Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Weight of History

The following is from Congressman Rush Holt's newsletter

During my tenure in Congress, the preservation of historically and environmentally significant land has been an important concern for me. My legislation to expand the Battlefield Acquisition Grant Program, which passed in the House, is awaiting action in the Senate. The bill would help organizations acquire funding to preserve Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites in the United States. Hundreds of battlefields and associated sites need to be preserved, many in New Jersey.

 Rep. Rush Holt receives the Preservation Leadership Award from Jim Lighthizer, President of the Civil War Trust, and Civil War Trust Board Member Bill Vodra
I was recognized this week by the Civil War Trust for my work on preservation. The Trust presented me with a plaque and two artifacts from the Civil War: a brass breastplate engraved with the Union Eagle, and a New Jersey officer’s uniform button engraved with the Great Seal of New Jersey. The breastplate was unearthed at the Chancellorsville Battlefield in Virginia, where 24 New Jersey regiments fought from May 1-5, 1863, and suffered 1,700 casualties.

To hold these two relics from a key moment in our American story is to feel the weight of history and understand the need to protect our historical sites.

Common Sense Reform

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would be stepping down after almost six years as our nation’s top law enforcement officer. He has some important actions and positions to point to. During his tenure the Department of Justice has fought to uphold the civil liberties of LGBT citizens, has defended the right of all Americans to vote, and has protected immigrants from harassment. While I felt he could have done more on issues like the NYPD’s warrantless surveillance of Muslim Americans, he has “done much to make real the promise of our democracy” as he said when announcing his resignation.

Just this month, the Attorney General announced that for the first time in 34 years, the federal prison population has actually decreased by 4,800 inmates. While the United States encompasses five percent of the world’s population, we imprison almost 25 percent of the total global prison population. An important factor in this change has been the Attorney General’s efforts to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, which I have long opposed because they discount mitigating factors in crimes and are discriminatory towards people of color.

We must also take other sensible steps to reform our broken criminal justice system. Senator Cory Booker has introduced the REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act to give individuals convicted of non-violent crimes a second chance.

The Most Powerful Instrument Devised By Man

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that "the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice." September 23rd commemorated National Voter Registration Day. Here in New Jersey the deadline to register to vote in the general election in November is October 14th. If you have not yet registered to vote, I encourage you to click here.

We must all remember that our duty does not stop with registration. Voter turnout is about 14 percent lower in non-Presidential election years (like this one) than when the office of the President is on the ballot. I understand that citizens are often busy and distracted, and sometimes unsure or confused about the candidates, or just plain cynical, but we must try to get all to exercise the most basic part of citizenship. Also, we in government must work to ensure that all eligible voters have good access, and that all votes are counted reliably and verifiably.


Rush Holt
Member of Congress

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