FARGO -- Have you ever had an idea that you thought was a long shot, only to see it actually happen? It’s quite a thrill. That was my experience with North Dakota making Patriots’ Day an official state holiday. It’s a special holiday that I grew up with in Massachusetts. So, how did this happen here?
I suggested to good friend, former television news colleague, and now Republican State Representative from West Fargo, Austen Schauer, that he introduce a bill to make Patriots’ Day a holiday in the state. Of course Schauer didn’t know anything about Patriots’ Day. He asked me to send him some information, so I did. I told him it’s a day to commemorate the start of the Revolutionary War. It’s a day of education, patriotism, remembering those who fought and died to establish our freedoms, celebrating those freedoms, parades, battlefield re-enactments and military services. It’s a holiday observed in four other states. It used to be observed on April 19th because the war started on April 19, 1775, but has been moved to the third Monday in April.
Schauer said he was on board. We both agreed that we didn’t want the holiday to inconvenience anybody. That meant it wouldn’t cost taxpayers any money, while businesses, government services and schools would stay open. Keeping the schools open was key to us. We envisioned the holiday as a day the Revolution and birth of our great nation would be taught in North Dakota schools. We don’t have a special day now because Independence Day occurs when schools are closed for the summer.
A few weeks later, Schauer asked me about getting support for the bill. Frankly, I never thought of that, and had no idea how to proceed. This is the first bill I ever got involved with. As a freshman legislator, Schauer didn’t know how to go about it either. It was the blind leading the blind.
We came up with some people to contact. Everyone I called said they never heard of Patriots’ Day, but when I explained it to them, they were all for it. Jason Hicks, commander of the United Patriotic Bodies of Fargo-Moorhead, said he loved the idea of celebrating “the shot heard around the world.” He suggested a ceremony at the Fargo-Moorhead Veterans Bridge. Jim Nelson, First Vice Commander of North Dakota AMVets was all in, as were the Daughters of the American Revolution. North Dakota State University history professor and Revolutionary period expert Don Johnson loved the idea, as did Emily Beck, executive director of the Fargo Theatre. Beck said she would show a Revolutionary War-centered movie on the holiday, followed by a panel discussion. North Dakota Adjutant General Alan Dohrmann contacted Schauer and said he wanted to help. This was all fantastic.
Schauer, Nelson and Dohrmann all wonderfully testified in favor of the bill. Johnson and Beck wrote excellent letters of support. They all loved the emphasis on education, patriotism and remembrance. The bill was easily passed by the House 89-2, by the Senate 42-0, and signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum.
Thus, it was really special to be in Bismarck April 15 to celebrate the establishment of our new state holiday. Think of Patriots’ Day as Christmas and Independence Day as Easter. Thanks to everyone who made it happen. Time to drink some tea.