Friday, October 29, 2010

“Jefferson Jamboree”


c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(10-10)



It was a beautiful autumn day on the Chardon Square. Dutifully, I carried my digital camera, and reporter’s notebook.

Falling leaves filled the air with seasonal color. But I focused on the task at hand. A new political story was about to unfold.

Local residents had gathered for an event that would celebrate the life and philosophy of America’s third president – ‘The Jefferson Jamboree.’

With festive flair, the gazebo had been decorated in red, white and blue. Local celebrity Carrie Hamglaze served as the Master of Ceremonies. She bowed gracefully before the crowd, tipping her red hat with a sense of drama. Then she formally opened the proceedings.

“I would like to welcome you all!” she shouted. “Today, many of our neighbors and friends will honor Thomas Jefferson by speaking his words, aloud. Though he may not have been from Geauga County, I believe his outlook and wisdom reflected the sort of spirit we have here at home, today!”

Applause resounded across the square.

“With that in mind, let me offer the first quote.” she continued. “Ahem… A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.”

The crowd cheered enthusiastically!

Ezekiel Byler-Gregg was next on stage. He held a tattered Gadsden Flag in his hands.
“Every citizen should be a soldier,” he said. “This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.”

More applause resounded. The crowd was transfixed by Jefferson’s words.

Performance artist Lodi Preen came next in the procession. He sang out like a nautical horn, offering courage to the group. “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

Raucous agreement echoed from one end of the square to the other.

Councilman Matt Di Silva followed the journalist. He wore the traditional uniform of a soldier from the revolutionary period.

“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes,” he observed. “A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”

Wild whoops reverberated from the crowd.

Local cheerleader Sarah Skaleski skipped forward without hesitation.

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government,” she squealed.

Thunderous applause filled the air.

In her wake, poet and author Christa Fleck approached the microphone with a smile. She adjusted her thick-rimmed glasses, then offered her bit of prose in a whisper.

“Determine never to be idle,” she said. “No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”

The audience agreed with enthusiasm.

Next came floral designer Rhonda Reale. She clasped a bouquet of multicolored roses. “I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it,” she squawked.

Gasps cascaded into silence.

Hamglaze choked on her breath. She whispered in Reale’s ear. “This event is sponsored by a group of local newspapers. Couldn’t you think of something more appropriate?”

Reale trembled with embarrassment. “Ummm… sorry, friends. Could I have a do-over?”
Everyone on the gazebo struggled to regain their composure.

Following an unplanned interlude, local personality Roone Fern of the long-lost Geauga Times Leader appeared with a folder of vintage scribbling. After a polite pause to clear his throat, he intoned a bit of Jefferson wisdom that was familiar to everyone.

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves,” he said. “And if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”

Feeling revived, the group applauded.

Retired constable Carl Bernardi was next. He cradled the microphone in his hands while speaking. “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

A boisterous mood overtook the crowd. Everyone seemed ready for some sort of dramatic conclusion.

Without warning, Hamglaze looked in my direction.

“Well then, do you have a quote from our hero to finish this celebration, Rodney?” she asked.

“What?” I stammered. My notebook fell in the grass.

“Certainly you must have a favorite Jefferson saying to offer,” she said with a grin. “Step forward, and let us hear it!”

I felt stunned. “Well, as a matter of fact…”

“Come on!” she insisted.

The audience grew restless. “Rodney! Rodney! Rodney!!”

I took a deep breath. It was difficult to see.

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive!” I shouted.

Howls of joy filled the air.

“Amen!” Hamglaze proclaimed with glee.

“Amen!” everyone repeated. “Amen, amen, amen!”

Feeling shy, I returned to the crowd as Hamglaze concluded the event.

“Thank you for coming,” she said. “Now remember all of this on Election Day!”

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