Aim for the Heights of Your Vision: Meaghan Emery for City Council (Vote March 1)

In its best sense, politics allows us to lift up people’s dreams and help them realize their aspirations — this potential is intrinsic to the democratic promise and is at the very basis of our ideals as a nation, including our small but growing Vermont community. This ideal continues to be at the heart of my work on the City Council.

When I was first elected in 2008, I saw the hope and indeed the plea in the eyes of the men and women of our police force when they came before the Council to ask for better working conditions. And so, I set to work on educating the public on Bobby Miller’s offer of refurbishing an empty office building on Gregory Drive, and the bond vote passed with a wide margin! 19 Gregory Dr. is now home to the SBPD, the Community Justice Center, and soon our regional dispatch center which will provide faster response times to serve you better when you need their help most.

When a family approached the City back in 2009, eager to conserve into perpetuity their family farm — a piece of our city’s history and now a mainstay in the region, owned and operated by Bread and Butter — I recognized the value and acted to preserve this land, whose rolling green hills nourish our spirit and our bodies with the food they continue to provide us. Common Roots, an offshoot of SLIMY at Orchard Elementary School and part of the Farm to Table movement, is another such partnership that I supported, and it now donates 1/3 of its food production to our South Burlington Food Shelf. Just look at what is possible when people with a shared set of values and an idea get to work to make it happen! What a wonderful way to sustain our agricultural roots by teaching our children the value of farming and honoring the legacy of our founding families, all while ensuring that there’s food on everyone’s table.

If you drive down Airport Parkway, you’ll see our solar array, a 1.5 megawatt (AC) solar array, which since 2017 has been generating renewable, carbon-free energy for northwestern Vermont and net metering credits to the City of South Burlington. From this site alone, the city receives $65,000 annual accumulation of net metering credit value to offset our electrical costs (the schools benefit from additional savings). That will add up in all to $5 million over 25 years, the life or our solar array just north of the airport, and the City is using this offset to invest in more clean technology. Joining two other sites in South Burlington, the solar array at Veterans Memorial Park and the Solar Farm at South Village, it represents the best of what public-private partnerships can accomplish in this city and elsewhere.

These are just a few of the dreams that the Council has been able to help realize.

And we haven’t stopped dreaming! When you go down Hinesburg Rd. or Dorset Street toward one of our two shopping districts you see the culmination of years of work that began with the vision of our residents starting in 1985. Our City Center is the stunning culmination of the dreams of generations of South Burlington residents. It’s part of our lasting legacy to future generations. It says, along with everything else, who we are. And if you read the front page story in this week’s Other Paper, “What the TIF?,” you will be reminded that all of this was made possible thanks to the hard work of our phenomenal staff but most importantly thanks to you, the voters, who overwhelmingly added your voices to those of the Council and called for the establishment of a TIF District back in 2016. Our new Public Library and City Hall, City Center Park, all the new residences within proximity to stores, restaurants, services, and a growing commercial hub — all of this was made possible thanks to your vision, which came into focus through our community gatherings and forums, and could be realized because of the trust that you place in us as your elected leaders to take your dreams, lift them high, and make them come to life.

This is what I wish to continue to do for you and for all of us, to make us the best we can be — because it is your dreams that enshrine our parks and rolling green hills, our municipal services, and the place we call home with love and pride: South Burlington.

Vote March 1

South Burlington is moving in the direction that the residents of this community laid out before us: a balance between (1) affordability, (2) walkability, (3) environmental sustainability to make us green and clean, and (4) economic development because we are opportunity-oriented. These are the four goals of our City’s Comprehensive Plan, envisioned by our residents and approved by our Planning Commission and City Council in 2016. One of these goals should not be sacrificed for another. We need to meet all four.

