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Brat Upsets Cantor – Give Us the Tools and We’ll Finish the Job

Updated on May 7, 2019

Graduation Day

When we turned out of the neighborhood, I noted it was poll-day. There was sign on the right side of the road saying ‘Brat for Congress’. I asked ‘Who is Brat?’. The driver answered and told me Brat was running in that District against Eric Cantor. Further up the road, there were about twenty Eric Cantor signs on the left. (Much later, the news says Brat had been outspent by Cantor forty to one. Based on all the signs I saw, I believe that to be true.) I asked the others in the car if they planned to vote today, and they said ‘Maybe’. I jokingly commented ‘Only Virginia would think of sending a Brat to Congress’. It was not the district I lived in, so the concern about missing out on voting quickly passed from my mind.

We had other business that day.

It was Glen Allen High Schools graduation day. I was in Glen Allen and Richmond to attend my nephew’s graduation. That big once-in-a-lifetime day, no more high school, off to college; learn to work, and start doing all the things you need to do to be a responsible citizen.

The graduation ceremony was in downtown Richmond, at the Siegel Center of Virginia Commonwealth University. Glen Allen had over four hundred graduates. Their mascot is the Jaguar. It is a newer high school, and this the first class whose students attended Glen Allen through their full high school career. Siegel Center is packed. There must be five thousand people there. Clearly, this area supports its graduates.

Give Us The Tools and We’ll Finish The Job

The theme of the ceremony was ‘Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job’. The reference is to a speech by Winston Churchill on 9 February 1941. He was then leader of Great Britain, and the United States had not yet been drawn into the war with Nazi Germany. He was responding to a letter from President Roosevelt of the United States. Roosevelt had quoted Longfellow in his letter to express the concern the United States had for the fate of Great Britain. At the time Nazi Germany was making great progress in its war on the rest of Europe. Great Britain had not yet fallen, but the outcome was uncertain. Churchill’s response was essentially one of will and determination. They had not yet fallen, nor did they plan to, but help was needed. The final words of the speech were ‘give us the tools and we'll finish the job’.

We all know the outcome of the war.

The introduction was about this speech. What followed in the graduation were acts, acts that if planned, were well orchestrated, but I suspect a higher power contributed. To begin, the valedictorian stood up, looked around like she was confused, then sat back down.

In her place, the class speaker spoke to the theme ‘I believe’. I ask my nephew later what that was all about. This student had developed an interaction with the other students to lead them at rallies. It began ‘I believe’, with all the students responding ‘I believe’. The interaction would continue with the sentence ‘I believe’ becoming gradually longer until the rally was over. It is clear why he was asked to speak at the graduation. For him, faith is the right tool for the job.

Teal Tornadoes

Glen Allen High School participated in Robotics Team competitions, where students learned about technology and teamwork.  This was one of the buttons they used over the last few years.
Glen Allen High School participated in Robotics Team competitions, where students learned about technology and teamwork. This was one of the buttons they used over the last few years.

Technology Is A Tool

Next, the valedictorian stood up, and read her speech from a Smart Phone. It turns out, she had lost her notes. This valedictorian did not have her speech memorized. In order to not interfere with the graduation, Smart Phones and other electronic devices had been taken away from the graduates. She had to get hers back. They gave her the tools and she finished the job. I briefly wonder if anyone noted the thematic lesson.

After the valedictorians speech came a few other formalities, and then the commencement began. The master of ceremonies asked at the beginning of the commencement that the audience keep the applause for each student brief so that every students name could be heard. As each name was read, there was a real brief shout-out from parents and family in the audience, but the pace was fast, one student crossed the stage to receives his diploma about every five or six seconds.

That is, except for one graduate.

Will and Determination

Midway through the ceremony, one student heads up to the stage in a wheelchair. Others gather around him, bringing out a walker so that he can walk across the stage to receive his diploma. He had decided four years ago as a freshman that even though he had cerebral palsy, he would walk across the stage like the rest of his classmates to receive his diploma. Apparently he had recognized early on that no one else could do this for him, but also, that he could not do it totally on his own.

He gets a standing ovation, as he should. He is the only graduate in the class who gets such applause. The audience clearly appreciated his accomplishment, and so did those on the stage. There was no request to hold applause, no reminder, and the commencement did not continue until the young man was fully across the stage. It was one of those touching moments that all who attended will remember. It made the news in Richmond, and it deserves a wider audience.

And the lesson here?

Emotional Graduation Moment

How many had recognized the lesson?

Often, your own will and determination are the tools needed to finish the job.

Brat Upsets Cantor

The other big news of June 10, 2014 is that David Brat defeated Eric Cantor. Like a lot of other people, I had never heard of David Brat until Tuesday, June 10. And yet, the big political news of the day is all about David Brat. Actually, the big political news of the week is all about David Brat. Interestingly enough, his campaign contributions go to a post office box in Glen Allen, Virginia.


The national news channels are all offering speculation on what happened. They hypothesize that Democrats crossed party lines in the primaries solely to unseat Cantor, or that Cantor had fallen into disfavor because of a stance on immigration that was objectionable to his constituents, or that Cantor had refused to meet with his constituents and they did not appreciate that.

Could it be that the truth is much simpler? Could it be that the small city of Glen Allen is giving us all lessons?

The are a lot of people in the United States who are upset at what our political system has become. But it will not change if those in office continue to treat their positions as positions of power to make up an ever changing set of rules for the rest of us to follow.

If we want to change it, we have to recognize that David Brat can not change it on his own. It remains to be seen, do we have the will and determination to vote to change it?

“Give Us the Tools and We’ll Finish the Job”

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