Ken Plum: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

kenplum2The editorial in the September 21, 1897 New York Sun, responding to a letter from eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon who had inquired about whether there was a Santa Claus, has become the most reprinted newspaper editorial, according to the Newseum (newseum.org/yesvirginia). Virginia’s father had told her that if she read it in the Sun it was certain to be true. The editor wrote, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Virginians, especially those around the capitol city, have long believed in Santa Claus. The “Legendary Santa” has been meeting with boys and girls at Miller and Rhoads–first a department store and now a hotel in Richmond–for more than 75 years. There is ample proof that he is the “real” Santa Claus for he is able with assistance from the Snow Queen and some technology to call every child by name. We go with our grandchildren to see him at his latest location at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Read more about this Virginia tradition in Legendary Santa’s Stories from the Chair  (Children’s Museum of Richmond, 2011, www.c-mor.org/santa/book). On page six is a photograph of young Jane Durham (now Plum) and her brother visiting Santa many years ago.

Throughout the capitol there is a quickened pace of activity during the holiday season in anticipation of the General Assembly convening on January 14. There are wish lists from all the agencies and special interests. And, yes, Virginia, if there is a Santa Claus here is my wish list for the legislative session, essentially requesting my list from last year.

Virginia should extend health insurance to nearly half its uninsured working poor by expanding Medicaid. Not only would more people have access to preventative care as well as treatment, but Virginians would get more of their federal tax dollars back and a boost to the economy with the health care jobs being created.

While I am wishing, I want the General Assembly to expand background checks for all gun purchases to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and violent people. I just this past weekend attended a vigil on the second anniversary of the massacre of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the second highest such shooting after Virginia Tech in 2007, and yet commonsense gun safety laws have not been enacted. I also want the legislature to approve my bill to establish an independent redistricting commission that will fairly and objectively draw legislative boundaries. We would on my wish list repeal the marriage amendment and other discrimination based on sexual orientation. And while we are at it, we need to get the state back to the position of being an equal partner in funding public schools.

None of these goals will be reached by simply wishing for them. Hard work, determination, and public pressure can make them reality. Just like in Santa’s workshop, there needs to be a lot of work done behind the scenes.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.