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February 3, 2004

Western hemisphere's oldest deliberative body to conduct 23rd Commorative Session at Capitol in CW

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni to Address Joint Session of the Legislature

The General Assembly of Virginia, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest elected deliberative body, will meet in commemorative session at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 at the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg.

The joint session of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates is the 23rd in a series of ceremonial assemblies begun in 1934 with the dedication of the reconstructed Capitol on its colonial-era foundation. The General Assembly traces its origins to Virginia’s first elected legislature, the House of Burgesses, which met for the first time in a simple wooden church at Jamestown, the Virginia colony’s first capital, in 1619.

Following the tradition begun 70 years ago, the General Assembly -- with the current Governor of the Commonwealth -- returns to the Hall of the House of Burgesses in the Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg to renew its inspiration and to strengthen its resolve to perpetuate the fundamental principles of free governments. During that first session at the Capitol dedication ceremonies Feb. 24, 1934, the senators and delegates passed legislation enabling the General Assembly to hold future sessions at the Capitol “at times that might seem proper.”

A highlight of each commemorative session is an address on current issues facing Virginia, the United States or the world. This year, the General Assembly will hear retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, now a Williamsburg-area resident, former special envoy to the Middle East and former chief of the U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for military operations in the Middle East.

Past commemorative session speakers have included President Gerald R. Ford, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Lewis Powell, U. S. Senator John Warner and Colonial Williamsburg benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr., who inspired the General Assembly at that first session in 1934 with these words:

“What a temptation to sit in silence and let the past speak to us of those whose voices once resounded in these halls, and whose farseeing wisdom, high courage, and unselfish devotion to the common good will ever be an inspiration to noble living. To their memory the rebirth of this building is forever dedicated.”

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281