April 23, 2013
These are the remarks I made on April 23 as the devotional at the Vermont State House. Truly a treat to have the opportunity to speak about LANGUAGE to my peers. The bride helped immensely, esp. with the riff near the end. And they’ll live on in posterity, journalized in the House Journal for April 23, 2013.
Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday. If he were alive today, he’d be 449. Dean of the House. The past two years, I’ve marked this day by standing during announcements and acknowledging that as we were embarked on the endgame of the session, filled with long nights and tense negotiations, that it might be best if we adhered to the words he wrote:
And I quoted, “If it were done, when tis done, than ’twere well it were done quickly.”
This is the beginning of a soliloquy by the warrior MacBeth, and it is instructive in the dangers of quoting Shakespeare, or nearly everyone, out of context.
When MacBeth says this, he is contemplating the fulfillment of a prediction made by the weird sisters he met earlier in the play–that he would be king. And he meant, simply, that if he were to succeed by doing this one act, then let me do it now, and do it quickly. But he goes on to say:
“if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’ld jump the life to come.”
MacBeth engages in an on-the-one-hand argument with himself, until he is convinced that yes, indeed, it would be best if he acted on his ambition, do what the witches suggest, and kill the king, his cousin. Take the action, damn the consequences. I’m not sure how long ago you read Macbeth, but the consequences caught up with him. Shakespeare was quite focused on consequences.
And he was focused on language. Scholars claim Shakespeare coined over 1700 words, and maybe 800 have survived through the ages. Assasination being one. Trammel being one that did not.
Today is also “Talk like Shakespeare day”, believe it or not, and if you think that’s silly, or that you don’t know enough Shakespeare to participate, well, perhaps you don’t know yourself as well as Shakespeare does.
Shakespeare invented words we use in this building every day: compromise and negotiate, frugal and generous, impartial and unreal and monumental and critical. He also coined rant, and jaded, tranquil and moonbeam, advertising and gossip, and, yes, believe it or not, skim milk. Read more
March 29, 2013
(Author’s note: if all workers were unionized, or worked in high end careers, this legislation would be unnecessary. Alas, ’tis not so.)
I have had the pleasure of working on a number of bills that are friendly to working families in Vermont. Times, as they always do, are changing in the workplace. After a generation of seeing labor policies erode, and seeing middle class jobs disappear (and, in Michigan, still going strong!), we are trying to promulgate policies that try to help workers achieve a work/life balance that works for them and their families. I had the honor of reporting H.99, an act relating to equal pay, on the floor last week. This bill also included language that extend retaliation protections against workers, and extended protections for moms who need to express breast milk while at work.
Also included in the legislation was a process that advocates for flexible work arrangements. This language, if signed into law, would be the first time it appears in statute in the United States. We also ask for a summer study committee in order to look at how paid family leave might be implemented in Vermont.
Now, under most circumstances, I would be exceedingly proud of the work we did in our committee in bringing this bill out, and of the sponsors, including Jill Krowinski from Burlington. I am proud, don’t get me wrong, but sad as well, for these are policies that should have been implemented, and could have been implemented, at any time over the last 35 years. We received push back from the usual suspects — associations that would rather not see employees empowered to work with employers if they want or need a flexible work schedule. But in the end, the bill passed overwhelmingly because we, as a whole, recognized that we need to provide employers with a framework for a policy that will attract and retain quality employees. And our work on equal pay strengthens that important provision in a way that anticipates the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act. Read more