BY DAVID PERRYMAN
I grew up in a house that received a daily newspaper, two weeklies and a number of magazines. That was the norm. My grandparents’ homes were the same. So was their parents’. Settling in western Caddo County in 1901, my Indiana great grandparents kept up with news from the area where they were raised through the ‘Churubusco Times’ and my Kansas great grandparents did the same with a paper from central Kansas.
Rural life in early Oklahoma was not an impediment to receiving the newspaper. A morning edition of the Oklahoma City paper was delivered with the mail Monday through Friday. Amazingly every week, “The Sunday Oklahoman” was faithfully and routinely dropped from an airplane into farmhouse yards in rural Caddo County.
We also had an old set of the World Book Encyclopedia. Between newspapers, magazines, the World Books and of course the Bible, there was seemingly nothing worth knowing that could not be learned from the written word.
In 1965, despite a tight budget, my parents enrolled me in the Weekly Readers Book Club. About once a month, a book would arrive in the mail. Many of those adventures, biographies and poetry are still prized possessions supporting childhood memories delivered through the magical literary talents of novelists, scientists and historians.
One of the books was titled “Ribsy”. Ribsy was a dog that was the central figure in a series of books by author Beverly Cleary. At the time, my family had a dog named Bozo who was absolutely just as smart and just as important as Ribsy. In fact, if I could have moved a few spots around on Bozo, or vice-versa, he and Ribsy could have passed for identical twins. Maybe that is why Ribsy and the rest of Beverly Cleary’s books became personal favorites of mine.
This past week, Allie Rupp, a young attorney from Minco and dedicated volunteer for children, invited me to D.E.A.R. to read to groups of children at the state capitol. I was not aware of the organization, but was pleasantly surprised when I learned that D.E.A.R. stands for Drop Everything And Read and is an annual event held each April 12, the birthday of children’s author Beverly Cleary.
When I arrived at the Capitol Rotunda on Friday, I was handed a book titled, “The Wild Adventures of Oklahoma Joe’s Ten Gallon Hat” and presented with, appropriately, a Ten Gallon Hat. Physically, the children and I sat around the Great Seal of the State of Oklahoma, but in our minds, we were transported to District 56 to experience the culture, geography, flora and fauna of Kiowa, Caddo and Grady Counties
With the hat as a prop and lore of Native Americans, Buffalo, horses, Indian Parades, windmills, Redhawks and pickup trucks filled with watermelons, we were mesmerized by the story of Oklahoma Joe’s Hat thanks to D.E.A.R., Ms. Rupp and the sponsorship of Feed The Children.
Reading is essential. First learning to read and then reading to learn. The love of reading makes learning so much easier. The next time you are struggling to find a gift for anyone, particularly a child, give them a book or a magazine or a subscription. You will likely be opening a whole new world for them.
For years, as a practicing attorney, I read and thoroughly analyzed every word and every phrase and every clause in every Contract, Will, Trust, Statute or Court Decision. I believed that if it was important enough to write, it was important enough to read. The placement of a simple word or comma, often changes the entire meaning of a phrase, which in turn changes the meaning of a sentence and can sometimes totally alter the meaning of a Contract.
I have brought that skill and that ethic to my new job as a State Legislator. I read everything. On a number of occasions, I have discovered words or phrases that change the intended meaning of Bills. I have been able to help both Republicans and Democrats improve their bills. Sometime those changes are made in committee. Sometimes the amendments are made between committee and the house floor and on a few occasions, my suggested changes have actually been incorporated on the house floor.
To exercise that skill, however, Bills must be presented in a timely fashion and not ramrodded through the process. The House of Representatives has a rule that requires Bills to be placed on the calendar at least 24 hours prior to being considered. Unfortunately and somewhat unfairly, every so often measures are presented in a way that other Representatives are not given 24 hours to review the measure.
I learned very quickly that many Representatives do not know what their own bills say. Often, Bills are drafted by a legal staff based upon a request from a Representative. Sometimes the Representative does not fully understand his own request and sometimes the legal staff does not understand the request. Consequently, what is actually drafted is sometimes not close to the legislator’s intent.
Hence my rule…Do not vote for anything without reading it “cover to cover”. This is a lesson that I learned during the first week of session when I agreed to vote for a measure based upon what another Representative told me that it said and I later learned that it contained more partisan political rhetoric than substance. Now, I refuse to vote for any measure that has not been on the House Calendar for at least 24 hours.
There is absolutely nothing that is being considered in the Oklahoma House of Representatives that is so important that fair disclosure to all members of the House would not be possible. Reading is truly fundamental to virtually everything we do.
Sometimes our government faces a tight budget like my parents did when they signed me up for the Weekly Reader Book Club. In retrospect, these 50 years later, I am thankful that they did.
Today, we are faced with a choice between funding essential core functions of government, such as education, law enforcement, roads, bridges, a crumbling Capitol building or cutting the state income tax so we will have an average of three or four dollars per month back in our pockets.
You have a civic duty to get involved in the process and express your thoughts. Communicate to the legislature and the governor what choices you think need to be made. Don’t let special interest groups and lobbyists be the only voice. You too must provide input.