Of the people....

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

… by the people, for the people. These magical words from the 19th century beautifully describe not only democratic governments, but also the electric cooperatives that took root and grew across the land in the 20th century, and that continue to prosper in the 21st.

The 140 men and women who constitute the 100-member House of Delegates and the 40-member Senate of Virginia convened at noon last month, on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Since then they’ve been, and for about another month they’ll be, considering thousands of proposed changes to the Commonwealth’s laws, including bills that may impact your electric cooperative, your community, or your profession.

As high schoolers know — but we adults often forget — Virginia’s legislature is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Despite long centuries of practice, though, our General Assembly works well only when you and other citizens across the state become and stay interested in the process, involved in the discussions, and invested in the decisions being made on your behalf.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.

— Thomas Jefferson, Virginian, 3rd U.S. President, statesman, philosopher, inventor, architect, farmer and founder of The University of Virginia.

Nestled in the folds of this month’s magazine, you’ll find a guide for Virginia citizens about the General Assembly, its members, the areas they represent, and how to contact them. Virginia’s electric cooperatives are pleased to mark this year as the 25th anniversary of providing this annual guide to cooperative customer-owners.

A request: Please don’t allow the printer’s ink to lie fallow on the fields of paper inside the guide; instead, use the guide’s bounty of information as a tool, to become involved, or to enhance your involvement, in the legislative process. The guide features the information you’ll need to contact your legislators, including phone numbers for their Richmond and home district offices, as well as their mail and email addresses.

Those with computer connectivity will be further aided by going online to the website of the General Assembly, www.virginiageneralassembly.gov, and also by visiting the site of the Virginia Public Access Project, www.vpap.org.

The progress of democracy seems irresistible, because it is the most uniform, the most ancient, and the most permanent tendency which is to be found in history.

— Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th-century French political thinker, historian and author of Democracy in America.

Areas long on land and short on people have always posed challenges for those who live in them. A generation after residents of American cities had electricity, nine out of 10 farm families did not. And large power companies understandably were not interested in serving areas of low density and even lower, or no, profitability. So in rural communities across the U.S. in the 1930s and ’40s, neighbors joined together and formed cooperatively owned utilities, to provide themselves with electric service. Life on the farm, and rural life generally, would never be the same.

The democratic philosophy that helped build humankind’s greatest nation also built its greatest network of rural electrification. Today, over 900 electric cooperatives in 47 states, from Hawaii to Maine, provide reliable, at-cost electric service to more than 40 million Americans, including you and your neighbors.

Virginia’s 13 customer-owned electric cooperatives encourage you to make full and frequent use of the enclosed legislative guide. We hope that you become — and stay — involved in the legislative process, speaking out on issues important to you, your family, your community, and from time to time, your electric cooperative.

In a democracy, the most important thing is not when, or even why or how you become involved — it’s only that you do.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ... that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

— Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President, from the closing passage of his Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863.



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