The Envelope Please (Dracut)

By: Philippe Thibault – 3-23

DRACUT – There is a lot to be said for volunteerism within a community. There are many reasons to give such service to a community and your neighbors ranging from philanthropic to profit. Benjamin Franklin once proclaimed, “a person can do well by doing good.”

A contemporary of Franklin is Dracut’s own Joseph Bradley Varnum. An amazing man with an equally amazing story that does not receive the recognition in Dracut as it should. He gets dusted off once a year for the Varnum Award for a resident who exemplifies the characteristics of its namesake.

The award also highlights one of Dracut’s political shortcomings: the Dracut politic does not always treat its history or residents well. Rebecca Duda a local historian authored a book in 2014 titled “Legendary Locals of Dracut”. There are scores of people in this book that deserve the accolades of a Varnum Award and there are scores since that publication that are equally qualified nominees.

The politics of Dracut are a hinderance to the task at hand, volunteerism. Many know Dracut politics to be “blood sport.”

Somewhere in this edition I am probably getting roasted. Recently someone posing as myself called into WCAP, the local radio station, to make an announcement of the passing of Mr. John Zimini. John is a dear friend, former selectman, and staunch advocate for the community; and that will put him at odds with the status quo, good ole boys’ network in town. I was happy to clarify that the “rumors of his death were extremely exaggerated” to paraphrase Twain.

Stunts like this make a person looking to participate in local government and the community wonder if it is worth it. I am happy to say that it is worth the effort, the trials, and tribulations. Do not let the negative atmosphere deter you from your positive actions. Volunteer for a board or commission. Take out nomination papers and run for public office. Ours is a government for, by, and of the people.

I have seen the efforts of good intentioned people take this leap of faith into a governmental role. Many are disillusioned by the reception into the process. I have run for multiple offices in the past (unsuccessfully), and I harbor no regrets and I make critical issues known. For that effort I get lampooned.

The harassment is not derived for the fall, but from the continued rising. The rising after the fall keeps the opponents accountable for their decisions and actions. If you are rejected by the authority for an appointment to a board or commission, go just the same. These are public meetings, and your presence and participation cannot be denied. Town Meeting in Dracut requires a quorum count of two hundred and fifty persons for the June meeting.

Participate fully, get up and speak to matters that have a direct effect on your daily lives. Honestly, your vote for President has lesser impact on your purse than the ninety-million-dollar town budget. Logistically 1 vote in 286,000,000 for the former and 1 vote in 250 for the later.

Joseph Bradley Varnum some two hundred years ago when he fought in the Revolutionary War or was elected to public office including Speaker of the House in Congress did not achieve so that an award would one day be named for him. The betterment of the community, the town, and the country were foremost. Shake off the notion of “What can I do?” but rather say “What can’t I do!” JRR Tolkien’s Gandalf contemplated in the Hobbit regarding a building storm of doom that “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

There are so many unsung heroes in every community and Dracut has anonymous heroes who prefer to go about their charitable work unnoticed. They get my vote for the Varnum Award. They are the ordinary folk who see to it that there is still some good in the world. And if there is still good in the world it is worth fighting for. ◊