Arts & Culture Trail
The District of Columbia has been represented in Congress by delegate Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton since 1991.
It seems natural on multiple levels to start the Project to Find America in the Nation’s Capitol. It is, of course, the Capitol, but it’s also where we believe progress will have to coalesce. Lots of great things can and need to take place in all of our 50 states in order to move the United States forward. But it is here, and only here that they can become part of a national policy. It is thus fitting that we will not be in any one state when we begin this virtual journey, but instead, in the only place in this country that is truly all of them.
Not surprisingly, Washington truly could have led off any of the Trails I will use to introduce readers to each district in the weeks and months ahead. The District is naturally home to a long list of historic sites and beautiful parks. It is also the source of countless companies, amazing restaurants featuring foods from every part of the world and a bevy of sports teams including the Washington Nationals. But I’m starting the Arts & Culture Trail in this district because it is here that you will find a museum and research complex that is not only the world’s largest, but also symbolic of everything that is great about the United States of America.
The Smithsonian Institution consists of 19 museums and galleries, The National Zoo and nine research centers; they are primarily in Washington but also other parts of the country. Admission to most all of them…is free. The Smithsonian is funded through a variety of both public and private funding sources was founded in 1846 as “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” A week would be much too short a time to spend, but if my family had just one day, we’d start with the Air & Space Museum.
Most parents, at least most I know, believe their children are something special – prodigies perhaps, but at least way above average. My wife Elizabeth and I are no different in this respect. We’ve believed since our son Alistair was born that he is a very smart kid and have become convinced at age seven that he is destined to become an aerospace engineer. Over the last couple of years, I was fortunate enough to help my employer, Human Capital Institute begin significant business engagements with both Boeing and Lockheed Martin and Alistair has been keenly interested in both (he wears a Boeing patch proudly on his ski jacket.) Here he will get to see firsthand what these companies really do. Both the Lockheed 71 Blackbird (pictured) – the world’s fastest jet and the endlessly discussed (at least in our house) Boeing 747 are on display. You can walk through the nose section of the 747.
One Great Day in the DC District
A note about this section. Since this the first post about the districts I want to make something clear. One day isn’t long enough to spend in any district – it’s not nearly long enough to really understand the place and everything that makes it unique. This is, of course, particularly true of our Capitol city. But time for both real and virtual journeys is often limited so I’ve chosen a day to try to encapsulate what the district is like. If you go…and have longer to spend, you should.
Furthermore, these are just the things my family and I would find interesting – you probably would find and suggest others. Let us know where it says Leave a Reply at the bottom of the page or drop us a line if you’d like to write a guest post about any district. But positive comments please, there are many other sites on the Web for critiques.
The Air & Space Museum opens at 10 am. We’d spend the morning walking the Mall and then given Alistair’s aeronautical fervor probably be lined up when the museum opens at 10. Three hours would be a short stay but long enough to see a lot of a cool things, then we’d continue down the mall to the Capitol building.
Elizabeth spent a significant part of her younger days living in DC as a congressional staffer and as part of her duties gave tours of the Capitol. Touring the nation’s Capitol -indeed most federal buildings in the post 911 world will be a different experience for both of us as, although we both spent time working on The Hill, neither of us has been since the attacks. Still, I can’t really imagine starting a year of looking at what Congress is and should be doing without penciling in some time to observe it in action.
My own experience suggests that we will never see the House chamber nearly as full as it is in this picture of President Obama speaking before a joint session of Congress. I will say here that I believe that some of the way policy is made in this building is archaic and contributes to the difficulty we have as an American people in grasping and interacting with the issues we are confronting as a nation. Impassioned pleas are made on the House floor under the watchful eyes of television cameras but few other people, while the real work takes place in committee or behind office doors. Having said that, the House chamber is a symbol of everything we believe in about the American system of government.
I have always loved the Jefferson Memorial. It is a beautiful building and I have often associated it with sunset when it is particularly stunning. The site commemorating one of the most famous of the founding fathers is particularly significant for the launch of this project. History tells us that Jefferson advocated strongly for a distributed form of governmental power, less federal tax, more local control over policy. As such he is often cited by advocates of smaller federal government.
On the other hand, Jefferson’s purposes were populist in nature – I believe he would have viewed an American political system that is as dominated by special interests as it is today as the antithesis of the United States he imagined. Mostly, I believe though, that Jefferson would have told us we are the people to do something about it: “Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power, have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large.” With that – let the Project to Find America begin.
Washington is a wonderful food city – in my opinion, one of the best for restaurants in the USA. Given the business of the mid day, we would eat lunch at one of the onsite cafeterias at the museum or the Capitol – but dinner we might find time to look around a bit for. Agua 301 – in the city’s redeveloping area – Yards Park – around the Washington Navy Yard looks like my kind of place and is said to have a nice view of the Anacostia River. This would also present an opportunity to take a look at Nationals Park, a few blocks away. I have a bit of a history with baseball stadiums so even though it might be tough to get a game in, I’d like to check out the home of the Nats. Fave Washington restaurant recommendations? Bring em on below.
Calling it a Day:
For a good part of the year, in my experience, Washington is a very nice walking city and I would be inclined to stay somewhere centrally located. There are lots of hotels at all price levels, last month I stayed in a newly remodeled place called the Embassy Row Hotel, just off Dupont Circle, which was a good deal on Hotwire but there are usually no shortage of options.
What Seems to Matter Here:
The term “taxation without representation” was a common rallying cry in the Revolutionary War and gets trotted out often these days in the name of lower taxes, often, in my opinion, by people who do not take advantage of the representation they do have. But strangely, it is here in the seat of federal power that taxation without representation is, in fact, a reality. Although residents of the District of Columbia pay full federal taxes, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is today, a non-voting member of Congress, as her predecessors have been since 1871 (Congress eliminated the position in 1874 and restored it in 1971) Although Congresswoman Norton has introduced a bill in this 114th Congress that would grant the District statehood and thus the voting rights of other states, it is considered a longshot; the site govtrack.us lists it as 7 percent chance to get out of committee and only 2 percent to pass. Why? Most written accounts point to pretty plain political motives. Because the district, like most large urban areas, tends to vote for Democratic candidates, Republicans have not wanted to add another vote to the “other side” of the aisle.
The second tenet of The Voter’s Pledge is to stop the partisan war. Deciding how 650,000 people should be represented because of the whims of a national political party is wrong. But the most egregious circumference of the wishes of these people came in a bipartisan political wrecking ball. In 2010, a bill that would have provided voting status without statehood was being considered seriously and had passed the Senate by a 2-1 margin, but Reps Travis Childers (MS) and Mark Souder (IN) introduced an amendment that would have significantly rolled back the District’s gun control laws if the bill were passed. My son occasionally tries to institute riders like this on unrelated topics in our domestic policy making…”If I finish my dinner I get to play 17 hours straight of Minecraft.” Neither of these gentlemen, however, was seven years old. The people of their district and the nation should expect better and perhaps they have – neither is in Congress today. Congressman Childers lost a reelection bid that same year and lost again in running for the Senate in 2014. Congressman Souder resigned in 2010 after admitting to an extramarital affair with a member of his staff.
To be sure, a lot of issues matter in the District of Columbia besides the voting issue but the lack of the ability to vote on the outcome of any of the other issues, at least at the federal level, seems to underscore the importance of this one. What do you think? Live in the District? What matters to you? Know someone who does? Pass it on.
The start of the Parks & Nature Trail in the Arizona-1st.
The Arts & Culture Trail continues next week in the Virginia-10th.