Archive for August, 2011

Take Three

Turns out third time is the charm. For weeks I’ve been looking forward to the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Last night I finally made it there. It was worth the wait.

My first attempt was last Thursday, August 25.  The memorial opened earlier that week for what was originally billed as “DC Day,” but all were welcome. I thought because I was local I would be one step ahead, but I was wrong. I knew where to park, but so did everyone else. Ohio Drive was packed. Even though it was late, there were no spots. By the time I finally found parking I was a mile away. The sun had long set and, it was dark. Very dark. Lamp posts lined Ohio Drive, but they were dark too.

I followed the shadows in front of me towards Independence Avenue. But before we got there we hit a path, more like a road. It led to a barricade. It was not an entrance. I pulled out my phone for some light and more information. And that’s when I learned the dedication had just been cancelled.

Now I was really on a mission. I continued down Ohio Drive, past more barricades, and rows of port-a-potties. I could see two big video screens and hundreds of chairs. I snapped photos along the way of what was to be.

I arrived at the entrance and saw people streaming out. But unfortunately I could not go in.  This time I was at the right place, but wrong time. The memorial closed at 10 p.m. and it was now a few minutes past the hour. My hopes of seeing the memorial before the dedication, and even the dedication, were gone.

Sunday came, Irene left, and the Memorial opened. Plans to go that afternoon, and then that evening, evaporated. But not for hundreds of others who made it there.

Maybe that’s why I appreciated it even more on it’s third official day and my third attempt. Park Ranger, Don Stanko, provided a silver lining, not only with his vast knowledge of the MLK, Jr. Memorial, but other local DC monuments. Who knew there was a monument to the Titanic in DC? But, I digress.

What Stanko said was that most people who came for the dedication would not have been able to see the monument, but on Sunday all had access just as it should be. For me the silver lining was meeting 96-year-old, Willie Flood. He’s lived in DC for 61 years and heard Dr. King speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1957 and again during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. When asked what he thought of the memorial he simply said, “It’s beautiful.” I agree. It is every bit as spectacular as they say, from the panoramic views of the Jefferson Memorial to the giant life-like sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his poetic words etched around him, it is a site to behold.


I Have A Dream

Today I was planning to be among the throngs of people flocking to the tidal basin in Washington, DC to witness the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. I had my standing room tickets in the orange section printed and ready to go. Until Thursday that is, when the wrath of Hurricane Irene put a damper on the event plans. But the storm did not derail the plans of thousands of visitors who had a chance to experience the memorial today sans ceremony.

One dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. probably never envisioned was that exactly 48 years after giving his “I Have A Dream” speech, he would have his own memorial, with his own words etched in the walls around him, standing tall – 30 feet tall – between Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Although the dedication was cancelled, the rain and winds subsided and the sun shined brightly on the latest addition to the National Mall changing the landscape of the nation’s capitol just as Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the landscape of our society.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln took the first step in changing that landscape when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  A century later, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before Abraham Lincoln on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said these ever-lasting words:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

And while that seems like a fitting end for this post, it should also be said that there were many individuals, known and unknown, who championed the cause of civil rights and some who gave the ultimate sacrifice for what President Kennedy called “a moral crisis.”

On the local level, Millicent Fenwick served on the New Jersey Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and fought against racial discrimination in housing, education, and employment. And on the federal level Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the rest of the Kennedy Justice Department including Nicholas Katzenbach, Burke Marshall, John Doar, and John Douglas worked tirelessly on the cause of civil rights. It was John Douglas that Kennedy tapped to work closely with the planners of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and to give them the full support and assistance of the federal government to insure that the rally was achieved peacefully. It was. And it was on that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., captivated the country with his dream.

Hurricane Irene Arrives

The clouds are rolling in, the winds are kicking up, and the rain drops have started falling as Irene arrives in the nation’s capital and claims its first life in North Carolina.

MLK Memorial Dedication: Dream Postponed

The barricades were in place, the video screens set up, and the porta pottys lined Independence and Ohio Avenues in preparation for the mass of people expected at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Sunday. But after more than two decades in the making and a $100+ million raised, that dream was delayed tonight.

The memorial has already survived one natural disaster, the east coast earthquake (the Washington Monument, not far away, didn’t fare as well).  But now Hurricane Irene is heading to the nation’s capital and the city is bracing for the worst.

