Reflections on the past, present and future

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Courtesy

When I graduated from Middlebury in May of 1972, I had decided to seek election to the House of Representatives that fall, but I could never have imagined the journey on which I was about to embark. It’s an honor to be back on campus after all these years; I hope I can make a contribution by relaying some of what I have learned to the next generation of leaders.
I was a Russian major here; it was the height of the Cold War and the Soviets threatened to ‘bury’ us. Perhaps on the assumption that it would be useful to communicate with our adversaries, my class included more Russian majors than any before or since. My opportunities to exercise my linguistic skills have been limited, generally employed when receiving delegations from Russian-speaking nations. I had the opportunity, however, to consult for the Central Election Commission in Moscow in the early ’90s during a hiatus from state service.
I served in the legislature, then as executive assistant to Governor Dick Snelling, and in two statewide elective positions, Secretary of State and State Treasurer, before assuming my most recent role. The Vermont Constitution asserts that “all officers of government are their [the people’s] trustees and servants, and at all times accountable to them.” I took that seriously throughout my time in public office, remembering that my responsibility was to serve my constituents, to represent their interests and to always be faithful to Vermont.
Vermont is facing the same challenges as are other states, but we have weathered the recent economic storm better than most. National surveys have concluded that we have the fourth least stressed economy and that we are the fourth best managed state. We have the highest bond rating in New England and one of the highest in the nation. We have full budget reserves and we have reduced our long-term debt. We are among the safest states, we have been appropriately rated the greenest, we have the second lowest percentage of our population without health insurance and we have been named the healthiest state in America for four consecutive years.
Continued success will require vigilance, a firm resolve to make tough budget choices and the willingness to devote time, energy and resources to job creation strategies.
When I left office early this year, I had accumulated many memorabilia along with a great deal of campaign material. I’m in the process of depositing it with the College Archives. The last Middlebury alumnus to serve as Governor was Robert T. Stafford ’35, who left office 50 years ago. He went on to a distinguished career in the United States House and Senate. The College is the repository of some of his collection, so I hope that the perspective of a half-century between Middlebury Governors will be of some interest.
It’s a privilege to be a part of the college community after so many years. Some things have changed; others haven’t. I’m confident that Middlebury can look forward to a promising future.