The 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/2014/12/22/). 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 capital city, have long believed in Santa Claus. The “Legendary Santa” has been meeting with boys and girls at Miller & Rhoads — first a department store and now an apartment building 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 capital there is a quickened pace of activity during the holiday season in anticipation of the General Assembly convening on January 10. There are wish lists from all the agencies and special interests. And, yes, Commonwealth, if there is a Santa Claus here is my wish list for the legislative session, essentially duplicating my list from the last several years.
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. Just this past week I attended a vigil on the fifth anniversary of the massacre of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School 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. On my wish list we would outlaw 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. Could this be the year I get what I want?