(The following is a transcript of the remarks Representative-Emeritus Dannebohm gave to attendees of his birthday celebration on September 9th, 2017. 103 people from as far away as Colorado, Missouri, Maine, and Texas attended the birthday celebration including past and present elected and appointed officials, gubernatorial candidates, university presidents, family, and friends – old and new. The Molly Neeley Trio, Oz artist Vincent Myrand, author Christianna Rickard (niece of Ray Bolger – the scarecrow and cousin to Christopher Reeve – Superman), and Jane Albright who is the President of the International Wizard of Oz Club were all on hand, making it a truly special occasion.)
Good evening. We’ve heard some wonderful words this evening so I’ll keep my remarks brief.
One can’t help but notice the uptick of hatred and division that seems to be taking a grip on our world. I’m not certain why it exists. I think part of the problem is that the internet made some people comfortable hiding behind a vague username, degrading one another – when I was in office, I referred to them as ‘armchair politicians.’
Over the past few years, that has evolved into a deranged sense of confidence and a delusion that it’s somehow okay to take an agenda of hatred and falsehoods to the streets – sometimes literally.
Some people wonder how this increase in hatred happened, I’m more concerned with doing my small part to ensure it ceases. That’s why I host receptions such as this. In truth, this event is less about my birthday and more about bringing people together.
At this, and every other reception I host, all are equal, all are loved, all are friends. No matter your race, creed, color, origin, sexual orientation, gender preference, political views – all guests are welcome. At these gatherings, our differences are set aside and our humanity is celebrated.
It’s a sad situation that many of us communicate more with our neighbors via instant messenger than the front porch swing. It’s my hope that receptions such as this foster a renewed sense of communication and understanding.
Nowhere will you find a better example of strangers casting aside their differences and helping one another on a journey than in L. Frank Baum’s literary masterpiece, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Whether reading the book or watching the movie, young and old alike can take away a valuable lesson from the timeless classic. That’s why I chose to have a Oz inspired cocktail reception for my birthday.
If Baum taught us anything from this work, it’s that separately brains, a heart, and courage are powerful tools. However, when used for the good of others on life’s journey they become phenomenal building blocks of friendship and solidarity.
Like Dorothy Gale, I found a some of strangers, turned friends, to help me in my mission – and I’m grateful to them for traveling many miles to be here with me for this special occasion. I firmly believe that the lessons we learn from Oz are vital and incredibly relevant. Using Baum’s work as a guidebook, each of us seeks to make the world a better place. We seek the diversity, love, and understanding that can be found in the characters or Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion.
This evening, by reconnecting with a classic from our childhood, may this celebration remind us that with love as our guide, we can set aside our differences and truly make this city, this state, this nation, and this world a beautiful place. I encourage you, this evening, to be love and light to the world. A friend to the stranger on life’s journey.
Thank you for being with me on this special occasion. Humbly, I ask that you remember me in prayer. Be assured of mine.