One very important way to measure a community's health and sensibility is to make note of how the community deals with individuals within the community who are outstanding in some positive way.
Chautauqua County has had a number of residents who have made splendid contributions to the betterment of our world. Jamestown has buildings which house institutions, which have been created to honor - among others - Lucille Ball, Roger Tory Peterson and Robert H. Jackson.
The trouble with failing to create community heroes is that no human lives an immaculate life. If we fail to honor our heroes, because they were not perfect, we fail to encourage others to strive to do great good.
The trouble with creating such heroes is that many people will decide that they can never possibly live up to these outstanding examples, and they may never attempt to equal the examples of these great individuals.
Two days ago, the Robert H. Jackson Center on Prendergast Avenue in Jamestown held a reception which honored Lakewood-resident author Helen G. Ebersole, and which served as an official launch for her latest book. The title is ''Off the Pedestal: Jackson in Jamestown, 1909-1934.''
The title refers to the fact that there is a statue of Jackson, located near Love School, at the intersection of Main and Seventh streets in downtown Jamestown. The statue was dedicated in 1996 by then U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
The central idea of her book is Mrs. Ebersole's belief that while Robert H. Jackson certainly lived a life which made him worthy of a statue, Jackson lived much of his life among us, not as an immaculate statue, but as a neighbor, a customer, a voter, a friend and a colleague.
Her goal, she states, is to remove the man from the pedestal and to give her readers a sense of how he lived among us. Among many other results may be that we can recognize those among us today who may one day deserve to mount a pedestal of their own.
Let me tell you a bit about Mrs. Ebersole's new publication, then a few words about the author herself, and finally, about Robert H. Jackson.
OFF THE PEDESTAL
The inspiration for the new book's title may well have been a commencement address which Robert H. Jackson gave in the spring of 1930 to the graduating class of Dunkirk High School.
In it, he urged the graduates to think of the people they knew who could be considered successful, yet who take advantage of only a tiny fraction of the opportunities which they have received, to make the world a better place for themselves and for future generations. They have the nearly infinite variety of information available through the wireless radio, for example, he said, yet they spend their time being entertained by programs such as ''Amos and Andy,'' instead of gathering the understandings they could have.
Jackson urged the graduates to take the people they admired off their pedestals, and to examine them in the light of what they could be doing, compared to what they were doing, and therefore to redirect their own lives into more significant paths.
Mrs. Ebersole's book is only 89 pages long, if I have counted them correctly. The pages aren't numbered. Of those pages, 13 are covered with photographs and illustrations, rather than text, or else are blank.
It is an easy read, and most enjoyable. It is filled with names which are familiar to anyone who has lived in our community for any length of time. These include Wright, Niebank, Broadhead, Bargar, Sellstrom and many more such.
Her descriptions of where the future member of the U.S. Supreme Court lived and where he conducted his life, during his years in Jamestown, are so clear that it is easily possible to seek out the sites of his life.
Born in Pennsylvania, just across the state line from Frewsburg, Jackson attended Frewsburg schools and came to Jamestown only because the much larger Jamestown High School offered more diverse and more demanding classes to seniors such as himself, who had already mastered most of the learning available in their small local schools.
The book recounts how it was possible in the first years of the 20th century for people such as Jackson to become lawyers without attending law school, by serving apprenticeships in the offices of established attorneys.
The narrative covers the major cases which Jackson argued, most with success, but occasionally in failure. I found it astonishing that some of the very issues on which he expended his time are exactly the same issues which we argue over today.
I especially noted the rise of Bolshevism, which was in the process of overtaking Russia in those days, and turning it into the first communist country. Jackson's opponents insisted that Bolshevism was such a threat that it justified the arrest and expulsion from the country of anyone who espoused it.
Jackson's position was that he did not support communism nor socialism, but that our country had more to fear from bending our Constitution to allow the punishment of people for their thoughts, rather than for any illegal action, than they had to fear from the Bolsheviks.
I read this on the day I read that Congress has passed a law allowing the government to arrest American citizens inside our own country, and to hold them indefinitely without trial, because they believe in terrorism.
We just can't ever seem to learn that we have far more to fear from ourselves than we do from any enemy, no matter how dangerous or evil intentioned.
It reminded me of Germany in the 1930s, which was so in fear of the evil plottings of its neighbors - France and Russia - that it brought to power the Nazis, who destroyed all the liberties Germans had fought to give themselves for centuries. Neither France, nor Russia, nor the combined forces of both, have damaged Germany nearly as badly as the Germans did to themselves in the 1930s and early 1940s.
The book is available through the Robert H. Jackson Center, which is located along Prendergast Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets, in downtown Jamestown. There is no price on the book, and no copies are listed for sale on any of the best-known, online booksellers, and it's too late at night for me to call them and ask, but if you contact the Jackson Center, they will be glad to give you the information.
I'm certain that copies are available directly for sale at the Robert H. Jackson Center, and suspect that it can be bought at places such as the gift shop of the Fenton History Center, and similar places in our area.
