A celebration in 1812 would have guests arriving by the original kind of horsepower and a need for hitching posts. A journey to Towanda from the far reaches of the county could have easily meant an overnight stay. However, it was a different kind of horsepower that brought everyone tonight and today a hitching post is a relic of the past.

We have come a long way, March 10, 1812 - December 8, 2012. For over 200 years this county has been a special place to live. This land and its people have provided the ideal place secure a livelihood, raise a family, and live an enriched life.

Just as in 1812, this is the time of year when we are accustomed to giving thanks; we engage in giving and receiving of gifts. Therefore, there is no better time to celebrate this fine occasion. Tonight we celebrate and in doing so, we shall give our thanks. We shall recognize the receipt of a gift. We shall recognize our responsibility of giving a gift.

The first settlers of this land were brave men, women and, children who were seeking out a whole new life in a whole new world, something that is hard for us to imagine these days. Take for example; in 1818; in the earliest days of our county, organized hunts were necessary to free the county of wolves and panthers. That danger is furthest from our minds tonight. But in the wilderness of 200 years ago with only nine people per square mile residents found extreme danger lurking right outside their door. Our forbearers did not hunt for sport, they hunted out of absolute necessity, and they raised their crops and livestock as a matter of life and death. It was about survival. For their bravery, tenacity, will to survive, and hope for the future, we give our thanks.

Many from this county sacrificed to protect their homeland. Patriots from this county have served honorably in every conflict since our founding days. Tonight we take notice of their sacrifice. From the Civil War, World War I and II to Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. We all know that kind of service as it has, touched each and everyone of our families.

Some gave the ultimate sacrifice, both abroad and even here at home in the line of duty. Never again were they able to gaze out upon sea of green that washes over the fields in a Bradford County spring. Never again could they marvel at the fiery red and orange leaves as they spread over our rolling hills in a Bradford County autumn. For their sacrifice, selflessness, honor, dignity, and love for our county and country, we give our thanks.

To all of those men and women who have served in public office and countless volunteers and everyday citizens that made our county what it is today, we give our thanks.

Tonight, we must also recognize that we are recipients of a great gift. We are the heirs to a blessed and beautiful landscape, a growing economy, great communities, wonderful family, friends and neighbors. This gift of Bradford County, passed down through the generations, is not a material gift used and then put by the way side. It is, however, a living and breathing, ever changing entity in which we, its citizens, are the lifeblood. We receive this gift humbly and with gratitude; with both assumed and self-imposed expectations. For this gift also includes the tall responsibility of making this a better place to live, fostering a better environment and economy, and most importantly building an ever-strengthening sense of community.

As we all know, the real gift is the gift we are blessed to give. As we continue to pass the gift of our county forward we must meet expectations of the past and forge new expectations for the generations to follow. Our gift to the next generation is not only how we leave this place, but also how we cared for it and conducted ourselves as stewards of our future hopes and as keepers of a great heritage. We must strive to set the expectations high for those that follow.

Times change, people change, our way of life changes. Our future is bright; our heritage is strong. This is a county of proud people, proud of their past and hungry for the days ahead. We do not leave our past behind, we honor it; we carry it forward with us, for it is our constant sense of humility and self-identity.

This evening as we celebrate our 200 years, in this 2012 holiday season, let us be thankful, let us love one another, and let us build a better future for the next 200 years.