Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Today is Flag Day, and in recognition of that designation I took some of the photos I’ve taken during my lunchtime bike rides, 76 of them, in fact, and set them to music to make the above slideshow.

In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.  But the first Flag Day was not celebrated for another 108 years. until in 1885 a 19-year-old school teacher in Fredonia, Wisconsin, named Bernard J. Cigrand placed a 38-inch star flag in a bottle on his desk to observe the “flag birthday,” and gave his students an assignment to write essays about the flag and its significance.  After that, Cigrand enthusiastically advocated for several years in numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses the observance of June 14 as “Flag Birthday”, or “Flag Day”.  For his efforts, Cigrand generally is credited with being the “Father of Flag Day.”

It took another 31 years, until 1916, for President Woodrow Wilson to issue a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day.  Finally, in August 1946, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.  Flag Day is still not an official Federal holiday, however.  Neither is it a state holiday outside of Pennsylvania and New York. Furthermore, New York’s official observance of Flag Day isn’t June 14, but rather the second Sunday in June.

Since its inception there have been 27 official versions what many fondly call the “Stars and Stripes” , starting with the first one in 1777 which displayed 13 stripes and 13 stars (for the 13 original colonies). When Kentucky and Vermont joined the union, the flag took on two more stars, so that from 1795 to 1818, 15 stripes and 15 stars graced the flag. It was this version of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose “The Star-Spangled Banner,” during the battle at Fort McHenry.  For a while, the U.S. added stripes and stars to the flag when welcoming new states. At one point, the flag has 15 stripes and 15 stars. But n 1818, as the country continued to add new states, lawmakers, anticipating a crowded field of stripes, decided to honor each new state with a star, and leave the stripes at 13. Today the flag has 50 stars for the 50 states, and the designated 13 stripes.

There are Federal regulations governing the handling and display of the flag, referred to as the U.S. Flag Code, including restrictions on using the flag’s likeness for advertising, or printing it on anything intended “for temporary use or discard,” like cocktail napkins or paper plates. Under the Flag Protection Act of 1989, there are also Federal laws that call for criminal penalties for certain forms of flag desecration, although the Supreme Court found this act to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment in 1990.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of surprising and interesting facts surrounding the Stars and Stripes. And many of those facts are not found in history books. The following are some examples.

  • A 17-year old student named Robert G. Heft designed the flag as it currently appears today as part of a project for his history class.  He received a grade of B- for the project. He later submitted it to Congress for consideration, and in August of 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Heft’s design over 1,500 other applicants. His teacher subsequently changed his grade to an A.
  • According to the U.S. Department of State, the names of the flag’s official colors are “old glory red,” “white,” and “old glory blue.” “White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief, signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
  • Old Glory was actually the nickname of a specific U.S. Flag, namely, the one owned by sea captain William Driver. He was previously given the flag by the women in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, but he only named it Old Glory upon seeing it flying on his ship’s mast in 1831. The name later went on to become synonymous with any American flag.
  • In July 1969, Neil Armstrong placed the first American flag on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned landing. Five more Apollo moon landings—from missions 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17—resulted in five more flags being planted on the lunar surface. Despite the harsh temperatures and conditions of the moon’s atmosphere, five of the six flags that were planted during the Apollo missions are still standing. According to Buzz Aldrin, the one that fell was blown over by the exhaust from Apollo 11 during its liftoff from the moon’s surface.
  • Richard Williams, the animation director for the movie entitled “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” said that he modeled the title character’s colors after the American flag. Roger Rabbit dons red overalls, has white fur, and wears a blue tie. “It looked like an American flag — subliminally speaking — so everybody liked it,” stated Williams.
  • Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications revealed that Walmart stores sold around 115,000 American flags on September 11, 2001, as compared to 6,400 flags on the same date in 2000. In the year following 9/11 (September 11, 2001, through August 19, 2011), they sold 7.8 million American flags as compared to 2.5 million the year before.
  • During the opening sequence, at about 22 seconds in, of first-season episodes of “Gilligan’s Island,” the U.S. Flag can be seen flying at half-staff off in the distance. According to a 1994 audio book co-authored by Russell Johnson, who played the Professor, this is because the show’s pilot episode finished filming on November 22, 1963 — the same day President Kennedy was assassinated.
  • Lastly and most assuredly bigly, our current President, Donald Trump, was born on Flag Day in 1946.
Advertisements

