The public spaces of our age are populated with faces,
angled over small screens, interacting with a virtual world. So it’s
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
The very best gatherings usually involve food. Sharing a
meal is a basic human instinct, deeply rooted in our DNA. It’s
our natural urge to share food that sustains the body, accompanied by
conversation that feeds the mind, creating an experience that soothes the
After all — above all — we’re
social animals. Tweets and texts may be today’s
rapid-fire version of yesterday’s
Western Union telegram, but they’re
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. It’s a right
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
They share fellowship and food with neighbors, oftentimes
to the spirited sounds of gospel, bluegrass or country music, from lively
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-op’s
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 spring’s gentle
warmth, continues through summer’s
withering heat, and concludes in late September, as fall’s
chill begins cooling the land and painting the leaves. During this stretch,
each of Virginia’s 13
local electric cooperatives will hold its annual members meeting.
invited — indeed encouraged — to attend your cooperative’s
get-together, and take part in the business of your business.
become part of a classic American tradition, one that celebrates what’s
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.