Well, the voters have spoken. Check that. Some of the voters have spoken.
About 1 in 5 Mainers registered to vote actually took the time to go to the polls and fufill their duty as American citizens to vote. Election Day was a beautiful day in Maine. If you failed to report for duty, what was your excuse for staying home?
It took about 5 minutes to vote Tuesday. Five minutes.
Do you know what pulls me to the polls every Election Day? My uncle Bob motivates me to get over to the polls.
Does he call me and remind me to vote? No.
Does he e-mail me? Nope.
Does he come over to see me at work to cajole me? Uh uh.
Actually, I never hear from him. Make that - I have never heard from him.
You see, my uncle, Bob Stone, Staff Sgt., United States Army, 54th Armored Infantry left Lewiston in the early 1940's. Come November 19th of this year, he will have rested peacefully in the American Military Cemetery at St. Avold, France for 60 years.
I can only visualize my uncle's last days on earth. Here's a guy from the quiet mill town of Lewiston, Maine whose principle interest in life was baseball. He's at the tip of the spear, working under General George Patton's 10th Armored Division.
It's cold and snowy on the border of France and Germany. Bone chilling cold. Bob was wounded the day before he died so he probably didn't sleep well. At 4 AM, the order is given to warm up the half-tracks.
They cross the river. As near as I can tell, elements of the 54th might have been the first units into the Fatherland of Germany. Maybe, maybe not. The Fog of War lies heavy on that day.
With artillery, tank and rifle fire raining down around them, they pushed forward. It must have been hell on earth.
And then the round with Bob's name on began its arc toward the grinding half-track. It was a direct hit. His war was over. There was no more noise.
He lies, under a simple white cross, with 11,000 of his buddies beside him. They say it is a beautiful, quiet place.
Think of it.
They never saw a jet plane. They could not imagine that man walked on the moon. Never watched a minute of TV.
Many never knew a wife. Never attended one school play or dance recital. Never took their grandkids for a Dairy Joy.
Uncle Bob and hundreds of thousands of other young men and women sacrificed all so that I could spend five minutes going to vote once or twice a year. From the bridge at Lexington and Concord to the mean streets of Baghdad, they gave us all the chance to determine our own destiny.
I was reminded of all this last Saturday night when I heard of the death of President Reagan and watched a replay of his Farewell Speech of January, 1989. I must admit that the tears flowed as Sue and I listened to these words:
The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the "shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.
And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.
If you can't find the time to vote when you have the opportunity, well, that is your right. I can't criticize you for exercising that freedom. The freedom to "stay home."
But two old sayings come to mind.
"People get the government they deserve." (And how true is that in Maine!)