B y Catherine M. Oliverio
The 6th annual Rotary Club Community Dinner highlighted keynote speaker Gov. Peter Shumlin at Green Mountain College’s Withey Hall, Sat., March 26.
Club President Jon Mathewson welcomed a sold-out event after the social hour. He jokingly said, “Jeanne Root is fantastic, but please don’t tell GMC President Paul Fonteyn that she runs the college.”
Lara Bitler delivered the invocation. “The poet and suffragist, Alice Meynell, once said, ‘Happiness is not a matter of events; it depends upon the tides of the mind,’ said Bitler. “When a group of Rotarians make up their minds to get a job done, it happens, practically effortlessly. Thus, happiness is brought about worldwide. We ask blessings of such mindful works. Shalom, Namaste, Amen.”
Poultney School Board Chairperson, MaryJo Teetor, gave special thanks, since the Rotary has raised more than $15,000 for the benefit of the Poultney District schools. The proceeds from this dinner will profit the Poultney High School students.
After dinner, Mathewson introduced Gov. Peter Shumlin, who had a number of anecdotes, one of which he discussed the difference of his hometown of Putney versus Poultney and finally said, “I’m from Poulney.”
Another included his recent disappearance. “The toughest thing was going on vacation,” he said, “I had a better tan from the TV cameras on my way back. That was my first four days off in a year.”
Gov. Shumlin thanked the Rotarians for the acknowledgement of the legislators, as well complimented the kitchen crew that he had lobster on steak.
For the remainder of the evening, he focused on climate change, broadband, marriage quality, health care, infrastructure, renewable energy, agricultural future, budget and funds for students.
Shumlin’s agenda unites what the job entails by creating the jobs and raising the income of those who work the jobs.
“The same money 10 years ago does not cover such things as clothes and gas, since the cost of living is up,” he said. The budget passed the day before, which he feels should make a difference. Shumlin intends continued cuts and is quite excited about getting off the addiction of oil, which equates to a huge economic opportunity.
“Climate change is happening and can make it livable for our children,” said Shumlin. “Our planet is fine, but things within it are a problem.” It boils down to economics, supply and demand, and he emphasized that we need to move to independent, viable resources.
Shumlin said that as a business person the government does not create the jobs, the people do, and the government must make the infrastructure changes.
“The agricultural future is best before us than behind us. We need to make it here and produce and ship from here, as well as do our own manufacturing.”
“We want to grow and expand, and we can. The young people are not coming back unless we change the infrastructure. People migrating to New Hampshire and New York will come back.”
More humor included how he had to text his daughter during dinner and mentioned how our youth will not pick up the house phone, since they feel it’s not for them. We all know how addicted our youth is to texting—the house phone seems only a relic to them.
With healthcare comes a true challenge. Shumlin mentioned how we have quality care, but the problem remains the cost. Whose pocket is it coming out of is small business and the middle class for less and more co-pays. Not to mention the ambiguity of figuring out the bills from health care providers.
Focusing on education, Shumlin said that there remains plenty of jobs but not enough Vermonters to fill them. “We’re missing math, science, computer technology, and engineering and need to break down the silos. Students learn their style and move out of the system to other alternative settings. We need to give them rewards and incentives for staying here.”
Shumlin feels the vision will raise income. “We can do right in Vermont and take on the tough battles.”
Internet and broadband connection will make a huge difference for the education of the state, along with continuing education opportunities to get a piece of the action. “It takes courage and tough choices,” said Shumlin, “Thank you for this opportunity and challenge.”
Questions followed his speech and basically centered upon the young farmers needing infrastructure, speed rail, and the closing of Yankee Power Plant by 2012. Shumlin feels that we can be the first with high speed rail in Vermont, and he said, “There’s plenty of juice on the market at a good price, and we need to remove the renewables in the best interest of Vermont.”
In attendance and supporting Shumlin included Sen. Peg Flory, Sen. Bill Carris, Rep. Andy Donaghy, Rep. Herb Font-Russell, Rep. Bill Canfield, Commissioner of Tourism Megan Smith, Nancy Hay of Fair Haven, John Malcolm of Pawlet, and Commissioner of Health Care Harry Chen.
Special thanks to the Rotary’s generous sponsors: Green Mountain College, Chartwell Food Service, Tot’s Diner, Newmont Slate Company, DeBonis, Wright & Carris, P.C. and Hopson House and B&B.