There’s cold. There’s New Hampshire cold. And then there’s New Hampshire cold in January when even for a boy from Boston, it was freezing. I still remember how incredibly bitterly cold it was the Saturday before the primary in 2004 (yes, more than five years later, I still am warming up.) I was there working for the Kerry campaign, and we were doing a series of events to promote John. As I stood listening to his speech I noticed that one of the people who braved the bitter cold to attend the event that morning was a New Hampshire man in his 50’s. With him was his 10-year old son. He had a notebook and listened intently to what Senator Kerry had to say. After our event, I spoke with him and learned that father-son team planned to go hear Senator Edwards speak, and then Governor Dean. The father was both making up his mind by listening to each of the candidates’ views, and teaching his son a powerful lesson in fulfilling his duties as citizen of the United States of America. For anyone who has asked me since what I think about New Hampshire having the first primary, I always tell this story because, to me, they deserve to have it.

New Hampshire is a state that often leads the union, and I have had the pleasure of working with some dedicated Granite Staters on building an online resource worthy of the citizens of New Hampshire like that father I saw back in 2004. Today, the Live Free or Die Alliance launches its new website and with it, a model for online citizen engagement for the rest of the nation to consider. The Virtual Town Hall is built to be a resource for informed discussion and debate of issues facing the Granite State. The Live Free or Die Alliance lays out the facts of an issue that both sides agree to, and then invites citizens to share their thoughts and debate the pros and cons with their neighbors and others from across the state.

Regardless of your political inclination, we all can see that pressing problems are everywhere. Yet the rancor, and partisan spin that dominates the public debate at every level of government keep reasonable and rational, fact-based discussion underground where it exists at all. In that environment, many citizens find little they can contribute to the mutual understanding that can allow compromise to happen and solutions to emerge. Seeing this problem, New Hampshire citizens Paul Montrone, Anna Grace Holloway and others decided to create an interactive, nonpartisan venue to inform New Hampshire citizens and stimulate their interest and engagement in the issues facing their state and their communities.

New Hampshire’s politicians have already started to take notice. Governor John Lynch (D) will participate in an online chat in which members of the Live Free or Die Alliance can ask the Governor questions on a range of topics. In keeping with its purpose and to make sure the chat isn’t just an opportunity for the Governor to put his spin on the questions, the LFDA has secured as a moderator for the event, none other than former New Hampshire Governor Steve Merrill (R). If you are in New Hampshire, I encourage you to join the Alliance(link), get actively involved in the Online Town Hall(link), and join the current and former governors on December 21st.

Thanks to all who have worked on this project, and to the people of New Hampshire for taking a stand for the duties of citizenship in America.

And thank you to that father and his son back in 2004. I don’t know if you voted for my guy that Tuesday but I know you voted and, ultimately, that’s what matters the most.