  1. Affordable and Community Strong: In a very expensive County, we continue to be the most affordable. So far outpacing our neighboring communities in the construction of affordable housing, we need to continue to invest in our housing infrastructure and neighborhoods to provide entry-level owner-occupied housing and homes for all of our residents at every stage of life. By building more apartments and owner-occupied condos in areas close to our universities, services, and businesses, we will lighten the pressure on our housing stock that serves the “missing middle.” Because the newly approved land-use regulations provide for a development potential of at least 1200 new homes in our southeastern quadrant, we will further relieve that pressure, without encroaching on our wetlands or forests.
  2. Walkable: Over the past five years we have seen the beginning of more that is to come. Our new City Center is walkable and bikable, with more improvements in the works for Williston and Hinesburg Roads, connecting adjacent neighborhoods to services, businesses, and amenities like our new City Center Park. The Penny for Paths initiative, passed by voters in 2018, has so far leveraged $1.125 million in state and federal funding to expand our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, and shared-use paths.
  3. Green and Clean: In 2018, the Council approved a three-party transaction to preserve Auclair Farm as a working landscape, to be used as farmland into perpetuity. The new land-use regulations are also a big step forward in realizing regional sustainability. They will protect our wetlands and impaired streams and conserve our wildlife habitats, which are critical to our food protection and drinking water supply.
  4. Opportunity-Oriented: Since 2014, South Burlington’s planning of public spaces has been recognized by industry leaders as examples in the state. In 2014, we won two Vermont Public Spaces Awards, “designed to ‘recognize special public spaces, the corridors that connect them, or networks of public spaces which have been defined or enriched by planning or design, as well as regulations that promote positive, public uses and benefits.” One was for the South Burlington Open Space Report and the other for City Center-Market Street Design. The Vermont Recreation and Parks Award recognized the Market Street’s Stormwater Park with a Facility of Merit Award in 2018, and in 2021 our City Center Park won a merit award from the Vermont Public Places Awards Program. Our City Center, combined with our airport, technology and business parks, and core to the “opportunity zone” adjacent to the interstate, makes us not only one of the largest employment centers with new and growing businesses but also a prime location for new start-ups and economic development.

We are a community that has thrived in our search for balance, sound management, excellence in service, and new opportunities to learn and do better. We are a municipal partner and leader in the region. We are forward-looking, looking to benefit future generations of residents with responsible planning that grows our economy while enhancing our quality of life and promoting sustainability. These are values that are and have always been core to my service. Thank you for your confidence in me thus far. I have worked hard to earn it and so I do ask for your vote on March 1 to be able to continue to work toward all our goals as one of your City Councilors.

Lessons from the Campaign Trail

Meaghan Emery

Going door-to-door and meeting with residents is one of the best things an elected official can do: it’s the best way to hear directly from the people we wish to serve.

I’m gratified to hear that the Penny for Paths initiative is so popular and that people are making use of our walking and biking trails, including in the winter thanks to our top-notch snow removal crew.

I’m concerned that my neighbors in Chamberlin neighborhood continue to suffer from military jet noise, which has a direct affect on their quality of life if not on their home values. The Airport’s current request to rezone 11 acres of land where homes once stood must be met and addressed from the point of view of these residents. Their quality of life must come first.

I’m also gratified to hear people’s support for the Housing Trust Fund, which the Council wishes to grow by $1 million thanks to ARPA (American Recovery Plan) funds.

Residents are also supportive of the new Land Development Regulations, unanimously passed by the Planning Commission last December and approved by the Council last week, because they will support our housing, energy, and climate action priorities: small lots with energy efficient homes that are densely built so that our natural infrastructure — our wetlands and forests — can protect us against the worst impacts of climate change to come.

This past week I wrote a commentary for VT Digger, and I encourage you to read it if you are still trying to understand these new regulations and what they are specifically designed to accomplish. We need to provide homes in our community for people of all income levels, and the average price of a home in South Burlington ($450,000) is not accessible to all income levels. Fortunately, the federal and state governments have recognized the housing crisis and are providing needed support so that all people who work here can live here and we can bring more workers in.

