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Building Bridges of Hope and Opportunity

‘Jay shares thoughts on the value of building bridges - both in our in our lives. and in communities’

Bridges bring hope and opportunity. They are connectors. In the physical world, bridges are structures that link one side to the other and provide safe passage. In our human interactions, bridges allow us to connect with one another and enjoy the excitement and synergy of human interaction. Whether it is one person reaching out to build a bridge with another person or two communities coming together, we open ourselves up to exhilarating possibilities. The human spirit is unleashed. Our positive spirit is multiplied whenever we build bridges and connect.

As we say goodbye to summer and welcome fall this Labor Day weekend, I always get excited for what this next season brings. One of the biggest attractions here in New Hampshire is the incredible foliage paired with our many idyllic covered bridges throughout our state. Those bridges play the important role of not only connecting our communities but sharing the incredible natural landscapes our state has to offer to those visiting from out of state. In many ways, those bridges do more than serve as a physical conduit allowing someone to go from one point to another, they also bring people together.

Bridges serve as one of my favorite symbols, namely because of the powerful metaphors they provide. I want to share the story of one woman named Keiko Holmes who built bridges that led to incredible healing and rapprochement between bitter enemies. Born and raised after World War II in Japan, Keiko met a Londoner named Paul Holmes when she graduated high school and went to college. Eventually she and Paul married and moved to London with their two sons.

During the Second World War, 300 British FEPOWs (Far East Prisoners of War) who had been working on the Thai-Burma Railway were sent to work in a copper mine in a place then known as Iruka, which is now part of Kiwa-cho, the part of Japan where Keiko had grown up. The camp in Iruka was much better than the camps in Thailand and the FEPOWs, despite being bitter enemies of Japan, worked alongside Japanese miners and schoolchildren. When Keiko visited the former prison camp in 1988, she was surprised to discover that it had been transformed into a beautiful memorial garden. She hoped that she might be able to trace the FEPOWs who had been in Kiwa-cho and one day bring them back.

Three years later her dream was realized. In 1991, after much difficulty, she was able to attend the annual FEPOW conference in London. Realizing how much FEPOWs had suffered and how much they continued to hate the Japanese people, through her own faith she knew she had to help heal the wounds of war and begin a process of reconciliation. After many uphill struggles, she led the first pilgrimage of reconciliation to Japan in 1992. Since then, Keiko has brought over 500 people on the pilgrimages and continues to bring family members of the FEPOWs on the journeys to help whole families heal. As a result of Keiko’s program, many FEPOWs express how their hatred towards Japan and the Japanese people has changed into love for the Japanese people. Her work was so impactful, she was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II.

What’s incredible about this story is that despite the challenges Keiko faced, despite the hostility and bitterness that still existed, she fought to build bridges that in the end changed hundreds of lives for the better. At a time when building bridges is necessary now more than ever, I encourage you to think of Keiko and her work that helped heal the bonds of war and bring people together in the most impactful and positive of ways.

Covered Bridges – Truly ‘New Hampshire’

New Hampshire is blessed to have so many natural and man-made marvels. One of the man-made structures that I truly enjoy are our wonderful Covered Bridges.

Wooden Covered Bridges are a treasured thing here in the Granite State. In fact, they are so treasured that in the 1960’s it became state law to protect them. Across the ‘Live Free or Die state, stand 54 wooden Covered Bridges.

In my hometown of Newport stands the historic Corbin Covered Bridge built in 1845. I have a fond place in my heart for this Bridge. As a runner, I can remember countless times running through this bridge in all the various seasons of the year, typically followed my one of closest friends, my boyhood dog, Sam. Sturdy and strong today, this Bridge was the victim of arson a number of years ago and was rebuilt through a true community effort of caring citizens in the Sunshine Town. The Wrights Foot Bridge, also in Newport, was built in 1906 and it too is open to traffic today as well.

