StFrancisDeSales01

Saint Francis de Sales Church

On this bike ride I rode aimlessly for quite a while and surprised myself when I found out that I was in Maryland.  Eventually I turned around and headed back toward downtown D.C. And as I was riding along a modest old stone church on the side of the road caught my eye. Because it looked so interesting to me, I stopped to see it and find out more. It turned out to be Saint Frances de Sales Church, and it is located at 2021 Rhode Island Avenue (MAP) In northeast D.C.’s Langdon neighborhood.

The first thing I learned about Saint Francis de Sales Church is that it is a Catholic church with the oldest continuing congregation in D.C.  I learned this from a plaque on the front of the building.  The remainder of the plaque reads, “Congregation began about 1722, when Catholics first attended mass at chapel within Queen family mansion. About 1723 chapel was built outside mansion, on site approximately at present Evarts Street, N.E., near 20th Street. Building came to be called Queen’s Chapel. Destroyed by fire three times: In American Revolution (date uncertain): War of 1812 (1814); and Civil War (1862).  Rebuilt each time: Last time as St. Francis de Sales church (1908). Each new building attended by members of congregation that had attended at older building. St. Francis de Sales Church moved to present site in 1927. Last Queen’s Chapel building is now gone.”

The next thing I wanted to learn about was Francis de Sales and who he was, which I researched later when I got home.  Francis de Sales was a Bishop of Geneva and is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church. Born on August 21, 1567, to a noble family at Chateau de Sales in the Kingdom of Savoy near Geneva, Switzerland, he knew from a very early age that he desired to serve God and had a vocation to the priesthood. However, he kept it from his family. His father wanted him to enter a career in law and politics. And he pursued those studies while waiting for God to make His will clear.  Francis stated, “I had to know fully what God himself wanted. I had to be sure that everything in this should be done as though his hand had done it.” So Francis waited. Then one day, while he was riding. Francis fell from his horse three times that day. And every time he fell, his sword came out of the scabbard, and every time it came out, the sword and scabbard came to rest on the ground in the shape of the Christian cross. Taking this as a sign, he told his father. And after much discussion and disagreement from his father, Francis was ordained to the priesthood and elected provost of the Diocese of Geneva, in 1593, by the Bishop of Geneva.

Although he lived to be only 55 years old, through his 29-year career he became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.

St. Francis de Sales was beatified on January 8, 1661 and canonized on April 19, 1665 by Pope Alexander VII.  In 1923, Pope Pius XI named St. Francis de Sales the patron saint of Catholic writers and the Catholic press because of the tracts and books he wrote. He is also the patron saint of the deaf, journalists, adult education, and the Sisters of St. Joseph. His feast day is celebrated on January 24th.

Its long history combined with its present leadership and parishioners has combined to make today’s Saint Frances de Sales Church a vibrant presence in its neighborhood and the city.  The church has Mass with Cantor, Traditional Latin Mass and/or Gospel services six days a week, as well as scheduled confessions and Adoration Holy Hours, and active Christian education and fellowship communities.  So every indication is that it will continue well into the future as it did for so long in the past.

StFrancisDeSales02     StFrancisDeSales03     StFrancisDeSales04
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

PohickBay06

On this weekend ride I took a mountain bike to Pohick Bay Regional Park, where I the this overcast autumn day riding on the trails and leisurely exploring the park.  Pohick Bay is a mostly water-oriented park situated on the Mason Neck Peninsula bordering the Potomac River’s Pohick Bay and Gunston Cove, approximately 25 miles south of D.C. and is located at 5400 Ox Road (MAP) in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

The park has a wide network of trails that wind throughout the park and offer great glimpses of the bay and portions of the local environment.  The trails total over eight and a half miles combined.

In addition to the trails that accommodate biking and hiking, the park also features a boat launch facility that is one of only three public access points to the Potomac River in northern Virginia, and is the closest one to D.C. and its famous waterfront and The District Wharf.  For shorter boating excursions Pohick Bay also offers canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and Jon boats for rent on the weekends as well as naturalist guided canoe and kayak tours.

