What Samuel Gompers Said and the State of the America Today

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

The bronze Samuel Gompers Memorial is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The litter in the foreground is not an official part of the memorial.

For the past six years, I’ve had the privilege of attending the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, always held in Washington, DC, and always in early January.

My key tasks there are to participate in the meeting of the Technology Transfer Committee (where I proudly serve as Communications Task Group chair) and manage a reception hosted by the transportation research unit that’s part of the university where I’m employed.

During my brief — three days, two nights — sojourn to the capital, I try to come away with some new perspective on the nation: Where we’re headed, what remains good in America, where are roadblocks to overcome.

I’ve shared my thoughts in past PRDude posts. For example, in this January 17 post from last year, I offered insight on the impact the government shutdown that lasted into early 2019 had on mobility in the District.

The impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump has been at the forefront of things taking place in Washington over the past few weeks. So, I looked for a something else to capture my attention, to provide inspiration.

I found it in the image above, the memorial to organized labor giant Samuel Gompers, while walking along Massachusetts Avenue.

Yes, the District is home to many compelling memorials to men and women, military heroes and leaders from other parts of the world. What struck me about the Gompers Memorial– aside from the striking representation of the seated Gompers flanked by figures of the labor movement — was this statement on the southwest side of the pedestal. It reads in part;

No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek to force,
we but tear apart that which united is invincible.

These words by Gompers (who I learned was English by birth and a cigar maker by trade) encapsulated the labor movement he helped forge.

But I wish the members of Congress, those in the Executive Office and members of he Supreme Court would take these words to heart in regards to what’s taking place in Washington today.

We as a nation would be on firmer ground if we heeded the wisdom of an English cigar maker.

Balancing the National Chaos: Two Images of Washington

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

A short visit to the nation’s capital this week provided a first-hand perspective on the chaos taking place in Washington and across the nation as the federal government shutdown over a planned boarder wall drags on and on, without a glimmer of an impending resolution.

To illustrate this perspective, note the two images — both taken from my room at the DuPont Circle Hotel — that accompany this post.  It’s my intention that these perspectives will somewhat metaphorically provide insight into the nation today.

Metro Washington was battered by a significant winter storm that impacted travel, but also left the city — and nation — blanketed in indecision.

The top image was taken Sunday in mid-afternoon as bands of snow fell across the city and surrounding areas.  The weather created challenges for travelers arriving at Reagan National Airport, people taking the Washington metro transit system and pedestrians, as the snow and ice made it difficult to walk, much less pull a suitcase across sidewalks that had yet to be shoveled.

In town to attend a transportation conference, I learned firsthand of travel nightmares, closed museums and attractions, and lives of federal workers and many others disrupted. An Italian restaurant near my hotel, where I had planned to enjoy a light dinner and glass of wine, had closed early. Other restaurants in the normally bustling neighborhood were open but not crowded. There was a sense that evening that Washington was hunkering down, that it almost was under siege due to the forces of nature and a government that did not fulfill its obligation to its citizens.

But on Monday morning, the bands of snow moved east, resulting in clear skies. Crews had been dispatched to clear away snow and ice, making basic mobility much easier and less dangerous than 12 or so hours before.  The WMATA Red Line train I took to the Convention Center was crowded, efficiently transporting people to jobs, appointments and events.  Later that evening, crowds descended on the Capital One Arena to take in a hockey game.  As noted in the second image here, the city had shrugged off obstacles and stood resilient. Things appeared to be “back to normal.”

As the shutdown enters its 27th day, the question remains: How many times can Washington figuratively brush off winter snow and clear sidewalks while some 800,000 workers wait for resolution and a paycheck?

Brilliant blue skies over the mid-rise office buildings across DuPont Circle made for a more inviting and optimistic perspective on Monday morning.

Other recollections on my 48 hour sojourn:

  • My Tuesday morning trip on the Yellow Line back to Reagan Airport offered a glimpse of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial as the train crossed the Potomac River. My thoughts turned to the nation these Founding Fathers built, and whether the ideals they formulated were crumbling.
  • From the American Airlines concourse, I counted around a dozen construction cranes in the distance, testimony that new developments, business and commerce will continue while the government stalemate dragged on.
  • The lines to get a cup of coffee at the Starbucks near the TSA checkpoint were longer than the lines required to pass through security. Was this an anomaly? A result of fewer travelers due to the shutdown?  Luck?

And, finally an aside of sorts. While at a reception Monday evening near the Convention Center, a colleague noted that Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren was present, dining with her husband, glasses of beer before them. As unobtrusively as possible, I approached their booth. The Senator smiled, turned and extended her hand.  She demonstrated a firm handshake.

“Hello Senator,” I said. “Wishing you success in the campaign ahead. We’re here for a transportation conference.”  “Transportation is very important to the nation,” she said. I wholeheartedly agreed, bid the couple farewell, and they quietly enjoyed their dinner and evening together.

