By Robin Brown
This year, Delaware Day was well-feted here -- and on the U.S. Senate floor. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons slipped in some history, tourism promotion and even a pitch for a national park in Delaware, the only state without one.
Carper: Mr. President, today is Delaware Day. Something important for our state and our nation occurred on Dec. 7, 1787. ... Sen. Coons, what did happen there at that Golden Fleece Tavern?
Coons: Sen. Carper, thank you for entering into this colloquy about Delaware Day. As some folks may know, if you look at the Delaware flag ... there is the date, Dec. 7, 1787. That is the day that 30 Delawareans, elected delegates, gathered at the Golden Fleece Tavern in Dover and voted unanimously to make Delaware the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. That is why our state moniker is --
Carper: The First State.
Coons: The First State.
Carper: Small Wonder. The guys who were there that day -- about 30 of them -- I would like to say they were drinking hot chocolate at the Golden Fleece Tavern. I am not sure what they were drinking, but the outcome was a good one. For one whole week after that, Delaware was the entire United States of America. ... Then the rest followed, and I think, for the most part, it turned out pretty well.
Coons: And, senator, one of the things I have always been struck by is that it was 11 years before that that Delaware actually, on Separation Day, on June 15 of 1776, acted both to declare its independence from Pennsylvania and its independence from the King of England, and by doing so acted in an incredibly risky way, because had the Continental Congress on July 4 not chosen to ratify the Declaration of Independence, then Delaware would have stood alone, and arguably, hung alone for having taken the risk for stepping out first. ...
Carper: The Constitution that was ratified that day -- the thing about it is that it is the most enduring Constitution of any nation on Earth, the most copied or emulated Constitution of any nation on Earth as well, and a living document that provides provisions for us to change and update as time goes by. It is remarkable, and we are very proud of the role we played in getting the ball rolling in this great country of ours. I want to go back to July 1776, if I can. Not far away from the Golden Fleece Tavern, there was a guy named Caesar Rodney, who rode his horse. Do you want to quickly share that story?
Coons: That made it possible for our delegation to be represented in Philadelphia and for us to commit to the Declaration of Independence by breaking a tie between the other representatives of Delaware in the Continental Congress.
Carper: If you look at the back of the Delaware coin, you might say why is Paul Revere on the back of that coin? Well, that is not Paul Revere, that is Caesar Rodney riding the horse from Dover to Philadelphia. For people who are familiar with Dover Air Force Base, where big planes come in -- the C-5s and C-17s that fly all over the world -- as you come in on the approach, the runway heading north-northeast to land, you fly over an old plantation house where a guy named John Dickinson used to live. ... He was also a guy who was involved in the Constitutional Congress and also involved in the Declaration of Independence, and the 'Penman of the Revolution.' So if you think about it, there at the Golden Fleece Tavern, the Constitution was ratified. Caesar Rodney, from Dover, departing from not far from there, casts the tie-breaking vote for the Declaration of Independence, and the "Penman of the Revolution," growing up in what is now the Dickinson plantation. There is a lot of history right there, especially for a state that doesn't have a national park.
Coons: Although we have a senior senator ... tireless in his effective advocacy of our state.
Carper: Maybe we can do something about that with the senators' help and that of Congressman [John] Carney, and our colleagues in the Senate and the House. ... The most visited sites in the United States among tourists from foreign countries are our national parks. The economic value to the state of North Carolina ... from their national parks was $700 million. Not bad. ...
Coons: Today, we are having our first Delaware Day reception here ... to promote and celebrate what is great about Delaware. ... One of the things I treasure most about Delaware is our unique political culture -- a culture that focuses on consensus, on reasoned compromise, on bringing folks together from across what is, in some other places, a sharp partisan divide to find reasonable, principled paths forward to tackling the challenges that face our state. It is that consensus, common-sense approach that I know my senior senator brought to his two terms as governor and has brought to the Senate. ...
Carper: We call this 'the Delaware Way.' As my colleague from Delaware knows, whenever I run into people who have been married a long time -- 50, 60, 70 years -- I ask them what is the secret. ... One of the best answers I have heard -- and I hear it over and over -- as the reason why they have been married such a long time is because of the two C's ... "communicate and compromise."
I would suggest that is what we do pretty well in our state. It is not only good advice for creating an enduring marriage, but it would also be good advice for us in this body, in this town, to do a better job -- both parties -- to communicate and compromise.
With that, I think we have said our piece. It is Delaware Day ... and may the spirit of Delaware and the Delaware Way permeate this place as well.