In addition to water activities the park also offers family and group camping, as well as deluxe and rustic cabins.  Each rustic cabin has electricity, air conditioning and heat, a small refrigerator and two rooms. And a camp store offers a variety of items, including camping supplies, souvenirs, snacks, and firewood.

Picnic areas and a large playground for children are also available. Additionally, the Park is home to Pohick Bay Golf Course, one of Virginia’s most picturesque 18-hole courses, as well as Treasure Island Mini Golf, a fun, yet somewhat challenging miniature golf course.  There is also a challenging disc golf course that meanders through the woods within the the park and features 18 holes.  Pirate’s Cove Waterpark, which provides water fun for the entire family, is also located at the park.

Mason Neck Peninsula, on which the park is located, is an ecologically fragile land that shelters an abundance of wildlife, including the bald eagle. Nature lovers can expect to see blue birds, osprey, heron, deer, beavers and rare sightings of river otters.

PohickBay01     PohickBay02     PohickBay04

PohickBay03     PohickBay05
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

DistrictOfPi01

The District of Pi

Having not gone out to eat in while, on this ride I decided to stop by District of Pi, located at 910 F Street (MAP), just around the corner from Ford’s Theater and The Petersen House, and just one block from FBI Headquarters in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood.  District of Pi is renown for its a award-winning deep and thin crust pizza as well as its two dozen different draft beers, served for both lunch and dinner daily.

Pi Pizzeria began on March 14, 2008, in St. Louis, Missouri.  Later that same year that it opened, Pi’s captured the heart and taste buds of then-Senator Barack Obama during a campaign stop as he ran for his first term as president.  Then in April 2009, Pi was invited by newly-elected President Obama to The White House to cook for the First Family. That made Pi Pizzeria the first non-staff to prepare food at the Obama White House. The Pi team has subsequently cooked for the President, Vice President and other famous politicians and celebrities on numerous occasions.

Pi Pizzeria took off after that like a book that was featured on Oprah’s Book Club.  It now has several locations and is still opening more in St. Louis.  It has the one location here in D.C., referred to as The District of Pi.  And, oddly enough, there is also a location in Iraq.

On this ride to start out the week I opted for The Kirkwood, a thin cornmeal-crust pie topped with spicy marinara, mozz, and meatballs, red bell pepper and fresh basil.  Despite the coronavirus pandemic, their eat-in dining rooms are open.  But I took mine to go, and ate it al fresco on the National Mall.

And it was absolutely delicious.  I won’t say it was better than the pies at We, The Pizza, but it ranks right up there with them.  To break the tie, I guess I’ll just have to return to Pi again soon. I’ve been to We, The Pizza several times and tried several different pies.  But this is only the second time I’ve been to District of Pi.  The first time was half a dozen years ago, and I had The Kirkwood then too.  So I’ve already decided.  Next time I’m definitely going with something new.  I’m thinking maybe The Delmar, which is also a thin cornmeal-crust pie, but topped with mozz, cheddar, pappy’s bbq sauce, roasted chicken, red and green bell pepper, red onion, and cilantro.  My mouth is already watering.

DistrictOfPi02

My Thin-crust Pie

NOTE:  If your birthday is on March 14th, you are what District of Pi refers to as “a Pi baby.”  And if you stop by on your special day they will give you a free large pizza pie.  That is because March 14th is also known as National Pi Day, based on the fact that the mathematical value of Pi starts with 3.14, the numeric equivalent for March 14th.  National Pi Day is actually an official U.S. holiday.  The House of Representatives passed House Resolution 224 in 2009, designating the 14th day of March each year as National Pi Day.

NYAPC01

New York Avenue Presbyterian Church 

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States.  It is located at the intersection of 13th Street and New York Avenue at 1313 New York Avenue (MAP).  It is situated among several tall modern building in D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.  However, its tall steeple helps it stand out.  And on this bike ride I stopped by and spent a little time there learning more about it.  

The church was formed in 1859-60 but traces its roots to 1803 as the F Street Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and another congregation founded in 1820 on its current site, the Second Presbyterian Church. After the merger the church was named the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, taking its name from the avenue that separated it from a tannery across the street at that time, and the original church building was constructed in the Colonial Revival style with Italianate details as designed by Architect Edward Haviland. The current church building was built in 1950 and is a replica of the original 19th century building designed by Haviland.  

