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Published: Saturday, 12/3/2011

Editorial

Honor delayed

Lawmakers in Columbus have found plenty of time in the past year to do things voters didn't ask for: gerrymander congressional districts, attack public unions, cut state aid to schools and local governments, restrict voting rights, and undermine abortion rights with unconstitutional legislation. But they haven't done something voters have said they do want: approve a statue of Thomas Edison for the U.S. Capitol.

Since 1887, former U.S. Sen. and Gov. William Allen has been one of Ohio's two representatives in the National Statuary Hall. He was a good choice for his time, but times have changed.

His positions on slavery and the Civil War are out of step with the modern world. Ohio voters decided they no longer wanted him to represent the state to the millions of Americans and foreigners who visit the U.S. Capitol each year.

Nearly two years ago, a legislative committee listed 10 finalists to replace Mr. Allen. After months of voting overseen by the Ohio Historical Society, Ohioans chose Mr. Edison, a Milan native, as the person who most exemplifies our state. The next highest vote-getters were the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur. But they are not eligible for the honor, because the statue must be of one person.

Mr. Edison is a worthy choice. He is credited with inventing the stock ticker, the phonograph, the first commercial light bulb, and the first working movie camera. He improved the telegraph, the telephone transmitter, electrical generators, and electric distribution. He was a pioneer in the development of the industrial research laboratory.

In all, Mr. Edison held nearly 1,100 patents. Americans are surrounded by technologies that began in the mind of the Wizard of Menlo Park. In 1999, he topped Life magazine's list of the 100 most important people of the millennium.

Ohio has been home to eight U.S. presidents, including James Garfield, the state's other representative in Statuary Hall. Four astronauts and numerous military leaders, explorers, inventors, writers, athletes, and entertainers were born in Ohio or adopted it as their home. But none represents the American -- and Ohioan -- spirit better than Mr. Edison, who not only was an inventor and innovator, but also turned his inventions into successful business ventures.

A measure proposing Mr. Edison for the Capitol honor has unanimously passed the state Senate twice, most recently last April. But House Republican leaders have allowed the bill to languish.

That procrastination needs to end, so that Mr. Edison can take his rightful place in the nation's capital. His statue will show that the world still rewards the 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration that Mr. Edison said make up genius.



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