- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

JAMESTOWN, Va. — It was fitting for Virginia to begin its 2007 legislative session at the place where representative democracy in America was born, Vice President Dick Cheney told legislators yesterday.

In a speech that stressed themes of religious faith, sacrifice and personal courage, Mr. Cheney helped open the Virginia General Assembly’s winter session at the site where the first English settlement in North America was established 400 years ago.

“It’s striking to realize how much of America’s story begins with a little three-sided fort raised on the banks of the James River four centuries ago,” Mr. Cheney told legislators who packed into the historic Jamestown Memorial Church.

The first meeting of Virginia’s legislative body in nearly 350 years at Jamestown was held to mark the start of the anniversary year. The highlight of the commemoration is a scheduled visit in May by Queen Elizabeth II — retracing the steps she made to Jamestown in 1957 when she visited the site on its 350th anniversary.

Although the first meeting of the House of Burgesses wasn’t until 12 years after the settlers landed in May 1607, Mr. Cheney recognized Jamestown’s contributions to America.

“Indeed, so much of what defines our country — its language, legal traditions and institutions — have roots in the community that rose in this corner of Virginia,” Mr. Cheney said.

The Republican vice president entered to cheers by Republican legislators and polite applause from Democrats. His 10-minute speech, however, was devoid of partisan tinge and often lyrical.

Mr. Cheney’s best line came when he said, “The history of our country did not begin on Cape Cod in 1620,” and Democrats and Republicans alike cheered the comment. Toward the rear of the chapel, Republican Delegates Chris B. Saxman of Augusta and William H. Fralin Jr. of Roanoke stood and shouted their approval.

During the speech, Mr. Cheney read from a dispatch written by a Jamestown colonist in 1610, after starvation, disease and attacks from Indians during a bitter winter killed nearly three-quarters of the settlers.

“It read, and I quote: ‘Be not dismayed at all. Let England know our willingness, for our work is good, and we hope to plant a nation where none before has stood,’ ” Mr. Cheney said.

“Even across the centuries, it is admirable and inspiring that such hopeful words could be written in the year 1610 amid difficulties that our generation can scarcely imagine. And it’s a reminder that no matter how important deeds may be, things of the spirit are first,” he said.

As he spoke, a chill wind fanned whitecaps across a milewide stretch of the James River a few feet from the reconstructed log palisades of the original three-sided Jamestown Fort and the rustic brick church.

The session opened with a prayer from Steven R. Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy Indian tribe. It was his ancestors who greeted the first settlers.

He opened the prayer in his native tongue, saying, “Great Spirit, the loving Father of all nations.”

The session closed with a prayer by the Rev. Jay Timothy Harrison Sr., a black Baptist pastor. The first Africans brought to America came as servants to Jamestown in 1619, beginning a 250-year legacy of slavery in the state.

The opening-day events — held about 50 miles southeast of the Capitol in Richmond — drew bipartisan praise.

Delegate Mamye E. BaCote, Newport News Democrat, said she enjoyed Mr. Cheney’s speech and being able to take the time to see where America’s form of government began.

“It kicked off the beginning of representative government in America, and it has evolved,” Mrs. BaCote said. “This is what we preach when we go out to other countries.”

Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton, Newport News Republican, said that he was humbled to be a part of what he called a historic event and that Mr. Cheney was right to recall the horror and privations the original settlers endured.

“It’s a great boost to Virginia, and it does reaffirm the role of Virginia in the history of this nation,” Mr. Hamilton said.

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