it's noticeable that the light is arriving a little earlier and staying a little later in the afternoons. More light is a good thing in my book, as I start to put my garden seeds in starter mix.

The hope of spring is hard to ignore, as is the hope for justice.

And I'll vote for more light and more justice any day.

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