The church is located four blocks from The White House.  And due to its proximity to the White House, a number of U.S. presidents have attended services there. In fact, eleven sitting presidents have worshiped in either the existing church or the original one, beginning with John Quincey Adams. The others were Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, Dwight D. Eisenhower and, most recently, Richard Nixon. Members of presidents’ cabinets, congressmen and senators, and the Supreme Court justices have also attended over the years. 

Of those who have attended, Abraham Lincoln was the most active and prominent presidential parishioner. President and Mrs. Lincoln first visited the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church shortly after he took office on March 4, 1861 and just after the church’s original building was completed. Lincoln rented a pew for $50 a year, and even had a reserved hitching post outside for the family’s small horse-drawn carriage.  The Lincoln hitching post is still there today.  The family worshiped regularly there during the  Civil War.  And while attending, President Lincoln and the pastor at that time, Rev. Dr. Phineas Densmore Gurley, developed a relationship in which they frequently discussed theology.  Gurley presided over the funeral of Lincoln’s son, William Wallace Lincoln, in 1862, and then over the funeral of President Lincoln himself three years later.  

Later after President Lincoln’s death, the church’s steeple, then the tallest in the city, was destroyed in a storm and rebuilt through the generosity of Mary Harlan Lincoln, widow of the president’s son Robert Todd Lincoln. When the original church building was replaced in the early 1950’s the Lincoln Memorial Tower with its belfry and four-sided clock was disassembled and rebuilt.  Additionally, the bells in steeple tower were a gift to the church in 1929 from Mary Lincoln Isham, one of Lincoln’s granddaughters.  The largest bell bears an inscription in the president’s memory.  And inside the church in addition to the the family pew, there is a Lincoln stained glass window, an early emancipation document, and other memorabilia.

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is more than just a building or historic church.  It has remained active over the years, and continues to do so today.  From the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking from the church’s s pulpit to warn about the consequences of the war in Vietnam in the late 1960’s, to voting in 1998 to become a “More Light” congregation and work toward “the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) people in the life, ministry and witness of the church and in society”, to its current online worship services due to the coronavirus pandemic, the church continues to be active in the community.  In fact, approximately 1,200 people currently come to the church building on a weekly basis for a wide range of purposes, including meeting with a tutor in Community Club or a social worker at the McClendon Center, receiving a cup of coffee or an article of needed clothing through the Radcliffe Room ministry for the homeless, attending one of a number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, or worship with one of the four congregations the church hosts.  The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is a church that is reformed and always reforming.  

NYAPC02     NYAPC03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Riding in Circles

Posted: October 9, 2020 in You Just Never Know

YouJustNeverKnow02

Local traffic laws as they apply to bike riding can vary among different states and cities.  In the D.C. metropolitan area there can be differences depending on whether you’re within the D.C. city limits, cross a bridge into Virginia, or head north into Maryland.  In general, bikes are treated as vehicles and a person riding a bike as an operator of a vehicle.  There are, however, some notable exceptions.  So educating yourself about the applicable laws and following them is the best way to ensure compliance, which is essential to riding safely.

Locally, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is a good resource for information about bike laws.  As an organization that advocates for better bicycling conditions and transportation choices, WABA is also an excellent source of information about many other aspects of riding a bike.  Another good resource of information about biking laws is The League of American Bicyclists, which has also compiled information on the laws of D.C., Virginia and Maryland, as well as a state-by-state summary of biking laws throughout the rest of the United States.

I generally try to know and abide by the law, and part of this is following the road signs.  However, this sign had me riding around in a circle for hours.  Eventually, I was forced to disregard the sign and continue on my way.  However, it all worked out in the end because this experience also taught me a lesson.  The lesson is that while it’s important to know and follow the law, it is still necessary to exercise common sense as well.   Hopefully, if you do these two things, you will stay safe out there.

