Selections From The Essential Aiken: A Life in Public Service | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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Selections From The Essential Aiken: A Life in Public Service 

A subject of nationwide discussion today is that of health insurance and hospital insurance. Hospital insurance began in Vermont, and we the people of this state recognize full well that the health of our neighbors as well as of our own families is of vital importance to us.

We recognize that many people who should be getting medical care or hospitalization are not now receiving it. It is also an accepted fact that much improvement could be brought about through cooperative efforts by communities or possibly on a statewide basis.

There may be federal legislation concerning health insurance. Vermont wants no part in any plan which would permit political selection of doctors or the direction of their activities by the government. But we ought to be ready to cooperate either among ourselves, with the people of other states or with the federal government on any plan providing for cooperative and voluntary efforts to promote better health among our citizens.

--from Aiken's Second Inaugural Address, January 5, 1939

There is a definite trend in the United States toward centralization of authority and control of all resources in the national capitol. There is a majority demand by the people, even of our own state, that no industry or group of industries shall be more powerful than government itself. Failure of the state to properly regulate those to whom the right to develop natural resources has been granted will result in absolute federal control if not federal ownership of these resources.

After four years of intimate observation, in spite of the extension of rural lines to over 3000 Vermont farms; in spite of the many substantial rate reductions and in spite of all earnest efforts by the Public Service Commission, I am forced to confess that the steps toward federal control have been more rapid than the steps toward adequate state control of the larger corporations.

--from Aiken's gubernatorial farewell message, January 1941

America faces a crisis. The Democratic Party, swept into power on the wave of the Depression, has now ruled our nation for several years. During this time a large part of the vaunted liberty of our citizens, won at the cost of a century and a half of struggle and sacrifice, has been wiped away. Our children's children have been bonded to pay the costs of inefficiency; small business has been stifled; the ranks of labor have been sundered; confusion has increased, and hope has been largely superseded by despair; for millions, centralized paternalism has supplanted self reliance, and a virtual dictatorship over a hundred thirty million educated and erstwhile free Americans is being seriously proposed and sought.

But there is still in the hearts of the great majority of our citizens a love of liberty that does not die, a desire to bring order out of this confusion, a will to make workable those proposals upon which the spotlight of time focuses our attention as desirable, and the courage to discard the great mass of unworkable or premature theories, dreamed by dreamers and seized upon by opportunists as a vehicle on which they may ride into power.

Ordinarily, patriotic citizens would turn to the Republican Party as a means of combating the insidious changes coming over our form of government, but they are not doing so today. They see no hope in a party offering no constructive policy or program, a party whose leaders are apparently more concerned with controlling the party machinery than in American welfare, a party so torn by internal bickering, hopeless ambitions and lack of direction, as to be in a nearly complete state of demoralization. The body politic of American citizens demands a party of integrity and ability to which it may give allegiance. The Republican Party has a last opportunity -- it may become the grand new Party of America, or it may not.

--open letter from Governor George Aiken to the Republican National Committee, December 4, 1937

As I attended the committee hearings, I looked in vain to see on the witness stand just one of those people upon whom the ultimate safety and future of our country really depends; just one person like the ordinary folks that sent us here to represent them. I looked in vain to hear just one of the common people of America tell his story and give his opinion on this matter which concerns his well-being, his family, his home, and his life.

These people do not own great industrial plants; but without them such plants could never operate. They do not run great insurance companies or banks dealing in securities of foreign countries or foreign corporations, yet without their labors the wealth represented by the money such establishments lend could never have been created. They are ordinary folks to whom a new suit, some new furniture, or college tuition is a big thing; but they are the most important people in the world.

There are plenty of such folks in America. Nearly 50,000,000 of them marched to the polls last November to vote for one of two Presidential candidates, both of whom pledged themselves to keep America out of foreign wars.

The Americans whom we have not seen here are men and women from fields and farm, from the mines, the shops, and the offices from all over our great country.

Perhaps they could not come. I do not think many of them had the money to come. Perhaps they do not belong in this picture anyway. Maybe they do not understand international affairs well enough.

Maybe they cannot see why it is so important to their welfare to have the great corporations of America protected by our soldiers and sailors in their exploitation of the natural resources of other lands. Maybe the common folks of America are just supposed to go on paying for our wars and do most of the dying, as usual.

... Mr. President, the foremost influence in the United States today is fear. I am not proud of this. Wherever we turn, whatever we hear, it is fear, fear, fear. We are the greatest nation in the most protected position, and we are crying 'fear.' This cry of fear did not originate with the common folk of the country. It has been put upon them by those who really do fear, not for their country, not for the lives of our people, but for their dollars.

Unless they can arouse our people to a fighting pitch, unless they can mislead and fool them into a declaration of war, or a war without a declaration, they are going to lose money.

They want the American flag to float triumphantly in battle around the world. But as they envision their flag waving in glory over the oil fields of Asia Minor and the plantations of the East Indies they see on its field of blue not stars but dollar signs. The part being played by some American industrialists and corporate interests in world affairs today should fill our heats with shame.

--George Aiken speaking against the lend-lease bill, February 25, 1941

Yes, the wildflowers have seen the development of the comforts of our so-called civilization. They have seen the forests cut away, cities and villages grow up, roads mad, bogs and marshes drained for agricultural purposes, great reservoirs built, flooding the fertile basins, and with each new development they have suffered.

Constantly pushed back by immigrant people, immigrant animals, and even immigrant plants, many species are making a gallant last stand in the face of extermination. If some of them are to be saved, it must be through the prompt action of our people. We must learn how to propagate and grow all worthwhile species, and the purpose of this book is to others, in plain, nontechnical language, some of the knowledge of wildflower requirements which I have learned."

--Aiken's introduction to his book, Pioneering with Wildflowers, 1933

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Bio:
Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.

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