This will not respond to everyone’s needs, however. Increased availability of what is called the “missing middle” in our available housing stock is still a nut we have to crack. Our middle-class residents with families seeking to move from a town house into a single family home or duplex are outbid in our hot housing market. Importantly, these residents wish to build equity in their homes, but these plans have long been frustrated by lack of houses in their price range.

So I come back to my conversations with many of the people I’ve met on the campaign trail: middle-class families seeking to upsize, and older couples seeking to downsize. And I think about what housing experts sensitive to the climate crisis have been saying for some time and what we here in South Burlington are trying to do: limit the development of suburban single family homes where our wetlands lie and redevelop our city core. Through our new regulations, as I describe above, we will see clustered development (minimum of 4 units per acre and required diversity of housing types and styles: duplexes, multiplexes, cottages) and the redevelopment of our core. By building condos, town houses, and apartments on empty parking lots and lots where empty storefronts once stood, we can take an important step forward in solving this piece of the housing puzzle.

Redevelopment is just as important if not more important than the dense new neighborhoods our regulations will now require throughout the city, with affordability requirements to boot. Older folks and younger folks, retirees, students, and people entering our labor market, stand to benefit from increased housing opportunities along our main thoroughfares, close to their places of work, schools, public transit, grocery stores, services, and other amenities. Redevelopment of our core, which we are designing to be walkable/bikable and green — with community gardens and parks — will lessen the pressure on our existing housing stock and new housing to come that will directly serve this missing middle. Again, home ownership must be a priority throughout, including in our core.

I and my colleagues on the Council have discussed these ideas before, and so testing them out as I walk from home to home speaking with residents has only fortified in my mind that new policy with these ideas at their basis is exactly what is needed.

I look forward to talking with residents about this more as I continue going door to door, and, if elected, I pledge to work hard with you as our partners to solve the dual crises that are the greatest challenge of our lifetimes: both our housing and our climate crises.

Campaign Announcement: Thoughtful Leadership for Long-Term Sustainability

I am running for re-election for the 2-year seat on the City Council because I believe that my policy decisions represent thoughtful leadership for long-term sustainability: (1) economic development: housing policy is workforce policy; and (2) conservation of critical and irreplaceable natural infrastructure: our wetlands, forests, rivers, brooks, and lake, which will help ward off and withstand extreme storms and other disruptions to our way of life brought on by climate change. Both economic development and conservation are essential to affordability and our future prosperity as a community. This balance also makes our city stand out in Vermont as the most forward-looking and innovative, which has meant that we attract the brightest lights in municipal planning and public works/stormwater.

As your representative and the Council Vice-Chair, I have signed on to both the Vermont Paris Climate Pledge and the Building Homes Together Campaign 2.0. When I knock on doors to speak with residents about my vision — which has been the same for over a decade, since 2008 when I first ran for the 2-year seat — I tell them that I am a strong proponent of maintaining natural areas that have been identified over decades as essential assets that will protect us from the worst of climate change; and that I am equally firm on ensuring that the people who work in South Burlington can live in South Burlington. That is my unfailing pledge to you.

Over my tenure, South Burlington has remained the most affordable of all municipalities in Chittenden County, and our development of affordable housing continues to outstrip Burlington, Essex, Williston, Winooski, and all the towns around us. We have also sought to use smart-growth planning tools that promote the construction of more densely built neighborhoods so that our natural habitats and wildlife corridors are protected.

Can we do better? We most certainly can, and I have been keen on approving plans supporting the development of perpetually affordable and environmentally responsible housing, including rental but especially owner-occupied, since building home equity is a clear benefit for first-time home buyers. I am likewise keen on passing the newly amended Land Development Regulations (LDRs) because they are a marked improvement in smart-growth planning rules, identifying which lands are buildable and which lands are to be conserved in a way that is clear, balanced, and sustainable. With them, multiple types of housing, including perpetually affordable housing, will be built in large developments, and buffers (transition zones) between housing developments of different densities and between housing and a natural habitat will be put in place.

