Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2014

Wickie’s Wisdom

A National Disgrace

By Timothy Harrison

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In an effort to give the lighthouse preservation cause some real impact, and for more years than I can remember, I have campaigned for an “official” National Lighthouse Day. The only year that it is was official was in 1989, and ever since then lighthouse groups around the United States have celebrated August 7 as National Lighthouse Day, even though is not recognized as an official day by the government of the United States. This year, being the 225th anniversary of the Lighthouse Act of August 7, 1789, I thought we had a real chance to make the August 7 date official. Thanks to the efforts of Senator King and Senator Collins, both from Maine, we were able to get a unanimous vote in the Senate to declare August 7, 2014 as National Lighthouse Day; however this resolution fell short of declaring August 7 in perpetuity as National Lighthouse Day. But, it was a great start.

Since the current rules of the House of Representatives do not allow the creation of any new national days for any reason or cause, I opted to try to get as many members of the House to sign a request to the White House to ask for a Presidential Decree to declare August 7 as National Lighthouse Day in Perpetuity. Thanks to a social media and an e-mail campaign by Lighthouse Digest subscribers, and with the help of many lighthouse groups around the nation, thousands of emails were sent to members of Congress from constituents in their individual states and we were able to obtain the signatures of 56 of the 435 Members of Congress to request that the President of the United States issue a Presidential Decree declaring August 7 as National Lighthouse Day in Perpetuity. This effort was led by Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine and Rep. Chris Collins of New York. Although this was not as many signatures from members of the House of Representatives as we had anticipated, I believed, as did others, that it would be enough signatures to get the President to take notice and issue the decree or proclamation.

I then followed this up with a social media and e-mail campaign that generated thousands of calls to the White House asking for the President to honor the request of the 56 Members of Congress and issue a Presidential Decree or Proclamation to declare August 7th as National Lighthouse Day in Perpetuity. I personally felt that this, coupled with the unanimous Senate Resolution, would be enough to convince the President to issue the decree. It was not.

Many weeks ahead of time, I had also sent a lengthy detailed letter to the President as to why he should issue a proclamation to declare August 7 as National Lighthouse Day in Perpetuity. I also sent detailed letters to the Vice President, to the Secretary of Commerce, and to the Secretary of Homeland Security asking for their support to convince the President to issue the decree. Not one of them replied.

To place this in perspective, prior to the grand opening of the Maine Lighthouse Museum in 2005 in Rockland, Maine, I had sent a detailed letter to then President George W. Bush asking him for a congratulatory letter to be read at the grand opening ceremony honoring the museum’s founder, Ken Black. Not only did I get an answer from the White House, I also received a personal letter from President Bush congratulating Black on his accomplishments and of the museum’s opening that I had framed and read at the ceremony, which was then presented to Ken Black.

While I am fully aware of what appears to be the political dysfunction of Congress in this day and age, and of the many pressing issues of turmoil in the world today that are so important to the survival of the United States, getting a National Lighthouse Day in perpetuity may seem insignificant, but it should not be, especially when so many people wanted it. It was a nonpolitical request, one that was for the good of so many people and so many lighthouse and preservation organizations, and with so many people supporting it, that it should have been a no brainer. Yet, 379 out of 435 members of Congress, many from states with lighthouses, while continuing to bicker over every single thing, could not come to terms to support something as simple as supporting the National Lighthouse Day initiative. And then Barack Obama, the President of the United States, not only ignored the request of 56 Members of the House of Representatives to declare August 7 and National Lighthouse Day in Perpetuity, the President also ignored the request of the thousands of people who called and e-mailed the White House asking for August 7 as National Lighthouse Day in Perpetuity.

And this, my friends, is a National Disgrace. It is a National Disgrace to the history of the people who served in the United States Lighthouse Service and later in all phases of aids to navigation in the United States Coast Guard, and to the many people who have in the past, and will continue into the future, to preserve and save our lighthouses and the history associated with them. What does this say about us as a country?

I say it is National Disgrace.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2014 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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