The annual Bernie pilgrimage to Vermont

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Matt Harrington is the energetic, visionary, and capable executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce. He often writes a column on Chamber affairs for the Bennington Banner. His most recent column, "A southern Vermont of Tomorrow — Part I," has provided a gem of an idea.

Harrington believes that we need to capitalize on the popularity of the Bernie Sanders brand that is established throughout America. According to Harrington, we should "bottle what Bernie has shown the world." He goes further and believes that, "if you liked Bernie, you should try (and visit) the rest of Vermont." What a great idea and allow me to suggest how we can take advantage of the Bernie Brand.

First, we need to establish an annual pilgrimage to Vermont, to honor Bernie's legendary accomplishments.

Not unlike other world pilgrimages, this one will need a time of year, a place to go to, a monument to visit, and, of course, a way to fund it. All of which is doable with some imagination and creativity.

The date for the annual pilgrimage will be September 8, to commemorate Bernie's birthday. The place the pilgrims will come to in Vermont is a bit more difficult. The obvious place would be Burlington where the itinerant carpenter from Brooklyn, now turned millionaire, began his mission some 50 years ago.

But Burlington doesn't need more tourists - Bennington, on the other hand, does. Therefore, Bennington will be the pilgrimage destination.

Once in Bennington, the travelers who will be coming from all over the country, will need to see something tangible, like a monument. Bennington would be perfect in that it already has the Bennington Battle Monument Park, with area for expansion.

Within the park, a new monument will be commissioned to be larger than the one that is there in honor of General Stark (served when there were 13 colonies whereas Bernie placed his mark on 50 states.) A statue of Bernie, arms in the air, growling face, eyeglasses hung low, and his hair a mess, would be fitting. The height should be about 75 feet - not to overshadow the 306 foot Bennington Battle monument.

Etched on each side of the monument would be, "the core values of Vermont" that Harrington noted and are manifested by Bernie — authenticity, truth, grit, and transparency. I have difficulty with the last two values. Back in the days of General Stark, Vermonters showed grit, but not today with so many Vermonters dependent on aid from Washington.

As far as transparency in government, just ask the folks at VTDigger and other news outlets how much in legal fees they have had to pay out to get government officials to reveal what is going on at Burlington College and Jay Peak's EB-5 fraud. If Burlington's Seven Days is right, Bernie has gone completely dark in granting interviews with Vermont press organizations.

In these times of tight state and local budgeting, the cost of erecting such a monument could be quite challenging. However, there might be a source; the millions of dollars that the Sanders Presidential Campaign paid to the two ladies who ran his campaign marketing out of the private residence at 4507 Penwood Dr. in Alexandria, Virginia, called Old Towne Media, LLC. The LLC has never disclosed what happened to the millions of dollars in fees it was paid for services.

The initial design work cost might be contributed by Jane O'Meara Sanders from the golden parachute of $200,000 she received from her defunct Burlington College. These funds should be safe now, assuming the FBI, FDIC and U.S. Justice Department have concluded their investigations of the college's financial mess.

It would be fitting that when the Bernie monument is dedicated, the invitees include Pat Leahy, Howard Dean and Peter Shumlin. All three would be manifesting the unity of Vermont's political establishment for Bernie, something that was nonexistent in 2016.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington.

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