Now, I will be clear with you. This is the ultimate challenge that we must face in our lifetimes. In our region, with both the pandemic and increasing number of storms and wildfires due to climate change, Vermont has become highly sought-after for people with the means to relocate. We have seen the result for first-time home buyers. Anecdotally, I recently heard that there were only five listed homes in our County with a market value below $369,000 (the median price for homes in the entire State of Vermont). We are in an affordable housing crisis. In response, I believe that the construction of perpetually affordable housing is the most important of our housing goals. Fortunately, with the federal economic stimulus funds that have become available, the Governor has pledged $250 million for housing, including new construction, renovation and weatherization of existing housing, and the redevelopment of city centers.

In order to reach this goal, we must build and redevelop responsibly — that is, energy-efficient homes that do not encroach on our conservation zones. These zones must be protected so that they may protect us. The new LDR amendments strictly prohibit development on all our wetlands and wetland buffers, which was not the case before. They establish habitat blocks, which sustain wildlife from insects and birds to larger mammals like bobcats and fisher, ensuring a balanced and thriving ecosystem on which our gardens and area farms, and therefore our lives depend. This is what our children are learning in our public schools. It is up to the adults to show them that these words have meaning, and that we are actively ensuring their future. To learn more, click on one of the tabs at the top of the page or contact me:

Why we need leadership to take us beyond the existential threat of climate change

Is our precious democracy effective at solving the greatest human crises? It took the United States 90 years to abolish slavery after the initial abolitionist movement began in Philadelphia in 1775. Material interests and greed prevented a young United States from facing up to the responsibility of living up to our founders’ words, according to which we aspired to build a new kind of society, one in which all people are born equal. And here we are in the face of our greatest existential threat after nuclear war: climate change. Industrialization and the fossil fuel industry have again led us down the path of material interests and greed to the point where we face the prospect of our own destruction. I do not believe, however, that this will mean a new civil war between those set on defending those interests and their supporters and others committed to preserving a planet capable of sustaining human life for generations to come. The level of rancor this is causing in South Burlington should not scare us. Debate is not to be feared. Debate is to be encouraged, the parameters of the debate to be set by accepted knowledge, and all who wish to participate allowed to do so.

At last night’s City Council meeting, I was heartened to hear seven residents speak up and ask our Council to do what the people have asked us to do: lead.

We five Councilors were elected to face these challenges and to act responsibly in the interests of our city, taking the utmost care to present factual and informed arguments and to represent the interests of future generations. In order to do so, we cannot act for the now. We will betray our mission if we choose to act on short-term returns. Let there be no mistake, we are acting for future generations of residents, for their quality of life and prosperity, which alone will ensure our city’s future. They will be facing much more dire living conditions if we do not proceed with this care and foresight, and so we must lead.

I reject the following fiction that some would have us believe: construction of market-rate homes will not bring about more affordable housing. Only the construction of homes funded by public monies and non-profits, combined with affordable housing covenants, will maintain affordability into perpetuity. Do not listen to these voices of material interests, some of them motivated by greed and others by misguided good intentions.

I reject the false notion that building homes and new neighborhoods far from public transit and places of employment is sustainable. We no longer have the luxury of living in the illusion of the 1950s. We know today that human society must alter its settlement and work patterns in order to sustain itself. This won’t be the first time we do so. We are up to the task. But we need leaders to point out which steps we must take, based on solid data.

