Speeches

Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer
Speech at the Bicentennial Bell Dedication-- Erie County
Aug. 7, 2002

Americans are unique. As a nation, we do not share a common ancestry, a common bloodline. We are a nation of ideals…of freedom, liberty and democracy. In a nation of Germans and Africans…English and Hispanics…we are a people dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal.

With such intangibles as our bedrock…we turn to symbols to rally our unity….whether it is the image of the flag at Iwo Jima, or the sandstone and marble of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. We see our strengths and convictions in these images.

Today we add a new symbol; a bell cast in honor of events and citizens who have gone before us.

The bell may remind us that we are descendants of immigrants and revolutionaries---people of courage and strong spirit. We are sons and daughters of farmers and orchard growers who fed a nation….and factory workers and shipwrights who built a nation. Our ancestors were lawyers and accountants-shop keepers and school teachers-nurses, doctors and ministers who gave us a legacy that a great society can be achieved through hard work and shared values.

We owe much to those who went before us. They created a rich legacy. The first immigrants to the Firelands could have rebuilt their communities along the eastern seaboard. They could have stayed in an area that was familiar, if not friendly. But they took a risk….setting out by horse and mule for a new life in an unfamiliar land offering uncertain rewards.

One of their first orders of business was to lay-out the town square, the gathering point which demonstrated their commitment to the common good. Churches, public libraries, and school houses surrounded courthouses, as here in Erie County. They were manifestations of deep-rooted beliefs.

In the spirit of this bell, may we also remember those who left here, never to return: the Union rifleman of the Civil War, the infantrymen of World War One, and the airborne of World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. And today, we have a special place in our sense of country for the men and women who have faced-down aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two-hundred years from today….when the citizens of Erie County gather to mark the bicentennial of this bell….may they say that their ancestors at the dawn of the 21st century believed in freedom, justice and democracy, and they lived it in their daily lives.