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Inside the Statehouse

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Otto Whittaker wrote
the following essay, “I Am
the Nation” in 1955 as a
public relations advertise-
ment for the Norfolk and
Western Railway. The
message found in Mr.
Whittaker’s essay is still
appropriate for this Inde-
pendence Day, so I have
chosen to include it below
as part of my weekly
column.
“I was born on July 4,
1776, and the Declara-
tion of Independence is
my birth certificate. The
bloodlines of the world
run in my veins, because I
offered freedom to the op-
pressed. I am many things
and many people. I am
the Nation.
I am 213 million living
souls – and the ghost of
millions who have lived
and died for me. I am
Nathan Hale and Paul Re-
vere. I stood at Lexington
and fired the shot heard
around the world. I am
Washington, Jefferson,
Patrick Henry. I am John
Paul Jones, the Green
Mountain Boys and Davy
Crockett. I am Lee and
Grant and Abe Lincoln.
I remember the Alamo,
the Maine and Pearl Har-
bor. When freedom called
I answered and stayed un-
til it was over, over there.
I left my heroic dead in
Flanders Fields, on the
rock of Corregidor, on the
bleak slopes of Korea.
I am the Brooklyn
Bridge, the wheat fields
of Kansas and the granite
hills of Vermont. I am the
coalfields of the Virginias
and Pennsylvania, the
fertile lands of the West,
the Golden Gate and the
Grand Canyon. I am
Independence Hall, the
Monitor and Merrimac. I
am big. I sprawl from the
Atlantic to the Pacific –
my arms reach out to em-
brace Alaska and Hawaii
– 3 million square miles
throbbing with industry. I am more than 5 million
farms. I am forest, field,
mountain and desert. I am
quiet villages – and cities
that never sleep.
You can look at me and
see Ben Franklin walking
down the streets of Phila-
delphia with his bread loaf
under his arm. You can
see Betsy Ross with her
needle. You can see the
lights of Christmas, and
hear the strains of “Auld
Lang Syne” as the calen-
dar turns.
I am Babe Ruth and
the World Series. I am
schools and colleges, and
churches where my people
worship God as they
think best. I am a ballot
dropped in a box, the roar
of a crowd in a stadium
and the voice of a choir in
a cathedral. I am an edito-
rial in a newspaper and a
letter to a congressman.
I am Eli Whitney and
Stephen Foster. I am Tom
Edison, Albert Einstein
and Billy Graham. I am
Horace Greeley, Will Rog-
ers and the Wright broth-
ers. I am George Wash-
ington Carver, Jonas Salk
and Martin Luther King.
I am Longfellow, Har-
riet Beecher Stowe, Walt
Whitman and Thomas
Paine.”
Today, we have Donald
Trump. Our current
President is the most
unbridled and shoot from
the hip President I have
witnessed in my lifetime.
He is amazingly similar to
Alabama’s most colorful
and uninhibited governor,
Big Jim Folsom. Similar
to Folsom, Trump has a
childlike disrespect for
decorum.
Recently, Trump was
making a speech that
someone had written for
him. He read to a large
audience, “This 2018 elec-
tion is as important as the
2016 election.” He paused
and said, “I don’t know
who wrote that. I don’t know that I really believe
that, and I don’t think y’all
think I do either.”
Similarly, Big Jim
Folsom in his day was to
address the American Tex-
tile Association meeting,
which was being held in
Montgomery. At that time
Textiles was Alabama’s
largest industry. Ole Big
Jim had been in Mobile
for a week on a fishing
expedition with some of
his buddies. As Governor
Big Jim was to give a
welcoming speech to the
Textile executives and
dignitaries from through-
out the country, the state
troopers drove Big Jim
hurriedly from Mobile to
Montgomery. As he was
getting out of the car to
walk into the hotel to give
his welcoming speech,
an aide handed him the
speech to give, which Big
Jim had not seen.
He got up and started
reading the speech and it
was full of all kind of sta-
tistics. He read, “Alabama
has over 200,000 people
employed in the textile
industry. It accounts for
one out of every four jobs.
We are the second leading
textile state in America.”
Big Jim paused in child-
like amazement with his
mouth wide open and
blared out in a loud and
astonishing voice, “I’ll be
doggone, I didn’t know
that!”
Have a safe and happy
Independence Day. We
will continue next week
with the sagas of Alabama
politics.
See you next week.