Eighty percent of Vermonters surveyed in a Vermont Center for Research survey expressed the wish to telecommute. Not everyone can work remotely, but those who can should be allowed to do so. The remainder will most likely be our service sector employees, including our teachers, restaurant workers, grocery store workers, employees in our local services and stores. Now, experience tells us that most of these essential workers will not be able to afford a $350,000+ home (2021 figures). Rather than building into our sensitive natural areas, let us invest in the redevelopment and development of areas close to our transportation corridors and our employment centers, and provide these residents access to open green space, including personal garden plots and biking/walking paths in addition to our wonderful natural areas and parks. There is a lot we can do on Rte. 2, Rte. 7, Rte. 116 (Hinesburg Rd) from Kennedy Dr. to Meadowland Drive, and Kimball Ave in the way of infill and mixed-use development in order to provide needed affordable housing; and we have federal and state grants being offered in order to do so.

In a sustainable South Burlington, our ecosystems would remain intact, all the way from Shelburne Pond up through the Great Swamp — the spine of South Burlington — on up to Potash Brook, which runs down to Red Rocks Park and into the lake. Waterways, grasslands, forests, and scrub brush all bring us millions of dollars in benefits per year as the Earth Economics report commissioned by the Council indicates (and potentially well over $200 million over 20 years). Close to these sensitive areas, tracts of land could be set aside for farming. At a distance that is respectful of these critical natural resources, and conducive to walking and biking, new affordable housing of various types depending on the household would become available into perpetuity: apartments for students in our nearby colleges and universities, apartments and townhouses/duplexes for new recruits to our businesses in the service sector, apartments/townhouses/duplexes for new families getting a foothold in our city until they save enough to upsize or buy a home.

Let us act to honor the lives of our children and grandchildren. As an ancient proverb states, we are borrowing the land from them for our short time on this blessed earth. Let us have them lead us as we work toward new regulations and planning for their future.

Planning for our future prosperity

I have always sought to base my decisions on evidence with the best interests of our residents and our community at heart. When the Planning Commission approached the Council last summer with proposed amendments to our parking regulations, they explained that they had based their recommendation on a study of the parking lots in our city.

I have been able to locate a presentation that refers to data from this study, and the data is stunning. We have thousands of unneeded parking spots in our City Center. All of this square footage of pavement could be replaced with residential and commercial development and it directly contributes to the stormwater pollution in our lake.

For those who believe we need more affordable housing, including myself, this will be of interest. For those who are eager to see more economic development in our city, including myself, please take a look so that we can consider how to repurpose our public spaces and redevelop in order to achieve these goals in the best manner possible.

I believe that expanding our development and parking lots out to the natural areas, including the remaining wildlife corridors and forest blocks, is not in our best interest.

Presentation of the results of a parking study (September 2019): 2019-09-10_S Burlington Planning Commission

South Burlington Parking Map

Candidate Q & A: The School bond vote

Dear Neighbors,

Over the past two months, residents have been sharing their concerns with me and asking for my thoughts on the school bond issue. The question is now directly coming up on candidate Q & A’s, and so you all deserve to know my response.

Education is a top priority for me, as a professor at UVM, and a mother of three children and resident of South Burlington, where my husband and I chose to settle precisely because of the reputation of the schools. I continue to believe that the quality public education provided by our School District is central to South Burlington’s appeal to incoming residents and families. This is why I have worked very hard as a City Councilor to preserve our existing affordable housing stock and promote the development of affordable housing — for everyone, including new families who seek to settle here, as we did eighteen years ago, and give their children the best education possible.

Every year I have supported the budget and will again this year. It will among other things support the hire of new teachers for growing student populations at Orchard and Rick Marcotte Elementary schools.

Regarding the question on the bond vote specifically, candidates for public office owe the public what they deserve and should expect of their elected officials: an honest and direct answer to the question. So I am sharing mine. Please know that I have also shared my concerns with the School Board Directors.

I cannot support the $209M bond for a new high school and middle school. I have attended five information sessions/public hearings, asked questions, spoken with residents, and studied all of the materials posted on-line. This is the hardest decision I will have to make at this year’s Town Meeting Day (and perhaps the most important decision that I have ever made regarding the city’s future). It is simply too expensive for the majority of our residents and will make South Burlington out-of-reach to incoming families over more than a generation.

