Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Signs of better times ahead?

Canary in a Coal Mine
In our backyard there is a large crane that looms over a lumber yard. I've written about it before here. During the last half of 2008, as the economy tanked and the newscasts, newspapers and coffee shops were full of reports of hard times, the lumber yard seemed to be barely chugging along. There were long periods of time when there was very little wood stacked in piles waiting to become plywood--but things started to change late last week.

From my early morning perch at the dining room table with my coffee and laptop, I could hear noises and see lights coming from the lumber yard and it is continuing. There seems to be a constant stream of trucks being unloaded of their 20 tons of wood by the big green crane. This could be a hopeful economic sign. The loggers are able to sell the wood, the gas prices are down for the haulers and the plywood is on its way to Home Depot.

For the People of Maine
Another hopeful sign occurred yesterday as Janet Mills, a woman who I am very proud to call a friend, was sworn in as Maine's first female attorney general. For many years, she was right beside me, protecting me through some of the hardest times of my life and now, the whole state will have the benefit of representation by this brilliant and courageous woman. Here is an excerpt from her remarks yesterday:

I am from the foothills of Western Maine, a place where we look up to the mountains and where we look down and across onto the cities in the lowlands, where the sunsets are bright, snow aplenty, and the soil is still good for growing. Where the river bottoms are lined with ocean sand from some ancient glacier deposit, where there are four definite seasons... seasons of swimming, hunting, skiing and planting.

Today, we are in a season of change, regardless of the calendar, here and in our nation's capital, we are moving the goals, challenging the agenda, taking new roads.

The road I take is one that will open opportunities for every girl growing up in this state who once had dreams but who had to put them aside.

I ran for office because I believed I was the most qualified person for the job. And I hope that history proves it so.

I also ran for every Maine woman and girl who grows up in the shadows of Margaret Chase Smith and who seeks opportunity in this state.

I stand here on behalf of children like my 6-year old niece Julia, who will grow up competing on an equal footing with her wonderful brother Anthony.

Julia, don't ever let anyone tell you can't compete, with friends, classmates, and others, regardless of where they are from, regardless of the color of their skin, their race, their religion, their gender, orientation or beliefs.

Julia, dear, today we begin to color outside the lines. We are changing the lines, and redrawing the lines. Not cutting corners, but improving the road, expanding the landscape, like an Aroostook County sunrise enlarges the horizon.

We are changing something about what is 'normal,' about what is expected and of whom it is expected, here and around our country.

I know that whatever I am able to achieve in this position will be not because of who I am but because of what I do.

Today I begin what I have referred to fondly and with some anticipation, as running the largest law firm in the State of Maine.

Today I begin the job of litigating, negotiating, arbitrating, mitigating,--the job of resolving differences, of defending the people, of heading up a team of men and women who will represent the face of

Maine people in the courts and in the public eye.

And we will do so with integrity and with honor,--to hold the beams and trusses of government sturdy against strong winds.

Much of what we will do will not be heard or heralded. There will be few victory speeches; for the lives that are not lost; for the businesses and consumers made whole; for the workers returned to a job; for the child no longer abused; for the tribal member whose voice is heard; or for a citizen not denied due process.

This will be our quiet work of solving problems diligently before they are known,

Not because they are known.

And if we may touch one life and make it better, if I may change, the course of the state in some small way, if we can make people feel just a bit better about living and working in our state. If I can make that difference, I will count my career, my life, a success, without more.

And I will always count myself so lucky to be standing here today, in this historic Chamber, in the cross beams, if not the cross hairs, of the three branches of government, taking the oath of my predecessors before this most distinguished audience.

Thank you.


Weather Boy said...

The Mills family is ramarkable. Her mother (I think), Kate Mills, was my high school English teacher. A great teacher. I saw her about a year ago, and she still remembered who I was, twenty-one years after last seeing me. She was in her eighties, at least, and as spry as ever. A great lady, too.

My favorite part of the Janet Mills swearing in was where she was talking about the historic nature of her gaining the office, leading us to believe she was talking about being a woman. Then she hits you with the punchline (I paraphrase): yes, I am the first attorney general from Franklin County.

Good luck, Janet.

Sharon said...

Great thoughts from your friend, Beth!! Will be supporting her in prayer for strength, wisdom and protection as she serves.

On a side note, our local news showed our state house swearing in ceremony - just a camera shot of the group - SO MANY WOMEN who had brought their children...and the children's hands were also raised a the swearing in - a great maternal touch to our capitol relic and our future....;)

Auntie Maine said...

NIce Beth, as always. If we think along positive lines, we are better off than if we sank with the tide. Mom

Beth said...

Weatherboy, That was Janet's mother. She is 92 now. It's a very remarkable family--they are all brilliant--it must be fun around the table at Thanksgiving.

Sharon, it is amazing isn't it. The world has opened up in opportunities for everyone.

Auntie Maine, thanks mom, positive thinking is the what you taught me.

Carey's Corner said...

Hi Beth, interesting read. I was driving through San Antonio with mom and we were in the area where you lived. She fondly reminisced about your visits. Her eyesight continues to diminish, but her mind remains sharp. Quite a remarkable lady, just like your mom.

June said...

Sometimes, in all the fuss, I lose track of the way opportunities for women have been improving ever since I broke the gender barrier and became the first girl crossing guard near Mohawk School in Scotia, New York in 1946. My mother aided me in my quest and our wise (and handsome) grade school principal whose first name was Morris and whose last name I have lost granted me the chance. I have been interested in women's rights all my life and I loved reading this speech!

Beth said...

Carey, those are good memories for me as well, I'll call you mother tonight. She was always so sweet to me as a new mother in a new city--I don't know if I could have done it without her. After I had Baby #2 in quick succession to Baby #1, she showed up at my house with a car full of meals for a week, diapers for both the new baby and the 18 month old, toys for both kids, clothes for both kids and a smile and generosity as big as Texas. I'll never forget that.

June, what a story and I love the Scotia connection, my husband is from Scotia and while I'm not sure where Mohawk School is, I expect that he does. Thanks for your part in breaking the gender barrier!

Jayne said...

What wonderful remarks. Kudos to her for her accomplishments and for championing the fact that women can achieve anything they set their minds to!

Nan said...

Thanks so much for posting her great, great speech, Beth! Wonderful words.

Barb Hartsook said...

I love your new attorney general's first paragraph... she's an artist, a poet with prose. Reading that along with your settling in with a good book (Water for Elephants is now on my books-to-read list), and your snowed-in-with-family-day post, I think I might want to come to Maine for the winter. It has to be beautiful...

Kathiesbirds said...

Wow, Beth! That's so awesome. Nice speech! I had not heard about this. I smiled at the comment about an Aroostook county sunrise! I've seen a few beauties up there myself! And some magnificent sunsets as well!

troutbirder said...

First time visitor. Very inspiring inaugural. I enjoyd looking over others of your posts. Thanks

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful speech, you must be so proud to call her a friend:)