On Being a First Citizen
by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
on the occasion of the presentation of the First Citizen Awards to Benjamin C. Bradlee, William H. Cardinal Keeler, and, posthumously, to Howard "Pete" Rawlings.

Wednesday, March 11, 2004

President Miller, members of the Senate, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: I am delighted  to be here today to present, on your behalf, the First Citizen Awards of the Maryland Senate.

The text of the award says best what it means to be a First Citizen:

"First Citizen is the name that Charles Carroll of Carrollton chose to sign a series of articles published by Ann Catherine Green in the Annapolis Maryland Gazette in 1773.  They form a strong defense of an independent legislature and were among the earliest arguments for a new concept of government based upon traditional community rights and liberties that protected its citizens from arbitrary rule.  At the time, Carroll, as a Roman Catholic, could neither vote nor hold public office. With the publication of these articles, Carroll launched a career of public service that would not end until his death at the age of 95 in 1832.  In addition to helping draft Maryland's first Constitution and signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Carroll served as President of the Maryland Senate, of which he was a member from 1777 to 1800,  and as one of the first United States Senators from Maryland (1789-1792).  To be a First Citizen is to be a dedicated and effective participant in the process of making government work for the benefit of all."

Although not yet fully articulated in the First Citizen letters, Carroll was beginning to ask all citizens to think about much needed changes in government, changes that would allow people like him "freedom of speech and thought," changes that would separate the powers of the Executive and the Legislature, and that would ensure that taxation could not be imposed by anyone not subject to the laws passed by the Legislature. Carroll was among the first people in the colonies to advance a new concept of government based on the advice and consent of the people. This led to one of the most creative experiments in defining self-government that the world has ever witnessed and which abides well with us still.

To Carroll, and to others such as his distant cousin, Charles Carroll the Barrister, Samuel Chase, and William Paca, all of whom served in the Maryland Senate, making government work for the good of the whole meant a thoughtful reworking of the structure of government by writing it all down, debating the results, and crafting the final product in committees separately and of the whole.  Carroll as First Citizen, saw government much as every citizen should see it today, in constant need of attention and thoughtful legislative action.

Today three distingushed First Citizens are to be honored. Sadly, the first is being given posthumously.

Howard Rawlings, known to us all as Pete, dominated Maryland politics and the state budget process for more than a decade as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. With his death last November 14, Maryland lost a leader who, in his own words, insisted on a state budget that was "fiscally prudent and socially responsible." A mathemathican by training, Pete never hesitated to ask the most difficult questions and make the most difficult decisions when it came to spending Maryland's taxpayers' money. He was especially fearless in his pursuit of excellence in education in Maryland's public schools. He knew from his own life experience that education is the way out of poverty. A teacher himself, Pete had a unique vision of how the educational system should work and he never stopped fighting for it and the children it serves. As a measure of his stature in our state, two days after his death, the Sun ran an editorial entitled simply "Pete." In it, his career was aptly summed up with these words: "With the death of Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, Maryland lost an extraordinarily gifted leader and one of the most accomplished politicans of his era - known for both a tight fist and a caring heart." It is my privilege on behalf of the President and the Senate of Maryland to present Nina Rawlings with the First Citizen award in honor of her distinguished husband, Howard "Pete" Rawlings.

The next First Citizen award is presented to a man whose accomplishments and even contributions to the course of United States history are well-known. As Executive Editor of the Washington Post from 1968 - 1991, Benjamin C. Bradlee made that newpaper into one of the most influential and authoritative voices in the country.  He oversaw such watershed events as the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the investigation into Watergate, for which the paper won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for public service, one of 18 Pulitzers awarded to the Post during his stewardship.

As monumental as these achievements are, we are here today to honor Ben Bradlee for his service to Maryland and to Maryland history. When he retired from active news management of the Post in 1991, Ben assumed the chairmanship of the Historic St. Mary's City Commission, a body to which I have just had the honor to be appointed. As a part-time resident of St. Mary's County, Ben took an active interest in the rich historic fabric of the area and devoted great quantities of his enormous energy and management skills to the promotion and organization of the Commission. As part of these duties, he served as a member of the Task Force on Affiliation Between Historic St. Mary's City and St. Mary's College in 1996. We in Maryland have been priviledged to have Ben Bradlee serve for so many years as chair of this most important body and, for his service, it is my privilege on behalf of the President and the Senate of Maryland to present him with the First Citizen award.

Finally, it is my pleasure to present the third First Citizen award to a man who has devoted his life to the spiritual guidance and well-being of the Roman Catholics in America and in Maryland. On April 11, 1989, Keeler was installed as the Archbishop of Baltimore and the 14th Ordinary of our country's oldest Catholic See. In 1994, he was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II, becoming His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler. He has held many prominent positions within the Catholic church, including a term as President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. During his years as Archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal Keeler has worked to strengthen the system of Catholic schools.

Maryland's ties to the Catholic church go back to its very beginnings, to the faith of the founding family, the Lords Baltimore. Cardinal Keeler exemplifies a tradition of service to his country, his state, and his church that includes Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and in whose honor this award is given, and his cousin John Carroll who, in 1789,  was appointed the first American bishop. It is indeed an honor to present this award to such a distinguished successor to this proud tradition of faith and service.