Helen G. Ebersole was born in eastern Ohio, but has resided in Chautauqua County for most of her adult life.
She is the widow of the late Dr. Glenn Ebersole and currently resides in Lakewood, where she has served as village historian and was chairman of the committee to raise the funds for the renovation and improvement of the Lakewood Library not long ago.
She is the mother of three adult children.
Mrs. Ebersole has written a number of books, among which would be ''An ImPRESSive Record,'' a history of the Jamestown Journal, the ancestor of The Post-Journal.
Also, she has written ''Trolleys of Jamestown and Chautauqua Lake,'' ''Chautauqua Lake Hotels,'' ''Electricity and Politics in Jamestown, N.Y.,'' and ''Past Times,'' taken from a series originally printed in the Post-Journal.
Many of her books are available for sale at history-related sites around Chautauqua County. Most of them also are available to be borrowed from member libraries of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System.
She has served as president of the Fenton Historical Society and has been a member of a number of boards of directors for non-profit organizations and a great many committees.
ROBERT H. JACKSON
On more than one occasion, I have heard Robert H. Jackson being described as ''a politician.'' He was nothing of the kind.
According to Mrs. Ebersole's book, he only was elected to one office in his life - two, if you count being a vestry member at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
His single office? He was elected president of the associated bar associations of Western New York.
He stands on his pedestal in front of Love School and in the history of our nation because of his devotion to the law. He served as Solicitor General of the United States and Attorney General of the United States. He was an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Each of those are appointed offices, not elected ones.
He is perhaps best remembered as the chief prosecutor of the Principal Nazis who were captured by the U.S. and our allies at the end of World War II. His legal strategies and his powerful relating of the reasons for the winning countries' policies in dealing with those defendants, have inspired laws relating to what countries can and cannot do, even in the midst of war, above and beyond the laws of individual countries.
Jackson's death in 1954 resulted in a funeral held in Jamestown which was attended in person by all eight of the surviving justices of the Supreme Court.
The Robert H. Jackson Center exists to be a global source of information on the life, work, words and legacy of the late Justice Jackson.
In our family, we often sought out opportunities to take our children during the holiday season to activities which were enriching and entertaining, and which enabled the parent left at home the opportunity to wrap presents, Christmas shop, do the holiday baking and much more.
One such opportunity is offered tomorrow afternoon at Shea's Performing Arts Center. At 2 p.m., the theater will be showing, free of charge, the Christmas-oriented Hollywood film ''The Santa Clause,'' starring Tim Allen.
The doors of the huge, very ornate theater will open at 1 p.m. and Santa himself will be available in the lobby for photos with as many of the young visitors as possible. Organizers encourage parents wanting such photos to bring their own cameras. Professional photographic services will not be available.
Shea's is located at 646 Main St., in downtown Buffalo's Theater District. Admission is first-come, first-served. Although the theater seats more than 3,000 people, when those seats are filled, nobody else will be admitted.
There are two performances remaining of the Station Theater's program, ''Home for the Holidays.'' They are this evening at 5:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.
The company performs in a dinner theater at 4940 Peach St. in Erie, Pa. Admission also includes a full holiday dinner, including soup, salad and bread, chicken and/or roast beef, and dessert. An overnight package is also available, including a free shuttle from the hotel to and from the theater.
The company also invites the public to ring in the New Year of 2012 on the evening of Dec. 31, including dinner, a show celebrating the great crooners, and a champagne toast at midnight.
For specific details, or to reserve tickets, phone toll free at 866-848-2022, or visit the company's website at www.canterburyfeast.com.
American Repertory Theatre of Western New York invites you to attend a special telling of Charles Dickens' beloved holiday classic, ''A Christmas Carol,'' tonight at 7:30 p.m., at Buffalo East, 1410 Main St., in downtown Buffalo.
WKBW's well-known weatherman, Mike Randall, will be in costume as Dickens and will portray all the roles in the classic story, just as the author used to do on his speaking tours in the 19th century.
All seats are general admission, and cost $15 each. Reserve them by phoning 634-1105 or by computer at www.artofwny.org.
Tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will hold a pops concert, aimed for the enjoyment of the entire family, featuring music from the film ''Polar Express.'' The concert will be held at Kleinhans Music Hall, on Symphony Circle, in Buffalo.
Featured artists, in addition to the orchestra, will be baritone Mario Martinez, and dancers from the Royal Academy Ballet. Santa will be present in the Mary Seaton Room of the concert hall.
Tickets may be purchased at the box office, or reserved by phoning 885-5000 or by computer at www.bpo.org.
Throughout much of the Christian era, Christmas has been celebrated for 12 days, beginning with the birth if Jesus, which is celebrated on Dec. 25, and lasting through Jan. 6, which is called Epiphany, or ''Twelfth Night,'' and represents the date on which traditionally the Wise Men visited the Christ Child in Bethlehem's stable.