Opinion

Reflecting on my family, Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 30, 2019
Billington

As we observe the Thanksgiving holiday, it is a good time to reflect on the origin of this uniquely American tradition.

It all starts with the Mayflower, the ship that brought the English pilgrims to the new world. My ancestor, John Billington, happened to be one of the passengers. During the voyage, his son, Francis, accidentally discharged a musket and barely missed the barrel of gunpowder, nearly blowing up the ship. When they arrived at Plymouth Rock, Francis climbed a tree and saw a body of water – still aptly called the “Billington Sea.”

The Billingtons and other pilgrims made contact with the Native Americans, including Squanto, the last member of the Patuxet tribe. Squanto, who miraculously spoke English, acted as a diplomat and interpreter between the pilgrims and native tribes. He also taught the pilgrims practical skills to help them survive in their new environment. He and other Native Americans joined the pilgrims in the first Thanksgiving in 1621, during which they feasted on turkey and deer and gave thanks to God for their many blessings. President Washington proclaimed the first official Thanksgiving Day in 1789, and in 1941 it was made a permanent holiday under federal law.

Like the Native Americans and pilgrims who first celebrated the holiday, we still take time to give thanks for the blessings God has bestowed on us. In my case, I am thankful for our nation’s veterans and my friendships. I am thankful that my grandparents adopted me when I was young, and they taught me the value of family and honesty. I am thankful for great teachers who helped me along the way. Finally, I am thankful for our country and our people, and for you, my constituents, for the trust you have placed in me.

Fighting Crime

Members of the Missouri House and Senate joined Attorney General Eric Schmitt to advocate for legislative priorities designed to fight violent crime in Missouri’s urban areas. The group of elected officials spoke in favor of creating a carjacking statute and removing the residency requirement for St. Louis City police officers.

Supporters said the carjacking statute is necessary because Missouri currently has no uniform charge for carjacking, which prevents uniform sentencing. Because of this, officers typically charge offenders with different crimes such as first or second degree robbery or stealing, which all carry different sentences. Proponents of changing the law noted that the St. Louis metro area has seen 305 carjacking incidents in 2019.

Schmitt and the lawmakers who support the change say a statewide carjacking statute would allow prosecutors to apply one singular charge. The new carjacking statute would be classified as a class B felony, but other circumstances such as use of a deadly weapon could elevate the offense to a class A felony.

In regard to his support for the new statute, Schmitt said, “For those who feel emboldened to take another’s property, to commit a violent act against another one of our citizens, we must send a clear message: you will be prosecuted and will go to jail for 10 years or more. We will not stand by while you victimize, traumatize and injure, sometimes fatally, our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends … even if it is for a so-called joy ride.”

The group of elected officials also endorsed legislation to remove the residency requirements for St. Louis City police officers. Currently, officers must live within city limits in order to serve on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. This requirement has stifled recruiting efforts and led the department of having a shortage of 124 officers.

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Contact Rep. Billington at hardy.billington@house.mo.gov or by calling 573-751-4039.

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