Editorial: Leahy Leaves ‘Unmatched’ Legacy

ANGELO LYNN

Tributes began to flow moments after Senator Patrick Leahy’s historic announcement on Monday that he would retire following the end of his current term in 2022, which it was time, he said, “to lay down. that hammer. It’s time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will carry on this work for our great state. “He paused for a moment that has apparently taken over the last 46 years of his senatorial career, then added quietly : “It’s time to go home.”

His colleague in the Senate, Bernie Sanders, said Leahy was “a dominant figure as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, the Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations Committee … He leaves a unique legacy that will be impossible to match. “.

Vermont’s only congressman Peter Welch said Monday was a “historic and bittersweet day … it’s hard to imagine the United States Senate without Patrick Leahy.” No one has served Vermont so faithfully, so consistently, so honestly, and so fiercely as Patrick. “

Republican Gov. Phil Scott praised Leahy’s “leadership and experience” for guaranteeing so much to the state. “It is because of him and the funding he has secured for our state,” Scott wrote, “that Vermont is able to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before and meet great challenges, from the top. flow and infrastructure to the opioid crisis. We are indebted to him. “

And Lt. Gov. Molly Gray said in a written statement that Leahy was an “inspiration” to her as he “served tirelessly with increasingly rare humility, compassion and commitment to service, to good government. and meeting human needs.Over the past five decades, when at times our nation’s moral compass has wavered, Senator Leahy has stood firm, upholding Vermont’s values ​​and working to ensure that our nation respects and protects those values. From human rights and civil liberties to international engagement and humanitarian aid, Senator Leahy has been the pole star of Vermont and our country.

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Vermont reporters also shared their personal stories and praise for Leahy.

Longtime Rutland Herald columnist David Moats recalled that Leahy was engaged “in the lamination and other compromises that lawmakers have to make to get something done…. Most of the time he’s associated with issues that made a difference to people… Two of the causes Leahy is most proud of are her work to help landmine victims around the world and to curb export landmines. He is also the author of what is known as the Leahy Law, which restricts military assistance to countries guilty of human rights violations.

“Politicians choose which issues they will focus on,” Moats continued. “Leahy had nothing to gain politically by devoting herself to the welfare of children whose legs were torn off. He didn’t pick the issues the big guys with the big money would reward him for… Leahy never revealed much about himself personally, ”added Moats. “Like many politicians, he’s cautious, perhaps timid, relying on the familiar rhetoric of ‘Vermont values’. He uses some unusual interests – his fondness for Batman, his photography – to show that he’s not quite serious… He mentioned in his retirement announcement that as a boy he used to drive his tricycle in the halls of the Statehouse. He hasn’t forgotten this boy.

My brother, Emerson Lynn, longtime editor of St. Albans Messenger and still its columnist, notes that while the impact of Leahy’s influence has been “monumental” for Vermont in terms of pure dollars in the state , its influence is greater at the local level.

“What is little understood or appreciated is that his influence goes far beyond what you read in the newspapers or watch on a screen,” Lynn said. “One of the hallmarks of the Leahy years is the quality of the staff around them and the relationships they have established in every hamlet in Vermont. For half a century, he has insisted on hiring the best and the brightest among us, understanding that progress comes program by program, person by person, layer by layer, and that it cannot be done alone.

“While Mr. Leahy is identified with causes such as banning the export of landmines, presiding over impeachment proceedings, helping the little-known cause of our dairy farmers, defending our freedoms world civil rights and human rights advocacy, “Lynn continued,” the real work, the very essence of a senator’s existence, is done at the local level, through his or her staff. Everyday…. Mr. Leahy and his staff, for example, are tasked with setting up an eight-person immigration office in St. Albans and expanding it to a service that ultimately employed over a thousand people. People have no idea of ​​its influence in each of our towns and villages. They couldn’t know. It happens in ways big and small, with programs unknown and programs involving countless thousands of people, like the SNAP program or the fight for the health of Lake Champlain. Suffice to say, yes, it is always healthy in a democracy to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders, but, in Mr Leahy’s case, it is also important to recognize the massive contribution he and his staff have made. . … It’s almost mathematically impossible for Vermont to relive the kind of seniority we have now; we should be grateful … for the leadership that Mr. Leahy provided.

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From my perspective, journalists in Vermont are privileged to have such close personal access to our congressional and state leaders. Over the past 37 years that I have written editorials for the Addison Independent, Senator Leahy has been this constant voice of reason and direction; a trusted source at the national level, to sort fact from fiction. When he voted against the invasion of Iraq, because, as he said, he had read all the information and came to the conclusion that there were no weapons of mass destruction like President George W. Bush claimed it, one could believe it. When he shares his perspective on the issues and the politics around them, it is always to expand your knowledge and create a better sense of understanding, not to undermine or discredit opponents. His early career as a Chittenden County District Attorney and his legal training instilled in him a sense of justice and fair play that prevails over current politics. In a nutshell, his integrity was the touchstone of truth upon which Vermonters, perhaps especially Vermont journalists, could be founded.

As for his ability to provide federal funds to strengthen our communities, as president of the Moosalamoo Association over the past several years, our board of directors has seen first hand his willingness to fund the necessary renovations to the trail. Robert Frost’s interpretation of a mile long in Ripton to make it universally accessible with a durable composite ride at a cost of over $ 650,000 (well beyond our ability to do it on our own). But also to help fund improvements to mountain biking trails in the 70 miles of trails in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, restore bridges destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene, improve signage and other improvements that were lying around. for years due to lack of funding. Leahy had helped establish the MRNA in 2006, when he and Senator James Jeffords, along with then-Congressman Sanders, created the MNRA under the Vermont Wilderness Act, and since then it has been become a hidden recreational gem in Addison County.

As further proof of his enormous influence on Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy, on November 10, Senator Leahy was selected as the group’s first Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance recipient of the Trailblazer Award, recognizing the “work life of the group. senator ”to support the outdoor recreation.

The praise for Leahy’s years of achievement and service, for the time being, overshadows the impending loss of her presence in Washington, DC – a terror hard to deny. And yet Leahy spoke, as Moats writes, “with hope for the next generation of leaders ready to face the fight.” The problems are many and serious: climate change, immigration, racial justice, economic inequalities. But Leahy has shown how to fight this fight with honesty and dignity… He will be returning home soon. He deserved it.

Angelo Lynn


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