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O Vermonters!

Living in Vermont is kind of a big deal. Of those that make this choice, the vast majority are proud to be here– proud of the ready access to woods and wilderness, proud of the toughness developed over 6-month-long winters, and proud of the delicious food, beer, and maple syrup that it’s tough to find any place else. Not everyone can live in Vermont; it takes a certain kind of person to forgo a high profile career and salary in favor of piecing together seasonal work and a part time job at a non-profit that’s an hour away, but people do it. For this committment and sheer stick-to-it-ness, these people are called “Vermonters”.

I’m as proud of this appellation as anyone, but lately I’ve been feeling like it’s a bit over-used. Hearing Governor Shumlin’s recent address brought this to my attention, his nasal tone invoking our collective identity three times in the first five sentences:

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the General Assembly, distinguished guests, 
and fellow Vermonters:

Thank you for the tremendous honor and opportunity to serve again as Governor. 
As a Vermonter who grew up, raised my daughters, and built two businesses here, it 
is the greatest privilege of my life to give back to the state that has given me 
so much. I love serving as Governor because I love Vermont.

I have worked hard as Governor to improve life for Vermonters in these 
still-difficult times.

I decided to take a look at the use of “Vermonters” in every inaugural address, beginning with Thomas Chittenden in 1779, and compare it to the total words used by each Governor (Chittenden’s 1779 stats: 835 words, 0 “Vermonters”). The Secretary of State has a great archive of these addresses (unfortunately all in PDF), and so I wrote a Python script to download it and convert them to text. For those interested, the text files are available here.

I used the NLTK package to count the occurrence of “Vermonter” or “Vermonters” in each document, with the big winner being Jim Douglas, whose 2007 address used the word 33 times. Here’s my favorite sentence from his speech:

I have warmed the thin hands of older Vermonters, their eyes still sparkling 
between deep gray granite lines of age.

I also wanted to see how these trends played out over time. I wrote the results to CSV, and then graphed word count over time, with the “Vermonter” count symbolized by the size of each point. Much is owed to this great D3 graph example and this stack exchange post about integrating D3 with Jekyll. Here’s the final product:

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