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As the United States celebrates its 245th birthday July 4, Medina Electric Cooperative is observing its 83rd year. That’s just a fraction of the age of our nation, but over time, I think we and the 900-plus other electric co-ops across the country have greatly enhanced the quality of life of Americans of all stripes.
When rural electrification took hold, fledgling co-ops powered the American dream for farmers and townsfolk, helping them achieve the prosperity that their urban countrymen had enjoyed for years.
And the origins of our co-op and the hundreds of others like it across the nation have their roots in American democracy. The Rural Electrification Administration was created in 1935 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it quickly became a permanent institution with a stamp of approval from Congress.
The REA harnessed the power of the federal government to help rural residents organize cooperatives to provide electricity to their neighbors in places that for-profit companies would not serve. The loans that made it possible to start these democratically governed nonprofits would eventually be paid back, and the program was so successful that within a generation, virtually all rural areas in the U.S. had access to reliable electricity.
Electricity changed life not only in those small towns but also across the country as a whole. The availability of electricity opened up a whole new market because people in rural areas could finally take advantage of its labor-saving power.
Electricity increased productivity on farms by replacing back-breaking labor with machines. The demand for electric appliances created wealth with increased manufacturing and sales, which created jobs for electricians and plumbers. Cooperatives themselves provided good careers in the office and in the field. Medina EC is still a major employer in our communities.
Electric co-ops haven’t forgotten that our roots are planted in democracy. Our very structure depends on governing boards of members elected to make decisions for everyone’s benefit. And we work with our statewide and national organizations to represent the interests of rural Americans in the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Capitol.
And this Independence Day, as we celebrate our nation’s founders, we also would like to salute those who founded this and other rural electric cooperatives. They helped transform the U.S. into the prosperous nation that it is today.