Three Places Vladimir Putin Should Visit in Washington, DC

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin at an informal summit of CIS heads of state at the Novo Ogaryovo residence. (Credit Image: © Sharifulin Valery/TASS via ZUMA Press)

In a presidency fraught with seismic announcements, actions and adventures, the proposed invitation made last week by President Donald Trump to meet in the nation’s capital with Russian President Vladimir Putin was certainly among the most noteworthy.Hey

After all, relations between the two nations has not at all been rosy, so to say, given charges of meddling related to the 2016 general election. And, it’s been reported that Mr. Putin often resorts to very, very hardball tactics to combat political challenges.

But then, hometown meetings between the leaders of these two world powers has happened before. In 1972, President Richard Nixon joined a summit soiree with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev of the Communist Party of the then Soviet Union.

So, perhaps the U.S. is due to invite a Russian leader to the White House.

Plans for the Putin visit this fall are still being finalized, and it’s certainly speculative that the visit will materialize. Should he commit to the trip, I offer suggestions on three places to visit while in Washington — should time allow between formal dinners, closed-door meetings and other “regular” agenda items.

  1. The International Spy Museum: Okay, this is a no-brainer.  During our 2016 vacation, Susan and I included a stop at this multi-level building on F Street containing “the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display.” Who knows: Perhaps Mr. Putin, a 16-year KGB employee, already has visited the museum.  Better yet, maybe some of the stuff on display was even used by Mr. Putin. Maybe he’ll even add personal stuff to the collection.
  2.  The Lincoln Memorial: Yes, there are lots and lots of compelling monuments, memorials and bronzed men on horseback on public display throughout Washington. But I would highly recommend that Mr. Putin stop by the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall and read these words above the gigantic seated marble figure of the 16th president. “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” In case Mr. Putin is not a student of history, the United States remains a union and a democracy. It will remain one forever, even if foreign powers attempt to surreptitiously alter elections.
  3.  The Big Hunt: International travel and formal meetings can take their toll. Mr. Putin may want to chill out with an adult beverage after the rounds of ceremony, news conferences and pomp and circumstance.  My suggestion: Stop by The Big Hunt, an unabashed dive bar and restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in DuPont Circle. I visit this establishment whenever I’m in the District because the Big Hunt is raucous and real, beers are plentiful and cheap and the conversation among patrons stimulating. I’m sure the locals would welcome a discussion with Mr. Putin over a glass of vodka. Hey, maybe he’d even buy a round!

Assuredly, I’m not an expert on all the most memorable, fascinating and cool places to visit in the District — although I have visited there at least 10 times over my lifetime. In fact, I published a retrospective piece inspired during my visit in January of this year and this travelogue post from the spring of 2016.

My plans call for a return visit to Washington in January of 2019. Wonder if the town — or the nation or the world — will change should the Russian leader, indeed, arrive this fall and leave his mark on Washington.

Now, it’s your turn: What venues in the District would you recommend?






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.



Washington, D.C. Beyond the Monuments: A Travelogue

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

A common phrase often associated with the nation’s capital is “Beyond the Beltway,” a reference to the world outside Interstate 495, the limited access highway surrounding greater Washington, D.C.

And, many know that “Beyond the Beltway” also is the name of a syndicated radio program that originates here in Chicago.

This somewhat subtle reference to the vast part of America outside the seat of power provided inspiration for this post, one of the always popular (at least for me to produce) PRDude travelogue reports.

Last week, Susan and I visited Washington in order to enjoy the District at our own pace as visitors rather than while on business.  From our hotel in the way cool DuPont Circle neighborhood, we visited some of the grand places that make most must-visit lists. But we also were intrigued by places not cited frequently by those who contribute to Trip Advisor.

From the images to follow, here’s my perspective on places we found fascinating in some less-known corners of Washington:

DC one

The National Portrait Gallery has a regular exhibit of official paintings of our Presidents. Here’s me with Theodore Roosevelt, referred to in a documentary as “an American Lion.” I’d love to have shared a beer with TR.


DC eight

At the World War II memorial on the National Mall, I paused for a while by the pillar for Illinois. The small wreath was posted by students from Boone High School.


DC eleven

A figure of a solider at the Korean War Memorial was particularly intriguing to me. This guy was responsible for communications.


DC fifteen

Located outside an embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, I was captivated by this figure. I know what you’re thinking: What’s on his mind?


DC five

In this digital world, you never know when you need an eraser. Susan posed with this over sized version at the Sculpture Garden near the National Archives.


DC fourteen

Looks historic, right? On the plaza at Georgetown University. Founded in 1789, it’s the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university. And the adjacent neighborhood of the same name is frozen in time.


DC seven

On the National Mall near the Washington Monument, I spent time listening to these young people performing Christian music in a temporary venue called David’s Tent. For what they lacked in musical skill, they made up with passion and honesty.


DC six

Okay. I had to include a glamour shot of the Washington Monument. Up close, it’s a lot bigger than you’d imagine.


DC ten

One of my favorite images: Catching a real moment between visitors at the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a solemn place, but full of life when I visited.


DC thirteen

A street in DuPont Circle. I could live here. It’s civilized and refined without being ostentatious. Plus there’s great bars, restaurants and a Metro station.

One image not included in this post was of the famous cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin. The peak colors were just starting when we departed late last week.

A reason to return and look beyond the monuments for what makes this city great. Now if only Congress could get on track and start governing.

But that topic is for another time.