9/11/17 Keynote Address, Hopedale, MA 

Remarks at the Hopedale 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

Thomas A. Wesley

Hopedale Board of Selectman

11 September 2017

Let Us Live to Make Men Free

Some 140 years before 9/11, in the early morning hours of November 18, 1861, Julia Ward Howe crafted the immortal words to one of our countries most beloved standards, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Its’ tune was lifted from an inspirational ode to the abolitionist John Brown but the words flowed from Ms. Howe as if possessed. She was afraid to fall asleep lest her divinely creative muse leave her. 

“As He died to make men Holy, Let us die to make men free.
His truth is marching on.” 

Civil War had engulfed these United States in fury and flame. If the salvation of mankind required the sacrifice of God’s only begotten son then surely the salvation of the Union was owed no less a offering upon the alter of freedom.

Over a number of years, the words to the Hymn were altered. The word “die” was replaced with “live.” “Let us live to make men free.” The origin of the change is unclear but perhaps it reflects a realization that the fight for freedom and justice is more complicated than the mere slaughter of lives. Paraphrasing the great American World War II General George S. Patton, “No man ever won a war by dying for his country. The idea is to have the other guy die for his.”   

But it is more than this. Much more. War should never be the inescapable alternative. At the heart of all conflict is injustice and the absence of simple human kindness. It is not only a refusal to let people in but a commitment to keeping people out. 

The War Between the States ended slavery on paper but we all know the sordid history of race relations in this country that persisted for another century and still persists to this day. The war did not teach us much. 

And this brings us to this ceremony to honor the fallen of September 11, 2001. Today marks the 16th anniversary of that horrible day that changed the lives of all of us. And not for the better. The attack left holes in our lives and in our hearts. It loosed a war with far away peoples and civilizations whose worlds we barely comprehend. Far more lives have been lost in seeking justice than in offering it. Far more treasure has been spent in seeking retribution than in showing kindness.

And this was precisely what we as a people asked our government to do. It has resulted in our nation’s longest war in our history. And this war continues today and I do not feel any more sanguine about the losses that occurred on that beautiful September morning. We have unleashed a mighty force upon our fellow man but the course of history is unaltered. Those who perished in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania are still gone. The beauty of their lives remain torn from us. And they have been met in the afterlife by thousands more casualties in the fields of combat. Met by the innocents we call collateral damage. Met by the refugees who tried to flee but perished instead. Sixteen years later we are no more secure than when we began. I beat that drum of war and retribution as hard as anyone but I feel no satisfaction.  

The most effective way to keep a weed from growing on your lawn is to have healthy grass. A weed cannot take root when the lawn is lush and verdant. But a healthy lawn will be compromised by the unhealthy ones that surround it. It is not enough to have islands of prosperity. It is impossible to keep the weeds out for the long term. Our goal must be to seek to share the prosperity; to find ways of providing for all, not only for some; to lay down the burden of protecting what is ours and recognizing that what any of us has comes not from us but from our creator.

The way lies forward through kindness, justice and humility more than through bloodshed, bullets and bombs. Rather, let us live a life that makes men free

May we have the courage to begin to change the course of human history in our lifetimes. And may we do so in the honor of those whose names are etched upon the marble walls of the 9/11 memorials and on the tombstones of the soldiers and those names blown away in the sand of unmarked graves in the deserts of the Middle East.

May it be so.

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Memorial Day 2015 Comments

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Hopedale: Wesley takes selectman seat in landslide

5.12.15 HOPEDALE – Fred Oldfield casts his ballot during the town election in Hopedale, Tuesday. Daily News Staff Photo/ John Thornton MILFORD DAILYNews Staff Photo/ John Thornton MILFORD DAILY

By Zachary Comeau/Daily News Staff

Posted May. 12, 2015 at 9:11 PM
Updated May 12, 2015 at 9:12 PM

HOPEDALE – A former GOP candidate for Congress, Tom Wesley, took the open seat on the Board of Selectmen by a landslide vote, gaining 273 votes to Park Commission Chairman Dan Iacovelli’s 60.

“It always feels better to win, but it also feels good to fight the good fight,” Wesley said after the results were announced.

Wesley, who was defeated in the 2010 race for the 2nd Congressional District seat by Richard Neal, D-Springfield, said more changes can be made in local politics.

“The issues are very real, manageable and solvable, unlike sometimes at the federal level where you’re just a voice in the wilderness,” he said. “At the local level, you can actually build coalitions, be proactive and solve some problems.”

For the first year, Wesley said he hopes to “get (his) feet wet” and understand the issues facing the town, but said he will continue to focus on education, economy and evenhandedness.

“I’m honored to be selected by the town,” Wesley said, thanking Iacovelli for running a “classy campaign.”

The seat was left vacant by Janet Jacaruso, the longtime town clerk and selectwoman who passed away last month.

