Del. Ken Plum: Opening Eyes on States’ Rights

by Del. Ken Plum September 9, 2016 at 10:40 am 13 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

A brief trip to the Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive which Jane and I took recently with two of our grandchildren brought back a flood of memories.

Our stay-over was at Skyland Lodge, where in the summer of 1959 I was cashier at the dining room and in the summer of 1960 I was room clerk. We spent the night in a unit that was next door to the Canyon unit, where my Mother was maid for both those summers. Employees who lived as we did in the Shenandoah Valley stayed in employee housing for our six-day work week since the distance home was too great to commute daily.

My second summer there I shared a room in Trout Cabin with the student minister who worked as a regular employee during the week and conducted a worship service on Sunday.

Living atop the Blue Ridge Mountains was a treat for me. For one thing it was a lot cooler, and we did not have air conditioning at home. Being there daily allowed me to appreciate the mountain in all its moods from cloud shrouded to clear views of the Valley below. But my most lasting memory came from my conversations and debates with my roommate.

We were both interested in politics, and at that point we could not have been more different in our views. He was a college graduate, and I was a recent graduate of a Virginia public high school. In one heated conversation, he argued for the desegregation of public schools that continued to be segregated under the state official policy of Massive Resistance. I on the other hand argued — much to my continued amazement — for the states’ right to choose how they ran their schools.

After all, I had just taken a course in government with an approved Virginia textbook that emphasized states’ rights. As a student with a strong interest in politics and government I had secured pamphlets from the Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government that emphasized the rights of the states over an ever farther reaching federal government. My roommate poked holes in all the arguments I could offer from what I had been taught. The next day he left for graduate school at Harvard.

That conversation haunted me for days after he left. I realized he was right. The rights of individuals over the state were what was most important. That is what Jefferson had written in the Declaration of Independence.

What I had been taught was the view of politicians seeking to hold power. I never used the states’ rights argument again. I went on to college and became involved in politics. My early efforts were directed against Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr.’s Massive Resistance movement. I joined the Human Relations Council and worked for desegregation of the schools.

I wish my friend had been at Skyland Lodge last week so that we could have had that conversation again. He would certainly have been surprised at how much I have learned in the meantime.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Oh gawd is it 1959 again? It is always 1959 for this guy. Or maybe 1965 at the latest.

    • Mike M

      You stole my point. Perhaps it’s just so painfully obvious. Dems will always allude to their glory days of pre-1965. It makes them feel relevant. It make a certain constituency feel a dependence upon them. They rarely open their mouth or write anything without appealing to a particular constituency be in AAs, teachers, or women in general. And it works! They get those votes overwhelmingly.

      The simplicity of Ken’s logic scares me. He is convinced that states’ rights were trumped by individual rights on the desegregation issue, and so he is really implying strongly and more generally that the states should not run their own schools. A wink at teacher’s unions? This is really odd for a delegate in state government.

      So, I guess there’s nothing of import for Ken to put before his general constituency in the Virginia of 2016.

  • MaggieSays

    Sometimes I feel like Reston Now is Mr. Plum’s personal outlet for spinning yarns of ye olden times. It’s like you have to sit through your rambling uncle’s long story and you want to shout “LIVE IN THE NOW, UNCLE KEN!!!”

  • Rational Reston

    So now Del. Plum does not support rights of the State nor rights of the individual? Someone else somewhere else will do all of the thinking, just like how he pushes the talking points of someone else (when he isn’t reminiscing about sometime in the 1950’s)

    • Scott H

      I think he prefers ‘1984’

  • Scott H

    My God Ken. How do you continue to get elected? You’re 74-years old, an elected politician, and have no concept of the basic civic structure of the Constitution.
    States’ Rights as defined in the Constitution are not about allowing State governments to discriminate against individuals. (Segregation clearly violates many areas of the Constitution and than God Democrats lost that fight.) No, States Rights are about defining what the Federal Government is legally allowed to do(ie the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution), with the rest being reserved as the domain (Right) of the States to manage.
    As a State Representative, you should be fighting mad every time the Feds take power from the State Government you participate it.

  • John Weis

    It seems like Ken is a great delegate for us. He is active, stays in touch and is active with his community, is open to all comments and, most of all, honest, He is involved here. He educates us and doesn’t make things up to make himself look better. He does not fixate on the negatives of others. He is knowledgeable, calm, and thoughtful. I am proud to have him as my representative.

    • Mike M

      Ken’s accomplishments?

    • MaggieSays

      But what has Ken done for you lately? I’m asking seriously.

  • Lifelong student

    I think that’s a great story and it taught me two things, two things which are rare these days,

    1. You can disagree over political matters and still be civil and respect full

    2. Nature was respected and people were outdoors to appreciate and enjoy it

    Thanks Ken.

    • South Park Kenny

      How do you know there wasn’t violence involved? Ancient wood carving records at the Skyland Lodge suggest there was a pillow fight followed by a pillow suffocation.

  • drb

    I am glad that Mr. plum has evolved since his youth and doesn’t believe in segregation any more.

    Unfortunately his fellow Liberals are trying to institute it again as we see in the “black only” dorms at prominent Liberal universities. Mark my words that this is only the beginning. The Democrat Party has a long history of division, discrimination, hatred and racism. Starting with ‘slavery”, the “trail of tears”, “fugitive slave act”, “Dred Scott”, assassination of Lincoln, “the KKK”, “Jim Crow”, President Wilson, “Brown v. Board of Education”, Japanese internment, Democrat attempts throughout our history to stop civil rights.

    This is not even counting all the Democrat and Liberal control of all our major cities that have most of our minorities living within their jurisdiction and offer poverty and the worst education anywhere in the country. As well as discrimination and hatred of those that support upward mobility for all Americans

    Perhaps Mr. Plum can have a debate with his fellow Liberals of the wrong headedness of their actions and beliefs. Or as I suspect by his writings and voting record he doesn’t disagree with them so much.

  • one really

    Ken reminds me of that crazy uncle everyone has in their family. He is the one seen at family functions just shooting out at the mouth about random topics from his special chair in the corner.


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