Ryan Lees

A couple weeks ago, I drove out of Alexandria City into Fairfax County, then through Prince William County, exiting the D.C. suburbs into the Real America. In the midst of D.C. you forget what a representative is. When you travel outside during election time, you see where a representative comes from.

In Orange County, VA I drove past a fair that seemed to draw the entire community to a field on the side of VA-20 (Constitution Highway). With cars packing a grassy field, barbeque pits speckled throughout the parking area and scattered John Deere tractors in the proximity of a semi-distant stage, I could imagine Congressman Eric Cantor there and on-queue. This season is the time when he returns to his people and speaks with them. He becomes one of them again. He is no longer a Washingtonian; a congressman; a power-broker or an aristocrat. He is their representative; their employee; their servant. It is a time representatives are reminded of their identities.

Through Stafford, Culpepper, Orange and Albemarle Counties, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution echoed in my head. “That to secure [their] rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence) and to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, [we] do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America (U.S. Constitution).” Striking.

Unfortunately, we have today professional politicians: aristocrats. Early in the nation, these men were at best part-time politicians lending their time to the good of the nation and the will of the people, while giving credence to those words. This is called statesmanship.

Like Patrick Henry who repeatedly served as Virginia’s Governor at others’ bequests, or like Thomas Jefferson who served overseas instead of drafting the Virginian founding documents, these men were of substance, honor, ethic and humility. Most were successes in private life and were requested to build and maintain the Republic. As I drove through rural Virginia, the foundation of our nation, I could picture these men on horse and carriage leaving their communities and their livelihoods to represent them in the Capital for three months out of the year.

Ryan Lees

Ryan Lees is the Director of Media Outreach and a Program Coordinator at the Patrick Henry Center.