AACWM01

The African American Civil War Memorial

During this bike ride I visited The African American Civil War Memorial, which is located at the corner of Vermont Avenue, 10th Street and U Street (MAP), near the eastern entrance to the U Street Metro station, in northwest D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood. I couldn’t help but think that it might be better located elsewhere, such as near the National Mall, so that it might get more visitors. But the memorial is appropriately located in Shaw inasmuch as the neighborhood was named after Robert Gould Shaw, the colonel in charge of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment during the Civil War. The 54th saw extensive service in the Union Army during the war, and was the second African American regiment, following the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, organized in the northern states.

The African American Civil War Memorial commemorates the service of 209,145 African American soldiers and sailors who comprised the United States Colored Troops (USCT) and fought for the Union in the Civil War. Several thousand African American men were also enlisted to fight for the Confederacy, but they could not begin to balance out the number who fought for the Union. And they are not commemorated by the memorial.

The memorial was developed by the African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum and was commissioned by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities in 1993 and completed in 1997. It was dedicated in July of 1998 and transferred to the National Park Service in October of 2004.

The memorial, designed by Ed Hamilton of Louisville, Kentucky, consists of a park-like granite plaza, a bronze sculpture known as The Spirit of Freedom as the centerpiece, and a series of curved walls partially surrounding it.  The two-sided sculpture is nine feet tall and depicts three life-size Union Army soldiers and one Union Navy sailor on the front. On the rear are figures depicting the parents, wives and children of the African American soldiers who went off to war.  The Spirit of Freedom’s face is watching over all of them.  On the plaza’s highest wall is inscribed this Frederick Douglas quote: “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow. Better even die free than to live slaves.”  The shorter panel walls are inscribed with the 209,145 names of the African American men who served for the Union in the war.  Approximately 68,000 of these men died in the war, and 35 earned the Medal of Honor for their valor in battle. By the end of the war, these African Americans made up ten percent of the entire Union Army.

As I was sitting at the memorial contemplating what life must have been like at that time for the men the memorial commemorates, many of whom were newly-freed slaves, I imagined that they most likely faced not only particular viciousness from the opposing army, but even ridicule and discrimination from within their own.  But despite this, they helped win the war and subsequently changed history.

AACWM02     AACWM03

AACWM04     AACWM05     AACWM06

AACWM01     AACWM07
[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

NOTE:  After the memorial was dedicated it was soon joined by The African American Civil War Museum, located across the street at 1925 Vermont Avenue (MAP).

GWHAmemorial01a

George Washington High School World War II Memorial

On this leisurely bike ride I was riding Julius, my orange Recycled Recumbent named after the eponymous Orange Julius drink most often available in shopping malls throughout the world.  I was riding in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, near the VéloCity Bike Cooperative where I bought Julius.  And as I was riding past a school I saw an obelisk, smaller but similar to The Washington Monument, located in front of the building just off of the south wing near the parking lot.  Naturally I was curious.  So I stopped to find out more about it.

It turned out that the now-closed school was the former George Washington High School, located at 1005 Mount Vernon Avenue (MAP) in Alexandria.  And the obelisk is a memorial to the students from that school who were killed during World War II.  I imagine the shape of the memorial was a nod to the school’s namesake and the D.C. memorial honoring him.  And header description on the memorial reads, “Dedicated to the memory of those of our boys who served in World War II and did not come back.”  And below that it is inscribed “Erected by the graduating classes of 1943 • 1944 • 1945 • 1946 • 1947.”

In the process of researching information about this monument, the George Washington High School Alumni Association was able to learn the dates of death for certain of the deceased, and subsequently it was found that the order of their names on the monument matched the order of their death.  Based on that finding, it is reasonable to believe that all the names on the monument are listed in the order of the date of death.

Similar to the inscriptions on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the remaining inscriptions on the memorial list the names of the fallen soldiers. They read:

(west side)
Robert Rumshin • Herbert Joseph Petrello • Benjamin J. Vos, Jr. • George William Rutledge • John B. Myers • Elmer R. Bartlett • Elwin Irving Brawner, Jr. • Charles E. Woodruff • Charles Thomas Scott • Charles Alvin Dunn • Archie Baynes Norford • Douglas R. Drake • Israel Kleinman • Clifford Henry Wayland • J.D. Gill • Robert Hatfield • George Francis DuFrane, Jr. • William Francis Deeton • Eugene A. Barry • David Lester Gillett • Alphus Eugene Arthur • Charles Herbert Grimm • Ossie F. Snellings • Stewart Delaney Saffelle • Samuel Hobart Fleming, Jr.

