Guest column: Saint Patrick’s day thoughts

John Ragan

John Ragan

About 1,500 years ago, pirates forced a teenage boy from his home in Britain and enslaved him in pagan Ireland. He lived there six years, toiling at the whim of his masters. His name was Patrick.

Patrick’s masters believed they had the right to demand his labor and services whether he agreed or not. He was their slave. But Patrick rebelled against the injustice of bondage, escaping and completing a perilous journey back to his home.

Years later, he answered a call to the clergy and nobly returned to the land of his enslavement—on a mission to spread Christianity. His preaching and life example were so powerful that, by popular approval, he came to be regarded as the patron saint of Ireland. That regard and tradition continue to this day. [Read more...]

Guest column: Christmas transformations

Well before English author Charles Dickens first published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, the season had been filled with stories of transformation. But Dickens’ story of Christmas redemption surpassed all its predecessors, becoming an instant classic. Ebeneezer Scrooge’s change of heart is one of the most famous in all English literature.

Theodor Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) penned his own instant classic of this kind: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” In this 1957 children’s book, written in characteristic Dr. Seuss poetic form, The Grinch—a bitter, grouchy creature—is bent on forcing his perspective on the Whos of Whoville. He steals their presents, food, and trimmings, feeling sure this will destroy their annoying Christmas spirit. But as Christmas morning dawns and the Whos sing, hug, join hands, and celebrate as usual, the Grinch has a change of heart! It “grows three sizes,” he becomes 12 times stronger—and he comes sledding down his mountain to return everything to the Whos and join their celebration.

Ever wonder if pre-transformational Mr. Scrooges exist today? Are there modern, unrepentant Grinches who want to steal the joy of Christmas? [Read more...]

Guest column: Thanksgiving for the ‘First Freedom’

John Ragan

John Ragan

The search for religious freedom on American shores began nearly four centuries ago. In 1620, Pilgrims arrived in America seeking to escape religious persecution in England.

The following year, this group celebrated the very first Thanksgiving of English-speaking people on our shores. After a hard winter and loss of a number of settlers, but a bountiful harvest, the Pilgrims held a three-day feast with their indigenous neighbors as guests. Thus began a national tradition.

Our grand, national custom of acknowledging religious freedom and abundance through a national day of gratitude to the Divine Author of Liberty remains enduringly impressive. However, for some, remembering the purpose of that celebration may be a bit more difficult. [Read more...]

Guest column: White crosses, Normandy, and honoring veterans

John Ragan

John Ragan

A few years ago, I traveled to France visiting the American Cemetery in Normandy on a guided tour. Our French guide was an expert on what we were seeing. A native to the region, she was steeped by her family lore in eyewitness accounts to the events of more than a half a century earlier.

That family background had spurred her to become a tour guide just before the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Her excellent knowledge of English and history convinced her employer, despite her youth, to assign her escort duties for American veterans visiting on that momentous occasion.

She spoke in a tone of reverence about the “older gentlemen” she had taken from place to place. Movingly, she recounted how they pointed here or there and commented how different something appeared compared to when they had seen it as young men. [Read more...]

Guest column: Home of the brave

John Ragan

John Ragan

Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, one of the most influential documents in the history of politics made its official appearance: The Declaration of Independence. Men, who felt the weight of history resting squarely on them, courageously shouldered the burden and fearlessly signed that piece of paper. They did so knowing the penalty for failure was death and hardship for their families.

Fortunately, from that day to this, brave citizens have continued to willingly risk life and limb in service to fellow Americans. Sadly, however, as it was in July of 1776, so, too, it is now. The cost of liberty remains high.

Today, as then, gallant American service personnel continue to lay their lives on the altar of freedom. Others sacrifice precious capabilities that the average citizen takes for granted. These men and women suffer unbelievably painful wounds, lose limbs, even endure paralysis and experience scarring inside and out. The agony of rehabilitation for these injuries cannot be exaggerated. [Read more...]

Guest column: Emory Valley Center moves East Tennesseans ‘upward’

John Ragan

John Ragan

At 13, I cashed my first paycheck. I still keep it in a scrapbook at my house with other special mementos.

After finishing the chores on my family’s farm, my parents let me travel down our country road to a neighbor’s dairy farm. I helped clean the barns and feed the cows. My reward for my efforts was a dollar an hour.

That $10 check, and the hard work that earned it, has always been a great source of pride for me.

The Emory Valley Center in Oak Ridge makes that experience possible for intellectually and physically disabled adults and children in 16 counties, principally Anderson, Knox, Morgan, Roane, Campbell, Scott, Monroe, and Loudon.

In addition to providing physically and intellectually disabled people with a sense of purpose and pride, EVC is one of the best values for Tennesseans. The institution provides employment options to individuals who would, otherwise, find it difficult to support themselves through work.

