Revolutionary-era Gov. Oliver Wolcott and open government advocate Andy Thibault are two Connecticut patriots who inspire me as I prepare for a series of hard-hitting lectures this week in the state where I began my reporting career.
Wolcott was a Yale College graduate, judge and militia commander who lived from 1726 to 1797. He signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and became the state’s congressional representative and governor. Curiously, his father had been the British crown’s governor of Connecticut during colonial times.
So, it took commitment and courage for the younger Wolcott to lead fledgling revolutionaries, who were guaranteed neither success, popularity — nor their lives and family welfare.
Fast forward to the present. Thibault is an enormously talented, fearless, and civic-minded journalist and author. The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, a state body, is honoring him June 18 with its annual “open government” award for his recent work, which builds on a lifetime of achievement.
His work includes syndicated newspaper columns, collected on his blog site Cool Justice and in his 2002 book Law and Justice In Everyday Life. These help fill a gap in downsized newspaper coverage of the nuts-and-bolts of community life. In an oft-uncaring world, he exposes injustice afflicting ordinary citizens in the courts, police departments and regulatory bodies.
One example has been his relentless search on behalf of a Westchester, NY family for a long-missing member, a businessman who journeyed to New Orleans decades ago. From such efforts overlapping our work here, I got better acquainted with his passion for justice after a gap of several decades from our first encounter, when I covered courts for the Hartford Courant.
Five months ago, he reviewed my book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters in three Connecticut newspapers with an uncompromising appraisal under the bold headline, Road map to master manipulators.
Then he volunteered to use his considerable contacts in Connecticut to line up speaking engagements for me to discuss the book’s findings.
The first is an invitation-only gathering at the prestigious Hartford Club June 18 in the state capital’s downtown. Then at 7 p.m. on June 19, I speak at the Oliver Wolcott Library in rural Litchfield.
Thibault lives in this historic community, which was also Wolcott’s base for his many civic leadership posts.
But it is more than the Litchfield connection that pairs Wolcott and Thibault in my mind right now. My lecture theme in Hartford will be, “Protecting Connecticut’s Civic Culture from the National Surveillance State.” The topic in Litchfield will be a more general call for reform of disgraceful Washington-based activities hurting the nation.