(east side)
Raymond Carlyle Wood • Hirst Mayes • Edward Ralph Barclay • Harlan Eugene Amandus • James Sinclair MacLean, Jr. • Robert B. Gills, Jr. • Earl N. Tutt • Joseph Anthony Tutt • Joseph Anthony Tull • John Duvall May • Richard McGowan • Robert Dunn McIlwaine • Robert Phillip Brawner • Joseph Leonard Goodrich • Lyman Stephen Schlesser • Winfred Amos Pearson • Edmund Hunt Roberts, Jr. • Donald G. Covey • Samuel Haslett Meeks • Dabney M. Cruikshank • Ralph W. Fleming • Frank Dudley Cahill • Milton Rand Norton, Jr. • Carlin G. King • Joseph M. Gay Jr.

In all, 48 young men from Alexandria’s George Washington High School gave their lives in military service during World War II.  I say young men because during World War II, when a high school student received his draft notice, he had to leave school.  There were no deferments for students.  So some of these men never even finished high school.  These facts combined show what a sacrifice this unique memorial commemorates, both on an individual level and for the community of Alexandria.

FBIlaboratory01

The FBI Laboratory

This month marks the 88th year since the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory started processing cases.  And to commemorate this occasion, I used this weekend’s bike ride to go back to Quantico, Virginia, and ride to the current FBI Laboratory (MAP), which is on the grounds of The FBI Academy, located on Marine Corp Base Quantico.  

Established by the original FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, the Criminology Laboratory, as it was known then, was first housed in a single room of the Old Southern Railway Building at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Downtown D.C. It would eventually move to the third floor of FBI Headquarters, before relocating to its current location back in 2003.  

The Lab’s first year of work included 963 examinations, including those that led to the capture of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the kidnapping of the infant son of the aviator Charles Lindbergh, which became known as the “crime of the century”. (As opposed to the “trial of the center”, as the O.J. Simpson murder case would eventually be known.)

Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was kidnapped from the Lindbergh family home in Hopewell, New Jersey in March of 1932, with the kidnapper leaving behind a handwritten ransom note.  The Laboratory was equipped with only an ultraviolet light machine, microscope, moulage kit, wiretapping kit, and general office supplies.  And it had only one full-time employee, Special Agent Charles Appel. Using the limited resources available to him, Appel analyzed the handwriting of the 13 ransom notes received by the Lindberghs with samples from 300 suspects. While the process took many months, Appel was eventually able to identify Hauptmann as the perpetrator.  Sadly, it was discovered that the kidnapper killed the infant. And although Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence to the end, he was convicted of first-degree murder and executed in 1936 in the electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison.

Today the FBI Laboratory is one of the largest and most comprehensive crime labs in the world. Operating with more than 500 employees out of a state-of-the-art facility in Quantico, the laboratory’s scientific experts and Special Agents travel the world on assignment, using science and technology to protect the nation and support law enforcement, intelligence, military, and forensic science partners. Whether it’s examining DNA or fingerprints left at a crime scene or linking exploded bomb fragments to terrorists, the men and women of the FBI Laboratory are dedicated to using the rigors of science to solve cases and prevent acts of crime and terror.  

NOTE:  I was not able to take any additional photos because unauthorized photography or video recording within the FBI Laboratory is a security violation and, therefore, strictly prohibited.  The above video is unclassified public material.  

Russert02

Tim Russert’s headstone at Rock Creek Cemetery

After recently reading “Big Russ and Me, Father and Son: Lessons of Life”, the critically-acclaimed memoir written by Tim Russert, I found myself nostalgically remembering NBC’s Meet the Press when Tim Russert was the moderator.  While it was a nationally broadcast show, it was based here in D.C. And Russert was the moderator of the Sunday morning political news talk show for 16 years, until his death in 2008.  I also thought about how he was considered one of the most trusted and admired figures in American television newscasting.  But now the words trusted and and admired and news don’t seem to go in the same sentence much anymore.  A lot has changed in the world since he passed away.    

