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My Turn: Step up your civic engagement



For the Monitor
Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Today is “Organization Day” at the State House, where newly elected state representatives and state senators select leadership, vote on rules and get sworn in for the 2017-2018 term. It is an honor to be sworn in to a second term in the state Senate, representing the wonderful communities of Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton and Warner.

Part 2, Article 84 of the New Hampshire Constitution provides for our oath taken today, including to “solemnly and sincerely swear and affirm that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all duties incumbent on me as State Senator.” The word “impartially” is particularly important, requiring an impartial service that provides respect and opportunity for everyone. It means advancing a democracy where everyone’s voice matters and everyone deserves respect, whether you are from the lineage of Samuel Adams or your name is Samuel Alicea. And it means expanding opportunity for everyone, not simply the well-connected and wealthy elite.

After the recent election, one political party – the Republican party – controls the New Hampshire State House, the N.H. Senate and the governorship. Will they respect everyone and provide opportunity for everyone? Those in control should remember we live in a constitutional democracy where “even government by the consent of the governed, as in our own Constitution, must be limited in its power to act against its people; so that there may be no interference with the right to worship, or with the security of the home; no arbitrary imposition of pains or penalties by officials high or low; no restrictions on the freedom of men to seek education or work or opportunity of any kind, so that each man may become all he is capable of becoming.” (Robert F. Kennedy, “Day of Affirmation” speech – June 6, 1966).

And those not in control, as well as every citizen, should remember that all of our individual actions and words do matter and do make a difference. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” (Robert F. Kennedy, “Day of Affirmation” speech – June 6, 1966).

In taking this oath today, including to impartial service, I’d also respectfully ask everyone reading this to make a pledge to step up your own civic engagement. Impartial service to everyone requires that the Legislature hear from everyone, not just the regular lobbyists or those of privileged wealth. We need you involved.

To search legislation as well as calendars of hearings, please visit gencourt.state.nh.us.

If you are an activist, get more active. If you are an organizer, get more organized. If you get loud in editorials, on Facebook or at legislative hearings, stay loud and get louder. Now, let’s go do the hard work of democracy, together.

(Dan Feltes is a former legal aid attorney and lives in the South End of Concord.)