“I certainly hope to do honor by the seat vacated by (Jacaruso),” he said.

Ted Kempster, Wesley’s treasurer, said Wesley spent about $1,550 on his campaign, including signs, a newspaper ad and door hangers.

Iacovelli, on the other hand, admitted outside the Draper Gym polling location Tuesday and he did not spend a single dime on his campaign.

“I think signs don’t win elections,” Iacovelli said Monday.

Hopedale resident Mark Niziak said he voted for Wesley, citing the need for a different voice and to wake up the smalltown politics.

“There’s a lot of apathy in town politics – the nature of the beast,” he said. “Hopefully (Wesley) will generate interest.”

School Committee incumbents Grace Pool, the current chairwoman, and Lori Hampsch, kept their seats for another three years.

Town Moderator Francis Larkin, a former judge and law professor, retained his seat after serving for more than 20 years.

Other incumbents who ran unopposed include Louis Arcudi III for the Board of Health, Jason MacDonald for the Housing Authority, Eli Potty for the Road Commission, Katherine Wright for Board of Library Trustees and Robert Burns for the Water and Sewer Commission.

Newcomers include Donald Howes for the Parks Commission and Barbara Oman for the Housing Authority.

According to interim Town Clerk James Mullen, the turnout was only 9 percent, and only 337 voters cast a ballot out of 3,719 registered voters.

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I Run for Hopedale

TAW Profile

When my family pulled up roots to move to Hopedale 10 years ago our neighbor’s young boy waved goodbye and said, “There’s always hope in Hopedale.” And he was right.
There was hope when Adin Ballou founded the Utopian town early in the 19th century. Hope was restored when the Draper brothers moved their plant to Hopedale. And hope remained when the Draper plant shut down in the 1970’s. Those visionaries gave us a terrific ride for more than a century. Nothing lasts forever and the torch has been passed to this generation as stewards of a great legacy.

Hopedale is once again poised to become a hub of economic activity in the region. Imagine the Draper properties reused to accommodate our new rail traffic and the potential of a commuter rail station. Or the possibility of a mixed use building with apartments, shopping, performing arts center, new town offices, and quarters for our seniors and for our children.
Imagine our school system aligned to support both the career aspirations of its students and the job needs of the region. Imagine a school as rich in the arts as well as the sciences. Imagine a town tranquil enough to raise our children and vibrant enough to entice them to stay as adults.
Imagine a town excited about the opportunities of the present and enthusiastic about the prospects for the future that encourages widespread participation in town government.
And imagine a town that supports evenhandedness across the needs of multiple generations.
Hope alone is not a strategy. Hopedale must develop a strategic vision and work towards its fulfillment year over year. We must have the confidence to see over the horizon and use our long term vision as a guide. At the same time we must continue to look around each corner to ensure we are maintaining our fiscal diligence to keep Hopedale affordable for all who live and work here.
God has granted me the talent to lead and I never shrink from that responsibility. Much is at stake in every election and this one is no different. It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.
I run for Hopedale.

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Remarks on Memorial Day 2014 Hopedale, Massachusetts

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May 28, 2014 · 9:29 pm

Remarks on Memorial Day 2014: Hopedale, MA

Just yesterday I took an early morning walk through this beautiful cemetery. The grounds are perfectly kept; the grass green and trimmed; the leaves on the trees are in full bloom. We can always count upon that.

What struck me in the morning mist was the abundance of American flags that mark the graves of each veteran who is interred here. We may thank the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for that respectful act of kindness each year.

Then I came to this very spot and reviewed the names inscribed on our War Memorial. There are 26 names listed here. They are citizens of Hopedale, Massachusetts, who gave their lives in service to this country during time of war. The list dates back to the Spanish American War. There were several
Hopedale residents who fought with valor in the Civil War.

Our town was settled in 1842 and, ever since, each generation has been touched by war. As I looked at the flags yesterday morning I was taken by the fact that those young Scouts who decorated the gravestones have never known peace in their lifetime. During the course of their short lives Americans have died in conflicts in Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Their parents’ lives have been touched by war deaths in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Grenada, Panama and Vietnam; and their Grandparents by Korea and the Second World War.

Even in times absent of conflict we are never far from war, the recollections of war and the consequences of war. It is our oral history that connects the generations. The last survivor of the American Revolution died just after the Civil War and the last survivor of the Civil War died just after I was born. We have ceremonies such as this to honor our war dead, to be sure. But in so honoring them we are ensuring that our present and future generations never forget how high a cost our freedom demands.

Plato reminds us that only the dead have seen the last of war. That axiom has stood the test of time for 2500 years. But it does not mean that peace is defined as the absence of war. There are things worth fighting for. And if they are worth fighting for then one must be ready to bear the highest price of all, death.

For the names etched upon these granite tablets I wish I could tell you that each death was meaningful. I cannot attest to that for they were sent into battle by mere mortals. But I can attest that each life was meaningful. We can tell the stories of how they lived and how we loved them; stories of how they touched our lives and those of others; stories of how they left their mark on society, even if only for a short while.

