Granite State of Mind, #143: Representatives Hall, State House, Concord
My first exposure to the cathedral where the New Hampshire General Court meets was when I was in high school, part of the YMCA's Youth & Government program. It was a thrill then, some twenty-six years ago, to draft bills and serve on committees and learn about the state's legislative process (back when functioning democracy was a thing). The biggest thrill, though, was having the opportunity to speak to fellow delegates in that classic, beautiful chamber. There are no acoustics like it anywhere - your voice becomes the instrument it was meant to be, rich and full and compelling (depending on your argument, I suppose). One of my most cherished memories is running for governor of the program my junior year in the spring of 1992. I had meant to wait until my senior year, but our district needed a candidate, so we put together a last-minute campaign. That I won was likely because I was suffering from badly impacted wisdom teeth and on a variety of painkillers that kept me from getting too fired up. One of my most cherished memories, and I can barely remember any of it. I'd go back to the House during my UNH days as a student rabblerouser, rousing rabble for education funding and the MLK holiday.
I could wax philosophic here about how fundamentally democratic New Hampshire's legislature is, with 424 representatives and state senators for just over a million people. Or I could talk about the Hall itself, how overpowering the sense of opportunity and responsibility is when you set foot in there. History and future meet in that vast chamber - the state's business has been conducted there for nearly two centuries. And yet there's so much more to be done. And that's what I really want to talk about.
It's been a quarter-century since my time playing at politics in Concord. But I still believe what I believed then - that when we come together in search of practical answers, state government can be a powerful tool for helping people achieve their dreams. That New Hampshire is such a fantastic place because of our entrepreneurs and our educators, and when we invest in our small businesses and our schools, we build a future of opportunity and prosperity for all of New Hampshire's people. The state's leadership has lost sight of that true purpose in service to out-of-state money and rigid ideologies, but it doesn't have to stay that way. We have revolutions every two years at the ballot box, and another is coming up in 2018.
My family is in the eighth year of an eight-year exile, one that's taken us from New Hampshire to Maryland to Washington State. It hasn't been an easy road, with surgeries and growing children and graduate study and military deployments. But it's a road that's finally winding to an end in 2018. We're coming home. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what that means. It means reuniting with family and friends, reconnecting with the places and people and values that are so vital to us. It also means getting back to work.
I don't know yet what that work looks like for me. It might be through non-profit work, it might be through building community, and it might mean showing up on a ballot. I'm open to all kinds of ideas and suggestions and opportunities. What I do know, beyond all doubt, is that we're coming home. And I can't wait.
Be advised. Break's (almost) over.