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Senator’s Liberty Day Presentation Educates, Entertains BCS Students 10/29/2019

Posted by DS in activities, speakers.
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Adults in back row from right to left: Dave Kolodin, Chair of School Committee and member Bristol Area Lions; Marilee Harris, 5th grade teacher; and Maine Senator Dana Dow. These 5th grade students enjoyed a presentation by Dow explaining our country’s Constitution and how the various branches of government work, both for the nation and for our state of Maine. (Candy Congdon photo.)

Bristol Consolidated School fifth graders were inquisitive and attentive during state Sen. Dana Dow’s presentation about the U.S. Constitution on Thursday, Oct. 24.

The Bristol Area Lions Club sponsored the Liberty Day event and gave pocket-size booklets containing the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to each fifth grader.

Dow, a native Mainer, presented an in-depth civics lesson in a folksy, down-home style that captured the students’ interest and attention throughout the hour. He outlined and explained the various parts of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments. He said the Constitution was set up to protect the rights of the minority.

One student asked, “Do you have to rewrite the constitution to change it?”

“No,” Dow said. “You just have to write a new amendment.”

He used Prohibition as an example. The 18th Amendment prohibited “intoxicating liquors” in 1919, but the 21st Amendment reversed the repeal.

He gave women’s suffrage as another example. The Constitution originally allowed only men to vote. Women obtained the right to vote with the 19th Amendment, in 1920.

“As society progresses, and as we become more educated, things change – people’s attitudes change,” Dow said. “So, there was a section in here to allow women to vote, to make sure they had equal rights also. I firmly believe in total and pure equality.”

Dow said there is nothing in the Constitution about the right to vote. He said voting is such a basic right the founders didn’t need to put it in there.

Dave Kolodin, Bristol Area Lion and chair of the Bristol School Committee, participated in the event and managed the lengthy question-and-answer portion of Dow’s presentation. Every student in the class was able to participate, asking Dow questions they had prepared ahead of time.

Questions from students included, “What is the most serious thing that you do?”

“The most serious thing that I do is voting on bill after bill after bill … also, every two years we do the two-year budget,” Dow said.

Another question was, “Do you have to live in a special place?”

“I have to live in the county that I represent. I have 21 towns. I can live in any one of them,” Dow said.

Another student asked, “How do you get all of your work done?”

The senator replied, “I don’t! We can’t get it all done because there are so many people that want to talk to me.” He said he gets so many emails that his staff has to go through them.

Dow said that as a senator, he has to consider statewide issues and have a statewide outlook. Senators need to know residents’ values and the crises they have faced.

Dow spoke about the exodus of young families from the state in search of better jobs. He said grandparents miss their grandchildren and their kids. Since 1970, he said, the state has lost 29% of its student population.

Asked if they come back to Maine, Dow said they come back to retire. Many retire to Lincoln County, the oldest county in the state.

Dow reminded the children in the class, who are 10 and 11, that they would be able to vote when they turned 18. They can vote in a state primary at age 17 if they will turn 18 before Election Day. Dow said that’s one area where the state constitution differs from the U.S. constitution.

Dow urged students to take advantage of their right to vote.

“On voting day, everybody gets one vote. On voting day, everybody’s equal,” he said. “It’s your duty to vote … voting day is the purest day of equality that exists.”

Dow was asked, “What do you do, mostly, as a senator?”

“Right now I’m the Republican Senate leader,” Dow said.

He told the students that, because the governor is a Democrat and the Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature, he is “literally the top elected Republican official in the state of Maine.”

“I have a special office and I’m always meeting with groups of people that want to get things done. I talk with lobbyists, citizens, town managers or mayors. We have a lot to do to decide which bills we’re going to hear. I’m busier than I ever was as a regular senator,” he said.

The students asked Dow about the most important parts of his job. He said the most important part of his job is deciding how to spend money.

He again referred to the departure of young people – “We call it the brain drain” – and businesses from the state. Other states have more business-friendly regulatory and tax structures, he said.

He gave an example from his own business, Dow Furniture, in Waldoboro.

“I bought a building across the street from my furniture store. It was a factory … 25 people. It closed. It was bought out and moved to Florida,” Dow said, referring to the 2014 sale and relocation of The Science Source.

“Why didn’t the Florida company come to Maine? That’s what I want to know. Why didn’t they buy it and move everything to Maine?” Dow said. “So that’s why I’m trying to overcome, all these obstacles. That’s what I consider my most important function up there.”

Another student asked about the phrase “We the people” in the preamble of the Constitution. “Why do we say ‘We the people?’” the student said.

Dow said it is because the people vote and decide the direction of the country.

“We moved to this country in between the 1400s and the 1600s because (where we came from) wasn’t ‘We the people,’” Dow said. “Government was being decided not by the body that was elected but by kings and others … more of a dictatorship type of thing.”

Another student’s question was, “What do you do for work?”

Dow said he works at the State House, then works at his store. He said Maine senators and representatives are not full-time legislators. They get paid very little, but do the work to serve the public.

“I’ve done it for nine years. At 10 years, I’ll have to decide if I’m going to run again,” Dow said.

He said he enjoys “serving the people of Lincoln County” and “being a senator, because I have my vision of what we need to do in the state of Maine to improve people’s lives, make sure there are jobs, and that you can get better wages.”

Another student asked, “Do you have help being a senator?”

“I have a senate aide,” Dow said. “We don’t all have one, but because I’m the Senate leader, I get to choose the people that work for us. I pick what’s called a chief of staff. This time I picked a lady who has worked for the House or the Senate for 44 years.”

Dow’s Liberty Day presentation, both serious and lighthearted, kept the fifth graders thoroughly absorbed.

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