R.E.A. Office Building Dedication Speech
The following speech was given by Mr. A. B. Curet on January 25, 1950 at the R.E.A. Building Dedication on New Roads Street; New Roads, Louisiana. Mr. Curet was with the parish ag extension office and played a key role in starting Pointe Coupee Electric Membership Corporation.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a happy privilege as well as a high honor for me to appear before you on this occasion. Yes, I can rejoice with you now that you too enjoy the many blessings which come to electrified homes, farms and shops. In order that we might properly appraise your accomplishment, however, let us turn in retrospection to the year 1937 when a group of nine Pointe Coupee citizens met a representative of R.E.A. and myself on Mr. Henry P. Mounger’s lawn at Lettsworth to discuss R.E.A. facilities and to apply for a government loan with which to create this unit. That, my friends, was the beginning of a new life in the rural sections comprising this district, because at long last, farm people were to receive the comforts, conveniences and attendant blessings which electricity affords, and which, far too many farm people had not enjoyed.
Let us review some of the pertinent facts about our organization. First of all, why exist as a cooperative? The reason for and justification of the R.E.A. was manifestly clear to the older folks but may not be known by a lot of you young members. Back in the nineteen thirties and previous to that memorable period, private power companies throughout the nation had built lines to the thickly settled communities and captured the cream of the business, but did not reach out into the strictly rural areas where returns on invested capital might not be up to their expectations. Such a position, of course, was understandable because private capital generally is made available only to ventures showing at least proper profits from the sums involved. The fact that rural areas did not offer even fair early returns to prospective investors was neither the fault of the farmer nor the businessman, but was, by no stretch of imagination, reason for longer delaying rural electrification. This service to farm people had long been thought of and discussed in the halls of Congress, but only became a reality with the great humanitarian program set in motion by the late and lamented President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Yes, with the New Deal was born to rural America instrumentalities through which direly needed farm finance, better housing, improved educational facilities, better roads, protected bank deposits, rural electrification and other aids heretofore undreamed of and unrealized by the men of the soil.
To some people such humanitarian benefits coming from a government are termed improver functions and government invasion of the field of business. Be that as it may, but friends, the chief functions of a considerate government should be to make available to all segments of its great national family relative and comparative protection from bodily injury, from fear and want, as well as opportunities for financial, social and educational advancement. A government in a Democracy is the organized and expressed will of its people set up with a blue print or Constitution to carry out the rules of the game of life. I am happy that we live in a land where the government is the servant of the people and pray to God that the people will never be slaves to the State as we so clearly observe in other countries.
Now, let’s get back to our own organization. For those of you who may not know about our history, I will discuss it briefly. In the first place, this and all other R.E.A. cooperatives are not owned by the government, but have been sponsored by it through government loans and partial supervision. You members are the potential owners of this service. You are borrowers of the funds needed to organize, construct and set into motion the entire facilities and physical equipment known as the Pointe Coupee Electric Membership Corporation. The first loan consisting of $100,000.00 and subsequent requirements did come from the government treasury and within thirty or more years will be paid back to Uncle Sam with interest at which time you will be the sole owners of the service which will serve you and posterity for all time to come. While during its debt-liquidating period, its rates are about on level with that of private companies, despite the fact that you had to serve thinly settled and less profitable areas. As debts are reduced, your cost of electricity should be reduced and your assets increased.
I am happy to observe from your report that your unit now serves 2,565 customers, along 375 miles of line within the parishes of Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and Iberville. It is no wonder that the percentage of electrified rural homes in the United States has been stepped up from 15 to 40 percent within the past few months and that the three-millionth customer was put on recently. You should take pardonable pride in having a part in so praise-worthy an achievement.
I am further informed that your organization will take on the great task of extending rural telephones to many of your farm homes, which again will fill an important need.
An inspection of your new home reveals the presence of a modern kitchen which means that a Home Economics Specialist will be put on to assist with the proper and increased use of electric appliances and devices thus stepping up their benefits to rural people.
Friends, while I could say a great deal more about this splendid service, I observe that you have many fine features on your program, and shall dedicate this home which your Board of Directors have so masterfully provided. Its design and architecture bespeak the loftiness and high purpose of those vested with authority, its floor plan reflects complete and considered concern for its employees, and visiting members, and its all embracing facilities portend ever increasing service to its members. In dedicating this magnificent edifice, it is my fervent hope that all who enter its portals shall be imbued with the spirit of its founders and forever preserve its high purpose, duty. Yes, efficiency in service to the home, farm and shop will justify its erection and render easier the many chores of farm life. Let not the grandeur of this splendid home detract you from the high purpose which created it, but rather inspire you to increased devotion to a noble task.
I thank you.