Discussing the Essence of New Hampshire

September 11, 2019

By Alexis Soucy

Former U.S. Senator Judd Gregg and New Hampshire Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid pondered the essence of the Granite State at the annual William W. Treat Lecture presented by Constitutionally Speaking on September 5.

McQuaid kicked off “New Hampshire’s Essence: Civic Engagement & Civility” with the question, “What makes New Hampshire work?” Gregg, who has served New Hampshire as a senator, governor, congressman, and executive councilor, shared several reasons with the large crowd. 

“I think the base upon which it’s built are the people, who are committed to being involved and trying to do better for the people around them,” he explained. “I also think that the size has helped—you can have a huge impact here as an individual.”

According to Gregg, the state’s unique landscape has also played a role in defining the culture. Being surrounded by mountains, rivers, small towns, and forests provides “a respect for things that are bigger than us.”

His final example was the government, which is “historically unique” with an executive council, a legislator for every 3,000 people, and a two-year term for governor.

As the conversation progressed to issues in Washington, D.C., Gregg shared stories from his time in the U.S. Senate during the Great Recession, when he was a top negotiator for the Republicans. Both sides of Congress were able to come together for a $700 billion solution to help stabilize the U.S. financial system and restart economic growth. 

During these negotiations, Gregg said, “There was a lot of disagreement, very intense, but not an ounce of partisanship.” He believes the political climate is more partisan now than it was 10 years ago, and it seems less possible to find common ground on key issues. He places a lot of the blame on social media.

“Social media is drowning out meaningful and thoughtful conversation on issues that are complex,” he stated.

Gregg believes some of these issues are spreading to Concord and taking a toll on the New Hampshire spirit. “At the end of the day, however, everyone is a citizen-legislator willing to put in the time to make a difference,” he said. “And that’s what sets New Hampshire apart.”