We, of course, honor our war dead this day and it is right that we do so. But just as cemeteries are for the living, ceremonies are for the living, too. We use them to connect with our past and to stay faithful to our traditions. They serve to bind us in a common heritage. Sometimes that heritage is not fully recognized.

For instance, the National Honor Society at Hopedale High School just inducted their newest members this past week. Did you know that the National Honor Society chapter is named in memory of Second Lieutenant Francis Wallace? Francis was the class president and Valedictorian of his high school class in 1937. He lived on Inman Street, graduated with distinction and went on to the US Naval Academy. He entered active duty in the Army Air Corps on December 13, 1941, less than one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. One year later on New Year’s Eve 1942, he was dead; killed in action when his plane went missing in the South Pacific. Little more is known about the circumstances.
It has been 77 years since Francis Wallace graduated from Hopedale High School. For you many Hopedale High School students in the band or in the audience today, you share a common bond now with one of the names on this tablet. You are fellow alumni.

The dead that we honor here today answered the call of their country because their country asked. Some died in conflict, some died in training; some died alongside a comrade in arms, some died alone. All died in noble service to their country.

To serve this country in uniform is a mighty experience. To serve alongside people of honor and courage is a privilege known by too few of us. This brotherhood was described by William Shakespeare in the now famous St. Crispin’s day speech from Henry V written more than 400 years ago:
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

I will close with a quotation from the great American General George S. Patton:
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

Thank you. And may God bless the souls of our fellow countryman.

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On Linus van Pelt and Apollo 8 at Christmastime: Radio Essay for December 24, 2013

It is a well worn axiom that the more things change the more they stay the same. At 50 plus years, the decade of the 1960’s seems so long ago. Not surprisingly, life seemed very different then. But was it really? Let’s look at life in 1965. The war in Vietnam was ramping up to 190,000 fighting troops; the Watts section of Los Angeles was in flames; a first class stamp cost five cents. And “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted. It has run faithfully every year since then.

It turns out that Charlie Brown was unhappy about all of the commercialization that was overtaking Christmas and distracting from the true meaning of the holiday. That was almost 50 years ago. You couldn’t shop on Sundays in those days, the internet was decades away, and Black Friday had more significance in religious terms than in retail. Even Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s must trusted companion, got into the act, decorating his doghouse with colorful lights. Charlie Brown’s younger sister, Sally, had an exhaustive list for Santa that she feared might be too complicated. She suggested that Santa just send money, preferably in 10’s and 20’s. Did I mention that Lucy wanted real estate for Christmas?

It’s no wonder that Charlie Brown was dismayed. Leave it to Lucy’s younger brother Linus to tell us what Christmas was all about.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

Linus quoted scripture. On TV. He was right, that is what Christmas is all about. And to think that it took an animated cartoon character to bring it all together for us as a nation, reminding us of a message that has stood for more than two thousand years. They don’t make much television like that anymore. There is more of a loss than the frenzy of shopping madness that has enveloped the holiday and the political correctness that makes us feel more than a little out of order when we wish each other a Merry Christmas.

It has been forty five years since man first orbited the moon on Apollo 8. The astronauts that evening recited from the Book of Genesis. First, William Anders spoke. He addressed his comments “for all the people of the earth” as he began with, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Jim Lovell, who later commanded the ill-fated Apollo 13, described the second day when God separated the night from the day. Finally, Frank Borman described the creation of the dry land and the seas.

These were men of faith who were not afraid to share that faith with literally billions of people on the fragile planet that they, for the first time with human eyes, would watch rise above the lunar horizon. There is that iconic photo that revealed to us just how much we are dependent upon one another on this earth for its continued survival. Their very orbit around the moon convinced us that we had no other place in which to seek refuge and that we had better find a way to get along.

At a winter concert this year at a public school on Long Island, the Christmas carol “Silent Night” was edited to omit any reference to the Holy Infant or Christ the Savior. So far we have come from the the decade where Linus and Apollo 8 could reach out to us in scripture. In retrospect and with today’s emphasis of political correctness and the sense of absolute separation of all things spiritual from anything governmental, reading from the Christian bible from space seems quite a risky proposition. And so does Linus reading from the Book of Luke about the birth of the Savior.

Personally, I believe that a God, my God, created the heavens and the earth. It is not my desire to pressure anyone else into thinking likewise. I simply profess what I believe with respect for the beliefs of others. I am happy that Linus van Pelt reached out across our nation with a story of the meaning of Christmas without offending the nation much in the same way that the astronauts of Apollo 8 chose to reach out across the planet in describing the wonder creation to an expectant world.

So, on this Christmas Eve, I will close with the heartfelt and poignant words of Frank Borman emerging from the shadow of the moon in 1968: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God Bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”

Press on.

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