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December 3rd, 2016

Guest Opinion: Reflections On Vermont’s 225th Birthday as a State

By Patrick Leahy
One constant through our history is our independent streak. We also have always prized our privacy. We held out for the Bill of Rights before joining the Union. We value our quality of life, which has led to conflicts with less stringent rules and practices at the federal level and in other states. For instance we have higher environmental standards than other states, but we have had to cope with downwind pollution from other states. We led the way toward marriage equality. This drive to make life better through creativity and hard work has been an element in fostering Vermont’s national leadership on environmental standards and clean energy. Ideas born in Vermont, and courageous leadership, have also greatly benefited the entire nation.

Instead of looking only inward, Vermont has notably and effectively engaged the wider world on key issues affecting us globally, producing leaders and leading movements on such issues as climate change and landmines and sustainability. Ethan Allen blockaded the British at a crucial time, to help us win the Revolutionary War. Vermonters stood out in the Battle of Gettysburg. Vermont’s Ralph Flanders was the first in the U.S. Senate to take on Joe McCarthy. Another, Justin Morrill, one of the greatest political leaders Vermont has ever produced, partnered with President Lincoln to create the Land Grant College program, which married an abundant federal resource – public lands – with his visionary quest for a strong system of higher education in our fledgling nation. A Vermonter filed the very first patent. Vermonters were front and center in the nuclear freeze movement, in opposing U.S. funding of wars in Central America, and in producing presidential candidates like Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders. And it was Vermonters who brought to me the idea for the national organic standards and labeling program, which has helped create a multi-billion-dollar market for Vermont’s and the nation’s farm products.

And though we are among the smallest states, in the Senate we have the same clout as every other state. We punch above our weight. We have used our clout to make life better in Vermont, and to push back against federal efforts to override stronger Vermont standards on such issues as environmental quality and food safety.

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