Thank you Judge Eustis for the kind introduction and opportunity to be here with you this evening. And thank you to Mrs. Rojee for bringing such a robust civics education program to Medway High.
I am happy to be here to talk a bit about what’s happening on Beacon Hill, what your State Government is doing, and how what you are doing is an integral part.
Let’s begin by thinking about what government is.
The public education that got you from kindergarten to 12th grade has been a government function since the days of Horace Mann. The roads, bridges, or public transportation system that got you here tonight, are part of the infrastructure put in place by your government. The libraries, parks, and recreation facilities that you rely on are government services.
Our public safety systems – police, fire, military, and homeland security – are things we entrust to government.
The clean air and safe drinking water you consume and rely upon is the result of government action at work.
Our prisons and courts administer justice as part of the third branch of government on a daily basis. And health care, public health, and human services are some of the social safety nets provided by your government.
To borrow a line attributed to former United States Representative Barney Frank, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”
And former Vice President Hubert Humphrey reminded us that the moral test of a society is how we look out for those in the dawn in life, the children; and those in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those in the shadows of life: the sick, the needy, and those with differing abilities.
I like to think about government as taming rivers.
How many of you have heard of or been out to in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Arizona and Nevada?
How many of you have heard of or been to Las Vegas?
Ah, more hands. Well you were in the neighborhood.
The Colorado River runs a 1,400 mile course from the snow-laden Rockies in Colorado and Wyoming and drains 1/12th of the total land area of the contiguous United States. Up until 1935, it often rose above its banks and flooded hundreds of square miles along its border. It would annually flood and pour unchecked into the valley, destroying farms, homes, communities, and everything in its path. The cycle of flood and drought became untenable and something had to be done to tame the river.
Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power.
Consider that the Colorado River drainage basin includes seven states, and affects water rights for each of them. To figure out what to do, and to make equitable allotments, government, in a public/private partnership with innovators and engineers, provided a solution.
In 1928, Congress passed the Boulder Canyon Project Act and authorized $165 million for construction of a dam.
Built during the Depression, it provided jobs and created a new planned community known as Boulder City. The dam opened on September 30, 1935. With its opening, the flooding and havoc that the old river produced was gone. In fact, Hoover Dam fulfilled the goal of disseminating the once-wild Colorado River and fueled the development of such major cities as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Capable of irrigating 2 million acres, its 17 turbines generate enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes. The dam was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders in 1994. It receives some 7 million visitors annually.
The dam also created Lake Mead, a recreation area that holds 29 million acre feet of water (550 feet deep in some places and 110 miles long). That area draws 10 million visitors annually.
The government tamed that river in a public/private partnership and created one of the great wonders of the world, saved lives, and made that part of the world prosper.
Let’s take a break to study some history. For that, you’ll need a dollar…. Not to pay me, but simply to take it out…… and look at the back.
The reverse of the one-dollar bill incorporates both sides of the Great Seal of the United States – the circles to the left and right of the word “ONE”. Symbolically, the seal reflects the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers wished to pass on to their descendants.
The reverse of the seal on the left features a barren landscape dominated by an unfinished pyramid of 13 steps, topped by the Eye of Providence within a triangle. The “All Seeing Eye” is a representation of The Great Architect of the Universe and is surrounded in a blaze of glory — rays of light.
The pyramid signifies strength and duration, but it’s unfinished. It’s unfinished because this country is meant to be unfinished. We’re meant to keep doing better.
And Notice that the front portion facing you is lighted and the western side is dark. This country was just beginning. We had not begun to explore the West.
Below the pyramid we see, “Novus Ordo Seclorum” “New Order of the Ages”. America was a new idea, a new world order. And note that the first step of the pyramid – its foundation bears the date 1776, the year we declared independence.
Above the eye you see the words Anuit coeptis – which translated means: “Providence Has Favored Our Undertakings.”
The front of the seal on the right features a bald eagle, the national bird and symbol of the United States. Above the eagle is a radiant cluster of 13 stars arranged in a six-pointed star. The eagle’s breast is covered by a shield with 13 stripes that resemble those on the American flag. As on the first US flag, the stars and stripes stand for the 13 original states of the union.
The eagle holds a ribbon in its beak reading “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, a Latin phrase meaning “Out of many, one,” the motto of the United States.
In its left talons the eagle holds 13 arrows, and in its right talons it holds an olive branch with 13 leaves and 13 olives, representing, respectively, the powers of war and peace.
This is a bit of history on the back of a dollar bill. It’s an education that you carry around in your pocket every day. Ad it’s an education you can pass along to others.