Despite years of planning, tens of thousands of people in town for the historic occasion, and President Obama among the speakers, the dedication of the memorial has been postponed as a precautionary safety measure in anticipation of the wrath mother nature may bring.

After the long struggle for civil rights, it’s ironic that the dedication itself is delayed.  Right now, planners are hoping to reschedule the official dedication for September or October, but fortunately the public won’t have to wait that long to see the 30-foot sculpture of the civil rights leader surrounded by 14 of his quotes. The memorial opened to the public on Monday and closed tonight at 10 p.m. until the official unveiling on Sunday. Now that those plans are derailed, the memorial may open to the public again before Sunday. As of now, it looks like it will be Saturday. We shall see.

DC Earthquake

I just returned home from Paris last night and what a welcome home I received today – a 5.9 earthquake! I have to admit an earthquake is the last thing that ran through my mind as my computer screen started to shake and then everything else. Fortunately my co-worker is from California so he told me to get under my desk. I did. The shaking stopped, we stood up, and people started pouring through the emergency exit. Originally, I thought it was construction, but alas it was not. Two hours later, I’m home and the school next door is bustling with students waiting outside for parents to get them. Always something!

As Indispensable as Sensible Shoes

Garry Trudeau has a great many talents; chief among them is his Doonesbury characters that make his comic strip come to life. Of course it’s no surprise that Lacey Davenport is my favorite.  The idiosyncrasies embodied both in the real life Millicent Fenwick and the fictional Lacey Davenport are uncanny. Both served as the conscious of congress, cared passionately about their constituents, and minded the purse strings be it their money or ours (as taxpayers).

Hanging proudly in Millicent Fenwick’s bathroom was an original Doonesbury cartoon panel. It featured a campaign ad for Lacey with the slogan “Davenport. As indispensable as sensible shoes.” On the bottom it read, “Paid for by her chums.”

I couldn’t help thinking about that cartoon tonight as I hailed a cab. Usually the walk from the Library of Congress to Union Station is a refreshing way to end a long day once the doors close at 9:30 p.m. Every evening is like an August recess. The only signs of life are of those protecting our national institutions – the Library, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol. But tonight was different. The walk was not enjoyable and I had my shoes to blame. I’ve literally worn them out. I could feel the pavement on my skin. My black open-toed comfortable heels are no longer comfortable.  They’ve logged more miles than most people and traveled all over the country. They’ve walked the halls of Congress, the tunnels of the Library of Congress, and the corridors of the Justice Department, but they are done. 

That became clear when I was halfway to Union Station and spotted a cab on Constitution Avenue. I got in and told the driver how happy my feet were. He started laughing and then he saw my shoes. He wanted a picture of them. He’s writing a book and I’m now going to be in it. Needless to say it was a great ride across the city listening to him regal me with his stories as a cab driver, invisible to many. He hears you on the phone, he knows your secrets, but yet you don’t know him. He has a story too. He’s from Ethiopia and wants to return to his field of study, medical-related. Next year is the year.  Grad school is calling.

We talked about his sisters and all their shoes. And I learned something new. Apparently, CVS sells shoe stretchers. I definitely need to buy one so I can break in a new pair of shoes!

Post Office – Part II

I don’t know who reads this blog, but I got a survey from the post office today. Perfect timing!

Post Office Woes

Before heading to Congress, Millicent Fenwick was the Director of Consumer Affairs for the state of New Jersey. As with her other positions, she brought with her a sense of empathy and compassion for the consumer. She listened and took action.

I wonder what she would have done this past Saturday when two dozen people, myself included, were waiting on line at the post office when the clock struck noon. Apparently being at the post office before it closes doesn’t matter. Ms. Karen, the only postal worker, announced that the post office was now closed and she was done for the day.

Needless to say there were a lot of unhappy campers. The fact that more than twenty customers made an effort to get to the post office before it closed was irrelevant not to mention how long those at the front of the line must have been there.

Half the customers stayed, half left. I was in the latter group and didn’t want to waste more time than I already had. As I exited with others we shared our frustration and the location of two other post offices with Saturday hours, but not in walking distance. I won’t even go into what happened at post office number two, but at least they were open.

As to post office number one, it is rumored to be on the chopping block, but with service like yesterday it almost doesn’t matter.