One of my all-time favorite Wooden Bridges is the Honeymoon Bridge Located in Jackson, New Hampshire. There are two ways to enter Jackson and one of the coolest is via this one lane bridge which brings you to a wonderful local community full of history, memories, and great joy. On any given day traffic will be at a stop so newlyweds can get that beautiful photo in front of the Covered Bridge (some say it's their first trip as husband and wife).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the oldest wooden bridge in the Granite State, the Haverhill-Bath Bridge that presides over the Ammonoosuc River connecting Bath and Woodsville. And lastly, the wooden Covered Bridge that brings back fond memories n in so many political activists’ hearts, the Shiftwater Covered Bridge in Bath. Those who have campaigned across the state like I once did, will recall crossing this Bridge to head over to Ray Burton’s House for his ‘Annual’ event. What great fun many of us had at the Annual and entering and exiting via the Shiftwater Covered Bridge with a small stop at what is said to be America's Oldest Country Store, The Brick Store, in Bath, New Hampshire.

I invite you all to take the time to locate the Covered Bridge nearest you and check it out. You’ll be glad you did!

Conway Scenic Railway

As many of you are quite aware, Conway, New Hampshire is a very popular tourist town in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with wonderful amenities for skiers and hikers. However, you may be less aware of a very special gem that this community offers - The Conway Scenic Railway. While not as well-known as the Cog, the Conway Scenic Railway offers a more traditional experience for its passengers (sorry, you will not be chased by an old miner!).

The railway was founded in 1961 as a result of the Boston and Maine railways ending service to Conway. As the B&M exited, it left behind a beautiful North Conway train station, originally built in 1874. The railway sat empty for nearly 7 years while the owner acquired a train to run on the track, eventually getting a coal-fired train built in 1921, (which still runs on the tracks today.) The revived Conway Railway then got back into business by offering a passenger rail service. However, as the railroad industry declined, the Conway Railroad became disconnected from the US network as the various connecting lines ended operations. Instead of viewing this as a negative, the owners worked with officials and began expanding the route the train would run on, including the tracks it uses today.

The Conway Scenic Railway should be on every lead-peeper bucket list! One of the routes, The Mountaineer, is a five-hour journey through the Crawford Notch, offering unparalleled views and breathtaking scenery. As the service has continued to evolve, they now offer a snow train which sells out tickets almost immediately! Please make sure to experience this iconic and truly ‘New Hampshire’ treasure!

Positive Profile of the Week: Margaret ‘Annie’ Kennedy

This past weekend, on Saturday, I had a very active ‘New Hampshire Day.’ Criss-crossing the state and attending four events in one day. Starting off in Portsmouth, I made the drive to Newport and attended our 47th Annual Apple Pie Fest on the Town Common, and then off to a Pig Roast in Warner – hosted by none other than State Representative Margaret ‘Annie’ Kennedy. This amazing young woman has followed her passions and today is living her dreams! That is why we are delighted to highlight Annie as our Positive Profile of the Week.

Not even 30 years old, Annie owns and operates Rhapsody Farms, a 34-acre horse farm. When she was a little girl, she fell in love with show horses and caring for them. Today, her farm hosts 4-H events affiliated with national organizations as well as training, riding lessons, and educational opportunities to better equate yourself when caring for a horse. Pretty impressive but the fact is that's not the only thing this farmer, horse keeper, small business owner and landowner has on her plate.

Annie is the daughter of the late Richard ‘Stretch’ Kennedy, who proudly served our state in the New Hampshire Legislature. Stretch, as many of us called him, was one of my biggest supporters in my race for Governor. Annie is so much like her dad. She is determined and driven by passion. You can see it in her presence and hear it in her voice.

In 2020, Annie was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Just like her father, she took it upon herself to support her party, fight hard for her convictions, and ensure that our New Hampshire way of life continues to be protected.

Over the past few years, Karen and I have been so blessed to get to know and appreciate many young leaders in our state. Like them, I was once a young legislator committed to making a difference. So, it is with deep appreciation and respect that we say a special ‘Thank You’ to Annie, with an already busy life with many commitments, for taking on the challenge of serving in our New Hampshire House of Representatives and fighting hard to make a positive difference!

Quotes of the Week: Bridges

“Rather than focusing on the obstacle in your path, focus on the bridge over the obstacle.”

Mary Lou Retton

“Let's build bridges, not walls.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Hope meets you halfway on a bridge called faith.”

Bryant H. McGill

“The bridge between reality and a dream is work.” Jared Leto

“Passion is the bridge that takes you from pain to change.”

Frida Kahlo


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