Of the People...

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor


Richard Johnstone

… by the people, for the people. Abraham Lincoln wrote these powerful words in the 19th century to capture the essence of democratic governments. As it happens, they also beautifully describe 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 citizen-legislators who constitute the 100-member House of Delegates and the 40-member Senate of Virginia convene at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 11, to begin considering thousands of proposed changes to the Commonwealth’s laws, including bills that may impact your electric cooperative, your community and your profession.

As high schoolers know (but we adults often forget), Virginia’s legislature is the Western Hemisphere’s oldest democratic body in continuous existence. Despite long centuries of practice, though, the General Assembly functions best only when the Commonwealth’s citizens are involved and invested in the decisions that are being made on their behalf.

Which is why you’ll find nestled in the folds of this month’s magazine the Virginia Legislative Guide, which we’ve now published for 28 consecutive years. The 2017 edition of the guide awaits your review and, even more importantly, your usage. This handy publication has a wealth of information on our elected officials, including their district and Richmond office phone numbers, as well as their mail and email addresses.

For additional information about the General Assembly, go online to the legislature’s website,, to the Virginia Public Access Project site,, or to the website of the association that publishes this magazine, (go to “Association Services,” then to “Governmental Affairs,” and then to “Legislative Map”).

Throughout our 80-year history, electric cooperatives have addressed and overcome challenges large and small, by using a grassroots, consumer-friendly approach; after all, our members are also our owners. So please stay informed and involved, and join us as we work with our elected officials in Richmond, seeking reasonable solutions to the complex issues that face us.

We hope you make full and frequent use of the enclosed legislative guide, and that you contact — and stay in touch with — your elected representatives. In a democracy, and also in a member-owned cooperative, it’s not as important when, or why, or even how you stay in touch — only that you do.

Your participation in the democratic process — first by voting, then by sharing your views with your legislators — honors the founders of our nation, as well as the community leaders who formed your electric cooperative. When we vote, we keep our democracy alive; when we share our views, we make our democracy thrive.

President Lincoln’s “new birth of freedom” stands over a century-and-a-half later as more than mere eloquent encouragement to those gathered at Gettysburg on one of our nation’s darkest days. It’s really a pinprick to our collective conscience, reminding us that involvement by all of us — broad and deep, peaceful and purposeful — has always been, and remains, the one sure way that free people remain free. 

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — 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; the closing passage of his Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863.




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