Although the state pays a portion of the center’s expenses, another source of funding comes from the earnings of the working adults who have benefited from EVC’s services. Tennessee also receives a return investment through the sales taxes that the center’s patrons pay. The Emory Valley Center helps create contributing Tennesseans, who derive the same sense of self-worth from their work that the able-bodied members of our community sometimes take for granted.

In September, I was proud to join the staff of EVC, Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, Congressman Chuck Fleischman, and Tennessee Sen. Randy McNally in celebration. The Appalachian Regional Commission awarded EVC with a much-deserved grant. These funds will jump-start construction on a new facility that will replace EVC’s half-a-century-old center for educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs for 140 disabled adults and 400 children.

The state is not alone in funding a new EVC facility. Additional private donations have totaled more than $200,000.

According to Dr. Gene Caldwell, co-chair of the Capital Campaign, through public and private funding, EVC has raised two-thirds of the money needed to build. The focus now is on raising the last of the funds needed for funding construction and essential educational and training equipment.

With a new home, EVC can contribute to the economy of the region to an even greater extent than the old facility has previously permitted.

Last session, our legislature heard many proposals to fund public programs. Few of these proposals served as worthy a mission as the Emory Valley Center. I know that EVC serves a vital purpose, and I am committed to helping EVC through my service to the Tennessee House of Representatives.

I challenge the members of our community to learn more about the center, to tell your friends, family and colleagues about its mission, take a tour, and, if you are able, to financially contribute to the Emory Valley Center’s Capital Campaign.
Anyone wishing to donate to the EVC Capital Campaign may do so by mailing a contribution to P.O. Box 5328, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, or by logging on to

For additional questions or to arrange a tour, please contact Robin Biloski at (865) 201-5361. All funds will go directly to the new replacement building and to the programs that help all East Tennesseans move upward.

John Ragan is an Oak Ridge Republican who represents the 33rd District in Anderson County in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Sept. 11 attacks still reverberate

The implications of the attacks on the 11th of September over a decade ago still reverberate throughout our nation. Indeed, the murder of nearly 3,000 American citizens who were simply going about their daily lives has left a scar on our national psyche that will be with us for many decades to come.

Unfortunately, this assault was not the first time in modern history Americans were attacked on their home soil. It was, however, the first major attack motivated by something other than military strategy.

[Read more...]

Guest column: Tennessee taxpayers the ‘real winners’ in last two years

Jobs are, hands down, the most important thing on the minds of Tennesseans as we approach the upcoming election.

We’ve watched the federal government fail time and time again as they have attempted to meddle in the economy. In the Tennessee General Assembly, we understood this would not work. Our approach is a proven path to prosperity.

[Read more...]

Guest column: Entrepreneurs dream of ‘gold medal’ of business ownership

John Ragan

John Ragan

The phrase, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (faster, higher, stronger), is the Olympic motto. It is meant to inspire competitors to achieve greater performances than their peers and predecessors … to “own the record.”

Olympic athletes invest, literally, thousands of hours of their lives chasing their dream for a quadrennial chance at a medal and, perhaps, a record. Iron self-discipline drives these people to endure grueling early morning workouts. These are followed by many hours of skills rehearsal and practice followed by even more hours of conditioning.

[Read more...]

Guest column: Free speech, an invaluable right

John Ragan

John Ragan

What are the limits on freedom of speech? Few would argue that the right of free speech is absolute at all times and under all circumstances. However, would anyone fail to concede that this liberty is one of the most basic rights?

Courts have observed that free speech consists of “utterances” that are essential parts of the exposition of ideas. Nonetheless, these same courts have also held that it does not extend to “utterances” that are obscene, profane, libelous, or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

[Read more...]

Guest column: Social justice not among nation’s founding principles

John Ragan

John Ragan

The Declaration of Independence, in its first paragraph, boldly asserts that America should be a separate nation based upon “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” In the very next paragraph, the text posits, as a self-evident truth, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

No place in our nation’s founding documents is the phrase “social justice” to be found. Nowhere is it cited as a divinely endowed right.

[Read more...]

Rep. Ragan endorses Frank for county mayor

Editor’s note: The following speech by Tennessee Rep. John Ragan was given during a Saturday grand opening ceremony at the campaign headquarters for business owner Terry Frank, a Clinton Republican who is running for Anderson County mayor.

Over two hundred years ago, our ancestors boldly declared that every citizen stands before the law as an equal. These brave souls wagered their fortunes, their honor and their very lives on the proposition that the Creator endows every person with the same unalienable rights. These patriots recognized that these rights not only include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but economic freedom and many other rights, too numerous to mention.

[Read more...]