[image-x] I recently had the opportunity to spend a Friday morning with UVM alum and newly elected Representative Kesha Ram at her new digs — the statehouse in Montpelier.
I had never been to Montpelier before. The capital of Vermont, like most Green Mountain towns outside the Burlington metro area, consists of no more than one or two main commercial roads. It’s the only state capital without a McDonalds. The statehouse, a marvelous golden-domed building, brilliantly stands out from the rest of the rather mundane State Street.
Regardless of how you voted (or didn’t vote) in the November state legislative election, you've got to admit that Kesha Ram is an exciting figure. On a purely superficial level, Representative Ram stands out like no other legislator. Her young voice, tiny frame, and darker complexion bring a welcome breath of fresh air to a chamber occupied by generally older, whiter, (and quite a few plumper) legislators. She also stands out for her mini-celebrity status within the statehouse. As we walked the halls chatting, our conversation was interrupted more than a dozen times with political action-types introducing themselves, confessing how they’re so excited to finally get to meet her.
What has yet to significantly stand out, however, is her own voice. Throughout the campaign, Ms. Ram defended attacks from her Progressive opponents that her decision to run as a Democrat would not hinder her ability to speak clearly and independently on behalf of her Burlington constituents. To her credit, the current legislative session is only a few months old. However, it must be noted that Representative Ram did tell me that as a new member of the chamber, she’s accepted taking a back seat to some of the more experienced voices.
After an abbreviated floor session, I sat in on a committee meeting with Representative Ram and about five of her colleagues. They were hearing testimony from representatives from Wal Mart, who came to speak against a pending resolution to be sent to the Virginia state government, urging them to stop the building of one of their stores on Civil War ground where many Vermonters died. During the 45-minute meeting, Representative Ram asked no more than five questions, and certainly wasn’t the one driving the conversation.
Granted, to ask any freshman legislator to storm in and take charge may be too much to expect. And spending one day in the statehouse is just a snapshot. But for someone who vigorously defended her ability to act just as independently as her Progressive opponents, it is indeed worth noting.
Kesha Ram surely stands out on strictly biographical grounds, generating an excitement and general goodwill towards her that gives her a leg-up on any run-of-the-mill freshman legislator. As her tenure in the legislature continues, Burlington residents should hope Representative Ram capitalizes on this excitement around her to speak up a little more. That’s a large task to ask of an ordinary freshman representative, but Kesha Ram has proven that she's not ordinary.
Note: This is my last post for WG. I will be moving on to fully focus on my duties as Editor-in-Chief of The Water Tower, UVM's alternative student newsmag. Thank you to Seven Days and Online Editor Cathy Resmer for this great opportunity.