09 Apr 2019


John Dewey once wrote, “Democracy must be born anew every generation and education is its midwife.” With a similar sentiment, Thomas Jefferson famously declared that “information is the currency of democracy.” As I sat in the jam-packed Nantucket high school auditorium last week for the Annual Town Meeting, I was inspired by the many young adults who were in attendance. But, more importantly, how they arrived informed, educated and unafraid to share their impassioned positions on the warrant articles.
If you’ve never attended a Nantucket Town Meeting, let me tell you…you’re missing out. Regardless of how one feels about the outcome of the votes on the many articles brought before the town – it is in fact the process itself that is so impressive. You feel transported back in time through decades of history that had our forefathers designing this system of government…of the people, by the people and for the people. And guess what? It works! With a simple raise of a hand, your vote is cast and counted, with the majority determining the outcome of multiple local initiatives for the year.
The meeting cannot be concluded until each article is addressed and every voice desiring to be heard has an opportunity to speak. This year the meeting spilled over into a second night. It began ceremoniously with the colors being presented by a representative from every Scout and Brownie Troop. There was an invocation by a local clergy person. We all rose and enthusiastically recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then joined in one voice to sing The National Anthem. It was one of those memorable and sacred moments when, regardless of the differing views in the room, you note the lump in your throat and recognize you are all there for a common purpose.
We were then reminded of the “rules” in the 139-page warrant booklet we’d been given as we entered the high school auditorium. Our moderator was to be respectfully referred to as “Madam Moderator.” Most importantly, when you had the floor, you were reminded that if you were about to call anyone a name that was not penned on their birth certificate you were likely entering the “danger zone.” In other words – “Play nice or go home.” Remarkably, even with some heated opinions shared, everyone did play nice. A rising tide really does lift all boats.
Although the opposing views caused a few tense moments, everyone kept their sense of humor. My husband and I even took our turn voting differently on a couple articles and still managed to remain friends when the meeting was over. There was friendly banter all around as the meeting drew to a close for another year. In the end, we all recognize how fortunate we are to live in this magical place where our vote still counts…and our voice is respected.
The Aye’s have it!

Shellie Dunlap

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