The woman is tall and very certain of herself. She is standing on a podium and has thrust herself towards the assembled crowd – leaning into it. Her brown hair is held back by a band, but fraying bits of it seem determined to escape. Her eyes are alive with excitement.
She thrusts her arm into the air. It is grasping a sheet of paper.
“We’ve done it!” she exclaims.
The crowd erupts in cheers.
“This speech,” she pronounces, “Represents a new era, a better era. An era of responsibility and accountability and safety for our children.”
Again the crowd cheers.
“Finally, every position – whether paid or not – requires registration and licensing by local, state and federal authorities!”
More cheers. The woman quiets down, drawing her audience in.
“The 1st Amendment delayed us. But the case was strong. People accused us of trying to regulate just to regulate. But that could not be further from the truth. Every position we regulated was a stand for the safety and protection of our citizens and out children. Just take this last position. My license demonstrates I am a speaker in good standing. It can be pulled if I fail to adhere to my required speech-by-speech filings. There were concerns that those filings would limit our free speech. But nothing could be further from the truth. What they do is protect audiences.”
The woman picks up a sheaf of papers, held together with a single staple.
“In today’s filing, the first ever, I had to answer a simple questionnaire – a questionnaire created for your benefit. It asks what facts I will be relying on – and requires me to certify that I will present them in a truthful and straightforward way. It asks whether children might be in the audience and requires me to guarantee that the content of my speech if appropriate for them. It asks if people on pacemakers or other others in ill-health might be in the audience – and whether my material would be frightening and perhaps life-threatening to them. It asks whether my funding has been disclosed – to prevent money laundering, terrorism or undisclosed political speech. It asks whether the speech will be rebroadcast online and whether I have the license to do so. It asks what references I might make to people of minority ethnicities, elective lifestyles and various human conditions. These must be reviewed before they can be used, to ensure there is no offence given. In short, this simple application verifies YOU will be safe.”
The crowd cheers.
“I tell you folks, it was critically important to make this a licensed profession. Children could be at risk. People could be misled by low-life swindlers or charlatans. I could be speaking for a politician, trying to slant your views or, even worse, lobbyists and other terrorists trying to raise funds for their nefarious activities. People could be scarred by so-called ‘comedians,’ who might insult their work, their color or their decision to make out on the subway. This was such an important position to license that it amazes me it was ultimately the last.”
There is a glass of water and the woman takes a short drink.
“Folks,” she says, “It has been a long battle. In the dark days of the 1950s, only 3% of workers required licensing. Then, slowly, more and more were added. Doctors and lawyers were first. Then electricians, plumbers and dentists. People understood why. Safety. Security. Trust. And repercussions for those who violated the rules. Then came auctioneers, food service handlers and everything to do with horse racing. Then financial advisors and brokers and securities dealers. And we kept pushing forward, guaranteeing the safety of more and more people – giving them comfort in more areas of their lives. We extended the safety of the state to a huge variety of positions: Athletic trainers, barbers, beauticians, electrologists, estheticians, telemarketers, alcohol servers, vending machine operators, blacksmiths, ginseng dealers and growers, egg breakers, Christmas tree growers, bee keepers, private investigators, massage therapists, sign language instructors, child care technicians, teachers and milk haulers*. Every time, we made things better. That was all done by 2010. But we had so far to go. Only 29% of people worked in positions that required licensing. We had so far to go. But we made it.
“In the following years we added positions like cashier – money handlers have so much opportunity for wrong-doing and they interact with so many children they could very well be threatening. We added database developers and designers – to prevent backholes and incompetence that might risk your personal data. We added secretaries – so skilled at getting things done on others behalf. With licensing we could register who they represented and prevent illegal use of their talents. We also cracked down on the loosely regulated ‘temp’ market, eliminating it.”
She pauses and then in an almost musical beat continues, “We added business executives…”
The crowd cheered.
“Analysts of all stripes,”
More cheers with every position,
“Actors. Farmers. Mechanics, Aromatherapists. Every type of engineer and scientist. Shop owners. Artists, Choreographers. And more and more and more!”
The crowd erupts.
“AND TODAY,” shouts the woman, “WE CAN ADD PUBLIC SPEAKER TO THE LIST!!!”
The mania seems hard to contain.
Raising her arms above her head, the sound system barely able to carry her voice above the assembly, she pronounces, “100% OF POSITIONS ARE LICENSED. 99% OF ACTIVITIES ARE REGULATED.”
She pauses and, in a moment of excitement shouts out, “BEFORE LONG YOU WILL NEED A LICENSE TO CLAP.”
The cheering continues. Then, as it slowly dies down, the woman whispers into the mic:
“And then we will all be safe.”
The woman steps down from the podium and the crowd drifts away, their pockets stuffed with licenses, quite pleased with the settled nature of their lives.
A few come up to speak with her. To thank her for her tireless efforts.
A line forms. Before she can meet them, a man steps to the top of it. Flashing a badge he pulls her aside.
Her heart drops, she knows what it’s about. He pronounces the words:
“You stated that they will need a license to clap.”
She answers, “Yes.” Somehow feeling distant. She stated as fact something that was not.
The woman extends her wrists.
She knows the punishment, she crafted it.
Her public speaking days are over and she will spend 30 days in administrative detention – to ensure her untruths do not continue to be nurtured. She will be banned from holding public office or executive positions. A raft of licenses will be unavailable to her.
She welcomes the punishment. She caused great harm.
She blames only herself for her predicament.
She just wishes she hadn’t gotten quite that excited.
* An actual far from all-inclusive list of positions with licensing of some form in Oregon.licenseinfo.oregon.gov