There is no other place on earth like the Ohio House of Representatives.
The historical elegance is breathtaking. The red velvet curtains behind the rostrum outlined the Speaker’s podium, adding an air of refinement and charm. The ornate marble was old and well-worn. The original woodwork is stately and seasoned, like an old oak in a forest.
According to the House of Representatives’ website, “The Speaker’s dais is original and was carved on site from Carrara marble. The chair is commonly referred to as the “Lincoln Chair,” although it was not even constructed until 1878, well after Lincoln’s death. The name is likely derived from Lincoln’s 1861 address to a joint session of the Legislature in the House Chamber on February 13, 1861.”
The representatives’ desks are reproductions of the original desks, modified with microphones, telephones, and laptops, mixing the old and new in exactly the right proportions.
Speaker Cliff Rosenberger was kind enough to invite Brenda and me to his swearing-in ceremony last week. We joined many others from his district, and were particularly happy to see many friends from Clinton County present to join us in offering our support to Cliff.
Amidst the plethora of historical artifacts, a shiny article caught Brenda’s and my eyes; a brass nameplate fastened against the old wood of the Speaker’s podium that read, “Clifford A. Rosenberger, Speaker of the House”.
Cliff is one of the youngest Speakers of House in the nation, and is the occasional target of gentle humor. Cincinnati Representative Bill Seitz made a nominating speech for Cliff in which he quoted Daniel Boone, “Be sure you are right, and then go ahead.”
Unfortunately, it was Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, who said those words in 1834. Representative Seitz’s misquote may have been intentional. Such is the understated humor of the House.
As Speaker Rosenberger took the oath of office, I thought about him and his hometown of Clarksville, Ohio. I knew Cliff’s grandfather, Chuck Rosenberger. Chuck was a kind man who spoke his mind without reservation. I always admired him.
We looked on as Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, the man from Clarksville, with a population of just 548, stood in one of the most powerful venues in Ohio.
The Speaker said, “I want to thank the citizens of the 91st District who continue to put their trust in me as their representative. In this corner of Ohio that I call home, my values and faith were established and continue to grow and flourish.”
Cliff has never forgotten where he came from. Beth West told me her father turned 100 years old on Christmas Day, and he received a proclamation from the Speaker noting her father’s service during World War II along with his being a loving, caring father.
Cliff appreciates his constituents, and he remembers them with kindness.
After the ceremony, Brenda and I took time to walk through and outside the House. We saw the spot where Abraham Lincoln spoke at the Statehouse on September 16, 1859. We also saw the spot where six years later he laid in state.
The powerful in Ohio government have roamed the halls and chamber of this place for decades. Politics has been the predominate topic of conversation, but stories of family and life are often discussed, too.
As we entered a House Room where refreshments were being served, we observed prominent people from all over Ohio gathered there. The names would be familiar to anyone who followed Ohio politics.
We sat down and listened. We heard stories about former Governor Frank Lausche, John Glenn, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon from those who had known them best.
Dr. Herb Asher, Political Science Professor from The Ohio State University, was also a close friend of Annie and John Glenn. He told how Colonel Glenn had flown his private airplane until he was ninety years old, sometimes surprising people who wanted to hitch a ride back to Ohio, thinking he was driving a car not an airplane.
He recounted a delightful story when he watched Colonel Glenn at a news conference espousing the importance of the elderly to flying in space. Dr. Asher noted after several minutes of Colonel Glenn’s expounding on the subject, his wife, Annie, interrupted him and said, “Oh, John, please tell them the truth. You think it is important because you are just a space junkie.”
We learned that Speaker Rosenberger had spent a lot of time with John and Annie Glenn over the years, and after Colonel Glenn’s recent death, Cliff escorted Mrs. Glenn throughout the House of Representatives and out of respect and kindness gave her his shoulder for support.
As the day wound down, we observed dignitary after dignitary taking the time to greet and congratulate Speaker Rosenberger before they walked out into the Columbus rain and chill.
A well-known public figure, a Democrat, walked over to Cliff and offered his heartiest congratulations.
“You are a fine Speaker,” I heard him say. “In fact, you are one of the best in the country.”
That’s a long way from Clarksville. A long way from Clarksville.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.