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Liggett defends right to comment

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rekindling a political fire storm during his Memorial Day dinner speech, Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett remembered a veteran of the Vietnam War who was denied the opportunity to speak to the county commission nearly two months ago.

Liggett's reference was about 12 commissioners' vote against letting Henry Dowlen speak for Jerry Campbell over Sam Smith when there was an open seat on the school board. In addition to being a veteran who was prevented from speaking, Dowlen is a retired director of the Dairy Research and Education Center here.

"Benjamin Franklin said, 'Only virtuous people are capable of freedom,'" Liggett told about 60 people in the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall during his Memorial Day dinner speech. "'As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.'"

American Legion Post 59 Commander Larry Hastings said the day exists to remember those who'd made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the U.S. Constitution and the American way of life.

Quoting John Adams, Liggett said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.'"

Some Americans have "lost track of who's in charge," the county mayor said in a theological reference.

During a recent seminar in Bedford County for emergency management personnel, Liggett recalled an FBI agent saying that law enforcement relies on information from the people in its attempts to maintain national security.

"I remember how beautiful the day was" on Sept. 11, 2001, Liggett told veterans, friends and relatives on Monday night, "and what a disaster it became...

"We fight the battle here by paying attention to what goes on ... looking for what's out of place. We are our own first line of defense.

"The freedom that people died for is threatened," Liggett said, turning to how that freedom is enjoyed, or denied in local context.

He did not accuse anyone as a terrorist, but quoted Thomas Jefferson as saying, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.'

"By not taking action, we have failed those who have died for us on the lonely battlefields..." the county mayor said. Safeguarding freedom requires virtuous people to speak up and/or take action.

"This line of defense comes from being involved at all levels of government with local government being our first level of protection."

Without naming Dowlen during his speech, Liggett told of that late February county commission meeting when Smith, a Cornersville-area farmer, was named to the school board over former Cornersville Police chief and former school board chairman Jerry Campbell.

"Everything had been done properly for an individual to speak... (but Dowlen) was stopped by a technicality of a rule... He was asked to sit. That individual was a Vietnam veteran."

Liggett confirmed after his speech that he was talking about Dowlen.

The way to protect freedom "was given by George Washington when he said, 'The power under the Constitution will always be in the people. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can, and undoubtedly will, be recalled.'

"By fighting for what we know is right," Liggett concluded, "we honor those who we are here to honor."