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Although I have lived in Clermont for the last 19 years, my first 19 years were lived in North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey and Toronto.
Whenever our family moved to a new home, the first two priorities were to locate a church to feed our souls and the public library to feed our minds. Some of my most precious memories as a child were walking through stacks of treasured titles with my father, who nurtured my insatiable curiosities with Saturday morning adventures to the public library.
We spent hours that passed like seconds in this magical place that could take me from the courts of Camelot to the craters of the moon. Benjamin Franklin, who founded the first public library in America in 1731, said "the library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study for which I set apart an hour or two each day." I credit the wide reading made available to me through public libraries for many of my personal joys and professional successes.
When my sons and I moved to Clermont in 1990, the family tradition continued as we located both church and library. The latter was within walking distance, nestled near the town center and housed in the same trailer-like building.
The magic and wonder of my childhood was still there for my boys, but in a more limited way. Many times we requested titles unavailable in this tiny location that had to be sent from one of the other branches. Or we would travel to Gainesville to the main branch for story hours and meandering among their stacks of books, rows of movies and tables of magazines.
As one who still enjoys walks to the Clermont library with my now retired father, I am grateful for the rotating staff who maintains this cramped facility four days a week. Nevertheless, the growing area of North Hall County around Clermont desperately needs a larger and more diversified facility like the Spout Springs Library, which provides study rooms, computer labs, reading rooms, educational programming, children and teen areas, as well as space for community meetings.
From my observations, I see that our facility is not used more because of its location, limited weekday hours and lack of materials and space. As a Hall County resident, teacher of 26 years and member of the Hall County Library Board, I believe, just like the character Ray Kinsella in the 1989 film Field of Dreams, that "if you build it, they will come."
I urge the people of Hall County to vote for the SPLOST package that will make the dream of a decent, modern public library a reality. Yes, these are difficult times economically; many are losing jobs and heart. Nonetheless, we cannot lose our vision and hope as a community that we will overcome in hard times and thrive in good times.
Such a community must include a well-informed citizenry whose needs, curiosities and future depend on information: how to find, use and receive it, and how to share it with others with ever-changing technology. The library is more than a receptacle for books, music, films and periodicals; it is the hub for learning how to handle a flattening world and information that doubles not every 20 years, but every two to three years.
A new public library which is accessible to all can truly serve not only North Hall County, but also the greater Hall County community.
Freedom of thought, expression still vital
Runners, joggers and walkers who maintain their commitment day in and day out display a plethora of qualities that should be inspirational to those of us who watch from the sidelines.
Occasionally, as I sit in a long line of traffic, a runner, jogger or walker will pass by my car. As I sit there, I may wonder, why isn't this traffic moving? I may even wonder why would anyone pick such a congested area to exercise. All of that aerobic activity means that the lungs are taking in more air mixed with exhaust from cars on that street. Why would they want to breathe in exhaust?
I may wonder, but I'll never know why people make some choices. If they stay on the sidewalk, it's really none of my business. If a runner, jogger or walker cuts across traffic and causes the chaotic flow of traffic to be even more chaotic, it becomes my business. Government needs to exercise its influence.
As a citizen of this country, we have influence on our government. The First Amendment guarantees our free speech. Over time, we have learned to temper our free speech with tact and respect for others because the wisdom of America says that we entertain every idea.
The prudence of America says that we only keep those ideas of value. This intellectual maturity keeps our society flowing. It keeps our society moving. It is our heritage and our strength.
Yet, there are those who would tell us that we do not have the freedom to express ourselves. Certain behaviors are expected to be beyond any criticism. Acceptance without questions is the very definition of intellectual deceit. These groups label others that disagree with them as having a phobia. They know that labels disable, and they want to shut you up.
It is an undeniable fact that throughout the history of the world, there has always been someone trying to silence someone else. Caligula reportedly cut out the tongue of a condemned man who declared his innocence. Queen Elizabeth had a man's hands cut off because he wrote something that she didn't like.
The framers of the Constitution knew that democracy suffers when freedom is silenced. As Americans, we have the opportunity to be right and the freedom to be wrong. We are allowed to voice our opinion.
If you disagree with my opinion, that's fine. If you call me stupid, I may call you a free speech terrorist. As a citizen, I have a voice in government.
If the question is asking if Steve should be allowed to marry Steve, then my answer is no. I feel that it is a needless, wasteful and superfluous waste of government time and resources. So, be advised that I vote no. Yes, in this country I am allowed to vote at least until the liberals destroy every precept contained within our system of government.
The pursuit of happiness isn't a Constitutional right, but it is an American ideal. Some may pursue happiness by chasing exhaust down the highway. It's their business. It's their life.
If, however, their agenda intersects society's thoroughfare, they need to be aware that they may not always receive the approval they seek.