I was glad to see that William Jennings Bryan -- he was known as "The Great Commoner" when he ran for the presidency approximately a century ago -- and his namesake, the beloved U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, were featured in a presentation this past Monday evening in Salem, of which the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce was host.
The lecture and slide presentation was conducted in cooperation with the West Virginia Agribusiness Council, a non-profit group that sponsors recognition projects for both Bryan and Randolph. I'm only sorry that I missed the program.
Nicholas E. Hollis, director of the Agribusiness Council's recognition projects, spoke to the Chamber members and citizens at the Erickson Alumni Center on the campus of Salem-Teikyo University. (It was a shame that few -- if any -- college administration/faculty representatives or students were present at the S-TU campus, as the school's precursor, Salem College, was the benefactor of much of the energy expended by the late Sen. Randolph, who was born and buried in Salem.)
Hollis -- he stopped by the Exponent Telegram office earlier this week, accompanied by Pat Griffith, also of the Agribusiness Council and a former aide to Sen. Randolph -- at the program called for a "new populism" that is based on citizenship activism for the purpose of promoting the politics of decency in the November election, perhaps the most important presidential election to take place in this country in many years.
To me, it is this new populism that is needed today -- the same kind that Bryan and Randolph championed -- leaving the pretenders of today in the dust. When I spoke with Nick, he pointed out that both "Randolph and Bryan stood up to the corrupting greed of plutocracy -- and both worked for the forgotten people while fighting for peace."
I've got to agree with him in saying that it's time for the American people finally recognize some genuine populist leaders -- namely Bryan and Randolph -- and to surely raise the bar at the ballot box in another month and a half, leaving the pretenders in the balance and found wanting.
Speaking of the spirits of Bryan and Randolph, Hollis commented, "There must have been some magic sparked when Bryan and Randolph first met, and America sure needs some of that today."
As a long-time aide to Randolph, Ms. Griffith cited the senator's concern about apathy in this country. "He felt that the youth of the country really needed to be more involved in the political process and take an interest in government."
She said Sen. Randolph once said he believed that "young people possess a great social conscience, are perplexed by the injustices in the world, and are anxious to rectify these ills," and that he wondered if he'd done the right thing in pushing for the 26th Amendment, giving people ages 18 to 21 the right to vote.
"Pat" said she hopes people realize they can make a difference if they get involved in the election process, adding that a good way to become involve is to access the website at www.agribusinesscouncil.org/randolph.htm or www.agribusinesscouncil.org/bryan.htm.
Now is the time to act. Tomorrow could well be too late.
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Howe, pastor of the Bethel Temple church in Bridgeport has asked me to mention that the women's conference scheduled to be held Saturday, Sept. 23 at the church has been postponed due to the funeral of a long-time church associate. It has been rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 30.
Exponent Telegram Editor Bob Stealey can be reached by phone at (304) 626-1438 or by e-mail at email@example.com.