So, on this bike ride, I chose to ride to Rock Creek Cemetery, in northwest D.C.’s Brightwood Park neighborhood (MAP), to visit the gravesite where Russert is buried.  

Born Timothy John Russert in Buffalo, New York (about an hour from where I was born), he was the second of four children and the only son of Timothy Joseph “Big Russ” Russert, a sanitation worker, and Elizabeth “Betty” Seeley Russert, a homemaker. He received a Jesuit education from Canisius High School, before earning a bachelor’s degree in 1972 from John Carroll University and a Juris Doctor with honors from the Cleveland State University Cleveland–Marshall College of Law, in 1976.

After completing his education and before becoming moderator for Meet the Press, Russert’s career highlights included running one of U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s five major law offices based in Buffalo. Within five years he became a special counsel and chief of staff to Moynihan, a Democrat from Hell’s Kitchen, New York. He then became a top aide to New York Governor Mario Cuomo, also a Democrat.  

He left politics in 1984 to become a journalist when he became the senior vice president of NBC News’ Washington operations. Four years later, in 1988, he was promoted to Washington bureau chief of NBC News. And in 1991 he took the job as moderator of Meet the Press. Throughout his time on Meet the Press, Russert also moderated numerous political debates between candidates in U.S. Senate races, governor races in various states, and between presidential candidates. The candidates in those debates included politicians ranging from David Duke to Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Russert met Maureen Orth at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. They were married three years later at the Basilica de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain. Maureen was also a journalist, and still works as a reporter, author, and a special correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine. Together they had one child, a son, named Luke. Luke is a former NBC News correspondent, and was an intern with ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Luke currently hosts the XM Radio show 60/20 Sports with political consultant James Carville, who has made numerous appearances on Meet the Press.  

In June of 2008 Russert returned from a family vacation in Rome, Italy, where they had celebrated Luke’s graduation from Boston College. While his wife and son remained in Rome, Russert had returned to prepare for his Sunday show. On June 13th, at the offices of WRC-TV where he was recording voiceovers for his show, Russert collapsed from a heart attack. A co-worker immediately began performing CPR on him while 911 was called. The D.C. Fire and Rescue service received the call at 1:40 pm and dispatched an EMS unit which arrived four minutes later.  Paramedics attempted to defibrillate Russert’s heart three times, but he did not respond. Russert was then transported to Sibley Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was 58 years old, the same age I am now. 

As I sat on the bench at Russert’s gravesite, I thought about how much more vitriolic and divisive politics have become since he passed away.  In 2008 Donald Trump was a celebrity TV star who hosted “The Apprentice” and co-hosted “The Celebrity Apprentice”.  And that year Donald Trump backed Hillary Clinton for president and stated that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should impeach President George W. Bush.  And as I sat there I wondered what Russert would have thought of the fact that Donald Trump was now the President, who beat Hillary Clinton to become President, and was later impeached by Speaker Pelosi.  And I wondered if, considering how different the world is now, things could ever get back to the way they were when Russert hosted Meet the Press.   

Russert01

Some additional interesting aspects of Russert’s life include: 