Back in 2002 when we moved here and in 2017/2018, when our family circumstances changed as our first child started college, we would have been one of those families. I understand the acute space needs at the high school, and want the community to coalesce around a solution put forward by the School Board, but I do not see this bond as the best way forward for our city.

No matter the results of the vote, I will continue to work collaboratively with the School Board and the public to ensure that the needs of the middle school/high school campus and of all five schools are met. It is clear that as a community, we all deeply value our schools and, fortunately, we recognize that they require our attention and investment.


Why I support a market-based approach to parking standards

Dear Neighbors,

In my bid for reelection I have gained an opponent due to the position I took on parking regulations for new commercial development. This gives me the opportunity to inform the public on the reasons why this policy change is in our interest and specifically how it meets the goals in our city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Last fall, I joined colleagues on the Council to approve amendments to our Land Development Regulations, unanimously recommended to us by the Planning Commission, that will allow for market-based parking standards for new commercial development. Since the 1980s we have been relying on arbitrary national standards that have needlessly increased our impervious surfaces and, therefore, stormwater runoff and pollution in our waterways and lake. The market has proven to be a more effective regulator and has the additional advantages of reducing development costs (both soft and hard, i.e., in the planning phases and at the time of construction), which makes it easier to meet our affordable housing and economic development goals. It has been shown throughout the country that this market-based approach gives more flexibility to businesses and lowers the economic bar and facilitates the entry of smaller or local businesses and creation of housing. It introduces a flexibility and adaptability to our planning rules that additionally allows businesses to grow. This is in our interest here as we work toward continued prosperity through economic and environmental sustainability.

In preparation for the public discussion and Council vote, I consulted a number of articles, available on-line, and which I make available to you. I also reached out to town planners in a number of cities, all of whom confirmed my findings that this market-based approach has been successful.

Minimum Parking Requirements
Saint Paul Parking exemptions

Announcement: I will be running for another 2-year term

Dear Neighbors,

I feel a deep attachment to the city I have called home since 2002. South Burlington is where I have raised my three children, where I have spent some of my happiest moments, where I have engaged in deeply transformative events, and where I feel most connected to community. I hope that you will be with me as I go for another term. Much of what I hoped to help advance as an elected official has been realized: City Center is off the ground and plans for more walkable and bikable neighborhoods within a connected system are moving ahead with the Penny for Paths initiative. The protection of the city’s open spaces is in progress, as well as my ongoing goals of maintaining the quality of life, affordability, and financial stability — all of these are reasons for me to run, and there’s still much to do.

I love who we are, admire what we do as individuals and collectively, and care deeply about our future. I hope to have another chance and the honor to continue to work for you.

Sincerely yours,

Veterans Day, November 11, 2019

In honor of my grandfather, I said the following words at our local Veterans Day Memorial Service. May his example inspire veterans to speak out and inspire all of us. I know he inspired me.

Veterans Day, November 11, 2019
Saturday, November 9, 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I happened to be in Paris on November 9, 1989, a twenty-year-old American exchange student, studying at the Sorbonne, walking along the same boulevards where German soldiers had marched after curfew, their boots pounding on the cobblestones and the sound of those boots reaching the ears of everyday people closed up in their apartments behind shuttered windows. I walked down the same boulevard American and French tanks drove down on August 25, 1944, to the sound of cheering crowds. And on November 9, 1989, as I sat watching the news in one of those Parisian apartments, I watched with wonder as the last remaining remnant of that war, the Berlin wall, came tumbling down. People used whatever they had at their disposal, hammers and even their hands, to tear it down. Its destruction was the realization of the efforts of countless people, from politicians to everyday people, but it began with the Allied soldiers who fought and died to liberate Europe from the grip of Adolf Hitler’s murderous regime. It was thanks to those soldiers, many of whom now lie at the American Cemetery in Caen, Normandy, and also thanks to the Germans who continued the fight to regain their lost freedom that I gained an appreciation for history on that day just over thirty years ago. It’s probably why I am now a French professor who specializes in the Second World War and its aftermath.

