A native of Parkdale, Ark., 74-year-old Illinois Congressman Danny Davis (D IL-7), from the west side of Chicago, still remembers reading and doing his homework with a coal oil lamp, before the REA-financed local electric cooperative brought electricity to his home.
“I was about 10 years old, it was a new era for us, a brighter future,” he said to a group of 64 Illinois high school students on this summer’s electric and telephone cooperative Youth Tour. “I learned to read by a coal oil lamp. My mother always said I was going to ruin my eyes trying to read by this dim light. I think she was right.”
In addition to reminding the students of the important history lesson of the Rural Electrification Administration, Davis told the students that public service can be rewarding and fulfilling. “I’ve been a member of the city council, the county board, and I’ve had the good fortune to be here for the last 19 years or so,” he said.
Speaking to the students inside the U.S. Capitol, Davis told them to understand and take ownership of their citizenship. “Welcome to your house, and when I say your house it is because your parents pay for everything that is here when they pay their income taxes. Everything that goes on here actually belongs to you. We are just the keepers of it. You send someone to represent you. That is what the 700,000 people in my district do every two years.”