Washington D.C. Revisited, at the Onset of 2018

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The woman was deliberate, methodical and efficient. Her task was to shuttle three shopping carts, presumably containing all her worldly possessions, one after the other a short distance uphill north on 21st Street NW in the DuPont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Where the woman was headed along the streets lined with embassies, row houses and hotels, I don’t know.  But I admired her diligence and perseverance on that day, Tuesday January 9, a day when the temperatures finally warmed up to the mid-40s following the cold snap that impacted much of eastern half of the nation since 2018 began.

The encounter with the woman took place on my final day of a two-day visit to the nation’s capitol to participate in the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, a five-day conference that draws some 14,000 transportation professionals and scholars from around the world.

So, why recount this brief episode?

For me, the woman somewhat encapsulates and embodies the nation today in the second year of a new administration: Steadfastly trying to move forward but unsure of what’s the right direction to take.

Regardless of your party affiliation (should you have one), personal perspectives on the state of the union or observations on America at the dawn of the New Year, the past year unquestionably was unprecedented in many ways.  Yet, in light of charges, investigations, allegations and non-stop news gathering and reporting, the republic endured.

Back to my 48 or so hours in Washington. During recent visits over the past five years, I found many things I’ve grown to like and admire about the city.  Below is a short perspective through images and captions.

Looking south on 16th Street NW. The architecture is a blend of classic and modern, the scale human and walkable. Although misty during my morning stroll, this road leads to Lafayette Square and the White House.

 

Washington may be set in its ways from a political perspective, but the city is home to a relatively new transportation option: Dockless bike share. I found dockless bikes throughout the city.

 

Yes, Washington has cutting-edge restaurants. But they also have excellent long-standing places like Cafe Tomate on Connecticut Avenue. I felt welcomed while enjoying a nightcap.

 

Looking like a disheveled rec room, The Big Hunt attracts locals and visitors for conversation and good beer. A haunt that’s rough around the edges in all the right places.

 

During a break, I strolled to the National Portrait Gallery, where visitors can take in new exhibits (Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image, The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers) or view portraits of the men who have led our nation for the past 242 years.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I did not include an image of the lady noted at the onset of this post.  That would be demeaning and unfair, and an affront to her integrity.

However, I do hope the lady found a safe place and will remain safe through the balance of this year; same sentiment for our nation.

 

 

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The USA Still a Work in Progress

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Yesterday, President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, his final such speech on the condition of the nation and its future.

Actually, I was in Washington while the President delivered the address to Congress, the rest of the nation and world.

And, no, I was not invited to attend and I would have respectfully declined had I received an invitation. I was in the nation’s capital to attend a transportation conference on behalf of the university where I work.

Photography is not allowed inside the National Archives Museum, but I did take this exterior image.

Photography is not allowed inside the National Archives Museum, but I did take this exterior image.

But, I have some thoughts about our nation, thoughts shaped by what I witnessed in Washington between meetings and education sessions on transportation. First, let me share what inspired this post.

During a break on Tuesday, I strolled a few blocks to the National Archives Museum on Pennsylvania Avenue; it was a cold day, and museum was not crowded, save for some school kids on a field trip and a handful of visitors like myself.

Work continues on the National Mall. I found this symbolic to the nation as a whole.

Work continues on the National Mall. I found this symbolic to the nation as a whole.

There, in the museum Rotunda, is the document that set in motion our nation. Yes, the real Declaration of Independence, and I had the honor of spending a few minutes before it alone.

“Is this one of the originals?” I asked a nice man who was a volunteer docent.

“Original — it’s the only one,” he said, and then offered more insight on the Founding Fathers, who are depicted in spectacular paintings in the Rotunda.

Of course, there’s lots of historical sites in Washington, and lots of money is being spent to preserve our heritage. At the National Mall across Independence Avenue, I could see lots of construction underway to repair and improve America’s front yard.

Dressed for a cold late morning at DuPont Circle.

Dressed for a cold late morning at DuPont Circle.

During my visit, I stayed at a hotel on DuPont Circle, a wonderful neighborhood that’s home to embassies, great restaurants and galleries.  Around the Circle and in doorways on Connecticut Avenue, I saw another side of America, one beyond the great monuments and public spaces.

Men and women lived in cardboard boxes, draped in layers of coats and blankets to stay warm in the January cold.  Yes, this tragedy takes place in many other parts of America — including Chicago — besides Washington; but it was more poignant to witness it in the capital of the richest nation on earth.

Back to the State of the Union address: The President discussed what’s right with America and the accomplishments made during his administration. And, from another perspective, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley offered a rebuttal from the Republican party.

This is how politics works, here and in other democracies.

But I wonder if — for the sake of Americans living on the streets as well as those of us who have homes to go to at night — that the politics could be put aside so the problems facing the less fortunate can be solved.

I think that’s what the Founding Fathers meant by the often quoted “pursuit of happiness” segment.