Viewpoint
Face to Face

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

 

 

Richard Johnstone

The public spaces of our age are populated with faces, angled over small screens, interacting with a virtual world. So its refreshing to enter the real world of an electric cooperative annual meeting, as members gather face to face to carry on a tradition begun three generations ago, when neighbor joined neighbor in common cause and brought light to the countryside.

 

The desire to assemble is as old as humankind. To celebrate. To commiserate. To communicate. We gather to share news and air views. To make good times better and bad times bearable.

The very best gatherings usually involve food. Sharing a meal is a basic human instinct, deeply rooted in our DNA. Its our natural urge to share food that sustains the body, accompanied by conversation that feeds the mind, creating an experience that soothes the soul.

After all above all were social animals. Tweets and texts may be todays rapid-fire version of yesterdays Western Union telegram, but theyre no substitute for spending our most precious resource time with others: family, friends, neighbors.

 

Of course, for Americans, gathering together is more than mere urge. Its a right guaranteed

by our Founding Fathers, to assemble with others freely and peaceably. We exercise this right every day.

Over the centuries, the melding of our natural inclination to get together and our national right to do so has given birth to several classic American gatherings. The town hall meeting. The protest march. The public square debate.

 

And, yes, the electric cooperative annual meeting. Annually for 80 years now, thousands upon thousands of rural, small-town and suburban citizens have gathered in nearly 1,000 communities across the land, in 47 of our 50 states, to make decisions about their member-owned utility. They gather in co-op meeting rooms and garage bays, in school auditoriums, at open-air pavilions and county fairgrounds and in civic centers and community colleges.

They share fellowship and food with neighbors, oftentimes to the spirited sounds of gospel, bluegrass or country music, from lively local performers. 

 

They listen to reports from management about the financial and operational condition of their utility. They elect the board members who will represent their interests, and they vote on amendments or additions to their co-ops bylaws.

 

This old-fashioned exercise in democracy is both refreshing and resilient, a living reminder of

a time when civics was still widely taught in school; when neighbors would gather face to face to catch up on news; and when citizens would meet to make important decisions about their welfare, in the shared space they all called home. 

 

Annual meeting season hereabouts starts in early June, during springs gentle warmth, continues through summers withering heat, and concludes in late September, as falls chill begins cooling the land and painting the leaves. During this stretch, each of Virginias 13 local electric cooperatives will hold its annual members meeting.

Youre invited indeed encouraged to attend your cooperatives get-together, and take part in the business of your business.

 

Youll become part of a classic American tradition, one that celebrates whats possible when neighbors join together, in common cause, whether to raise a barn hold back a rising river or spread power across the land.

power across the land.

 

 

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