Last week I read with interest in The Other Paper the stories of the local veterans from that war, still serving here. I noted their service to the US Navy, which brought to mind my grandfather who enrolled at the Great Lakes Naval Station to serve in the US war effort and was buried in 2009 at 92 years of age. If you will indulge me, I would like to remember him in my remarks today, as we honor the lives of all veterans.

My grandfather took great pride in this country, which he bequeathed to his children and grandchildren. A lifelong patriot and Lincoln Republican, he always placed service to others before self. He understood what I’ve come to understand, which is: service to others allows us to become the best of ourselves. My grandfather always honored the president as our president, whether or not he agreed with the policy. He was a gentle man, always believed in the power of goodness and love, and he was an upright and active citizen in service to many. After the war, though a trained architect, he became a professor of applied mathematics at Northwestern University and gave through his service, whether to the Glenbrook, IL School Board or as a food preparer and server in the Good News Community (Food) Kitchen in Chicago — the big city, where he’d been born the son of German immigrants but was forbade from learning German, because it was the language of the “enemy.” He had been born in 1917, when our country was involved in another European war, against the Germans. Later, my grandfather would tutor new Americans, who had fled conflict and probable death abroad and were learning English in their new hometown of Chicago. My grandfather also helped senior citizens prepare and file their state and federal income taxes (even when he was himself a senior citizen), and volunteered at the nursing home where my grandmother worked. He played the piano wonderfully and often played piano and organ at their church. Most importantly, he raised five daughters and took great pleasure in his grandchildren and in traveling the world, always glad to come home — not only to the home he had designed and built for his family when he was a young man but also to his country which he loved so dearly and understood so well. He believed in the American system, based on freedom and equal opportunity and hard work and service.

Now, unlike many of you, my grandfather never served overseas. When he enlisted, at the age of 25, the cause of a mysterious childhood illness became known. The family had always believed that he had survived the Spanish flu when he was a young toddler — in 1918, when he was one year old, there had been a terrible flu pandemic that killed twenty million worldwide (about the same number as the victims of World War II and Nazism combined). When he went in for his military physical, his chest X-rays showed the telltale signs of tuberculosis, and indeed that is what made him sick at the end of his life. We never knew it growing up, because he was just as disciplined in self-care as he was in everything else he did. Although he did not serve overseas, he remained enlisted and loyal to the Navy. Every Thanksgiving as I recall growing up, he and my grandmother hosted young naval cadets from the Great Lakes Station in their home. They hoped that, though far from home, these young men could enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving meal with a family, the American family — and my grandmother was an amazing cook to boot! He received a military burial when he died in 2009 at the age of 92, after a full and amazing life, and although those young naval cadets were not sending a decorated war hero or officer to his final resting place, they were sending a loyal soldier who took great pride in his country and who was dedicated to service.

Today, we are divided here at home, extremely divided here in our American home. We are desperately in need of role models of high moral character, like my grandfather, whether simple everyday soldiers, citizens who take on their civic duty with purpose, or highly decorated officers and political leaders in service to the state.

So I ask you: do not remain silent. What you see concerns you. This is the country you fought for, the country with whom you shared your children and spouses, and we still need you. We need you to speak up and remind us of why you were so willing to give of yourselves — remind us of what you hold most sacred — and why you were so willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for it.

In honor of my grandfather, in honor of you, and of all American patriots, I would like to read the end of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech, The Gettysburg Address, which my grandfather undoubtedly knew by heart. President Lincoln had pronounced it on the blood-soaked civil war battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863, 156 years ago. Importantly, it reminds us of what is left for all of us to do.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This is what President Lincoln said then, and it still holds true today.