  • Although he wasn’t the first to use the terminology, Russert is credited coining the phrases “red states” and “blue states”. However, when Russert used the phrases Republican states were blue, and Democratic states were red. The colors have since switched places, and how the colors got switched is not clear.
  • Russert once told a story on Meet the Press about how he went to Woodstock “in a Buffalo Bills jersey with a case of beer.”
  • While in law school, an official from John Carroll University called Russert to ask if he could book some concerts for the school as he had done while a student there. One concert that Russert booked was headlined by a then-unknown singer named Bruce Springsteen, who charged $2,500 for the appearance.
  • During his coverage of the 2000 presidential election, Russert calculated possible Electoral College outcomes using a whiteboard, and that whiteboard is now in the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Russert was an enthusiastic sports fan. He grew up as a New York Yankees fan, but switched his allegiance to the Washington Nationals when they were established in D.C. in 2005.
  • Russert held season tickets to both the Nationals baseball games and the Washington Wizards basketball games.
  • Russert was also a lifelong fan of the Buffalo Bills football team, and often closed Sunday broadcasts during the football season with a statement of encouragement for the franchise. The team released a statement on the day of his death, saying that listening to Russert’s “Go Bills” exhortation was part of their Sunday morning game preparation.
  • After he passed away, the route leading to the Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, was renamed the “Timothy J. Russert Highway”.
  • Russert was also a fan of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team and appeared on an episode of Meet the Press next to the Stanley Cup during a Sabres playoff run.
  • Russert, when he was a student at the Cleveland–Marshall College of Law, attended Ten Cent Beer Night, a promotion by the Cleveland Indians which ended in a riot at the stadium. “I went with $2 in my pocket,” he recalled. “You do the math.”
  • Russert was elected in 2003 to the board of directors of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
  • Russert was friends with Fred Rogers, host of the iconic PBS children’s program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”.
  • During his career, Russert received 48 honorary doctorate degrees.
  • Russert’s favorite beer was Rolling Rock. And, at his funeral, friend and fellow NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw brought and raised a Rolling Rock in Russert’s memory.
  • Russert received an Emmy Award for his news coverage of the funeral of former President Ronald Reagan.
  • Russert was a lifelong devout Catholic, and shortly before his death he had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
  • In 2008, the same year in which he would later pass away, Time magazine named Russert one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
The Constitution Room at the National Archives

On today’s bike ride I stopped by to see the United States Constitution at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Building.  To find out why you’ll have to keep reading all the way to the end.

On this date in 1787, 39 of the 42 men who were gathered together in Philadelphia signed a document. That four-page document is now located down the street from my office displayed in temperature and environmentally controlled cases behind protective glass framed with titanium. And on today’s lunchtime bike ride I not only rode there, but also went inside to see the actual document that was present 226 years ago at that meeting in Philadelphia.

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pensylvania. (Yes, I know Pennsylvania is spelled incorrectly in the previous sentence, but it was also spelled wrong in the Constitution.)

As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Beginning on December 7, five states–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut–ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document, as it failed to reserve undelegated powers to the states and lacked constitutional protection of basic political rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In February 1788, a compromise was reached under which Massachusetts and other states would agree to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would be immediately proposed. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. In June, Virginia ratified the Constitution, followed by New York in July.

In addition to Pensylvania being spelled incorrectly, here are some other interesting facts about the Constitution:  

  • The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments.
  • The U.S. Constitution is the oldest working and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.
  • The word “democracy” does not appear once in the Constitution.
    Benjamin Franklin made a suggestion at the Constitutional Convention that the sessions be opened with a prayer. The delegates refused to accept the motion stating that there was not enough money to hire a chaplain.
  • Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister. John Adams was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention and did not attend either.
  • The Constitution was “penned” by Jacob Shallus, A Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk, for $30 ($726 today).
  • Patrick Henry was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but declined, because he “smelt a rat.”
  • There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops!
  • James Madison, “the father of the Constitution,” was the first to arrive in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. He arrived in February, three months before the convention began, bearing the blueprint for the new Constitution.
  • Because of his poor health, Benjamin Franklin needed help to sign the Constitution. As he did so, tears streamed down his face. Franklin, at 81 years old, was also the oldest person to sign the Constitution. The youngest was Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, who was 26.
  • Of the forty-two delegates who attended most of the meetings, thirty-nine actually signed the Constitution. Edmund Randolph and George Mason of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts refused to sign due in part due to the lack of a bill of rights.
  • A proclamation by President George Washington and a congressional resolution established the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. The reason for the holiday was to give “thanks” for the new Constitution.
  • George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed the Constitution.
  • At the time of the Constitutional Convention Philadelphia was the most modern city in America and the largest city in North America. It had a population of 40,000 people, 7,000 street lamps, 33 churches, 10 newspapers, and a university.
  • As Benjamin Franklin left the Pennsylvania State House after the final meeting of the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, he was approached by the wife of the mayor of Philadelphia. She was curious as to what the new government would be. Franklin replied, “A republic, madam. If you can keep it.” .

And finally, Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document. That’s today, so Happy Constitution Day!

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Building

NOTE: They do not allow photography of any kind inside the National Archives building, which is why I don’t have a photo of the Constitution.. However, I surreptitiously took the above photo of the Constitution Room on my way out. .