By LOU WILIN
Hancock Historical Museum dedicated its Michael G. Oxley Government Center on Monday in a private ceremony attended by the former U.S. representative and other dignitaries.
Oxley, 70, a Findlay native, was joined by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta in a brief presentation for the media before the ceremony. Gov. John Kasich was supposed to come, but was unable when stormy Columbus weather prevented his flight, sources said.
When it opens later this summer, the two-room center on the museum’s second floor will inspire youngsters in civic responsibility.
“We expect to have a lot of school kids through here,” Oxley said.
Young and old alike will touch screens to view video of Oxley discussing his congressional endeavors to help prevent fraud after the Enron and WorldCom financial scandals in the early 2000s, and his efforts to modernize telecommunications and U.S. 30.
In one video segment, he recalls the chaos he experienced in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, and the response by Congress to the terror attacks in the ensuing days and weeks.
In another, he reminisces about his boyhood days and his dreams of serving in Congress and becoming president.
The Oxley Government Center is not only about Oxley, however.
Youngsters will enter a booth to vote on issues like whether they should have a curfew during summer.
In another kiosk, students will be quizzed and informed about what Findlay barbershop operator was a conductor on the Underground Railroad … Who opened Findlay’s first store … What Findlay native rescued 300 shipmates aboard the USS Franklin after a Japanese air strike in World War II.
The center’s Congressional Study Room has a more stately feel with the desk of former U.S. Rep. Jackson Betts, of Findlay, flanked by U.S. and Ohio flags. A map on the wall behind the desk depicts the congressional district Betts represented from 1951 to 1973.
Also honored are other Findlay men who served as U.S. representatives from the district: Ralph D. Cole Sr., R. Clinton Cole, Tennyson Guyer, William Mungen and Oxley.
Photos depict Betts with then-presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Other presidential photos include Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon.
The center also pays tribute to Findlay native and former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson.
Oxley represented Findlay and the rest of the 4th Congressional District from 1981 through 2006.
A Republican, Oxley spent his first 13 years in the minority in the House. He reportedly considered not seeking re-election in 1994, the year he turned 50. But Oxley did run, and the Republicans regained the majority in the House that year and hung onto it for the rest of Oxley’s career.
In the majority, Oxley rose among the ranks to be elected in 2001 as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which focuses on banking and Wall Street issues.
Oxley laughed Monday when asked if he felt like an elder statesman.
“I was thinking back, I was an intern for Jack Betts, speaking of a senior statesman, and of course, Tenny Guyer and our family were longtime friends, so I saw them as senior statesmen,” he said. “I guess I’ve kind of taken over that role.”
Gathering photos and other material from his congressional days has flooded Oxley with memories and meaning.
“This immense responsibility you have of representing some 630,000 people, with the understanding that … if you are lucky you’ll have 51 percent of (them) agree with you, with all of the different issues,” he said.
“It was fascinating to do that, and then hear from people back home and then go back and try to make policy in Washington that they would agree with, or at least the majority would agree with.”
“The lesson is that democracy and representative government really do work, even though we get frustrated at times with inaction or gridlock,” Oxley said. “It is the best system ever created, where people make the decisions in their government.”
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