Today’s Capitals’ Victory Parade and Rally

With the Washington Capitals winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last week, D.C. celebrated its first major sports championship in 26 years with a victory parade today. It all began with truly fanatical fans congregating near the parade’s stage before 4:00am, a full seven hours before it was scheduled to begin. As the morning progressed, Metro stations and downtown streets were clogged with fans clad in red. And by 8:30am thousands had already lined the parade route, although the start of the parade was still more than two hours away.

The parade finally kicked off at 11:00 a.m., starting at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street (MAP) near The Washington Monument, and proceeding east along Constitution Avenue to Seventh Street. There it turned right, where it culminated with a rally on the National Mall (MAP).

During the away games throughout the Stanley Cup finals series, thousands of people packed the streets around the Capital One Arena in downtown D.C. for watch parties. And when the Caps actually won the cup, police said they dealt with a mostly peaceful crowd. In fact, not one person had to be arrested. But it was difficult to predict what today’s celebration would be like because there was a big unknown factor when it came to today’s parade and rally. And that was the size of the crowd which would show up.

D.C. is certainly no stranger when it comes to hosting parades and marches. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the March for Our Lives on the National Mall earlier this year. But it’s been awhile since the city hosted a victory parade.

A massive crowd of more than 600,000 fans showed up for the Washington Redskins’ Super Bowl XXII victory parade in 1988. That prompted the D.C. police to limit the size of subsequent celebrations. So in 1992, when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI and held a victory rally on the National Mall, a more moderate yet respectable crowd of 75,000 people showed up. And in 1997, when the D.C. United won the Major League Soccer title, there was a nine-block parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. The Washington Post said “several hundred” people showed up for that parade and described the crowd as “small, but enthusiastic.”

But with different variables and unknown factors, such as it being the city’s first National Hockey League championship, the parade being held on a weekday when many people had to be at work, and whether yesterday’s rain would stop in time for the rally, it was a matter of wait and see when it came to the crowd size and what would happen.

Eventually a crowd estimated at around 100,000 people (100,001 if you include me) showed up to line the parade route and “Rock the Red” in support of the Stanley Cup champions, and watch the procession led from the rear by team captain and future hall of famer Alexander Ovechkin, who was atop a double-decker, open-top bus holding the Stanley Cup aloft for all to see. He was preceded by marching bands, Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials, a Clydesdales-drawn Budweiser beer wagon, his teammates, and even a Zamboni.

We then proceeded to the rally which, like at the watch parties, was mostly peaceful. But it was not subdued by any means. There were a number of short speeches, including team owner Ted Leonsis, Head Coach Barry Trotz, and each of the players. One of the more memorable comments came from right winger Nicklas Backstrom, who proclaimed, “Finally, we started playing hockey like we can party.” The rally ended with a sing-along of Queen’s song “We are the Champions,” led by Alex Ovechkin. All in all it was a fitting celebration to an historic season for the franchise and for the city.

So now it’s up to the Washington Nationals. If they can keep playing well through the summer, who knows? We may be having another victory parade here in D.C. around the end or October of beginning of November.

        

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

Note:  While the celebration was going on here in D.C., a full page ad, bought by the Capitals, was running in a Las Vegas newspaper to congratulate the Vegas Golden Knights, who they defeated last week for the Stanley Cup, on having such an outstanding season.

The ad reads, “Congratulations to the Vegas Golden Knights on the most successful inaugural season in the history of professional sports. World class ownership, front office, coaching staff and people. A magnificent team of talented, hard-working players and stars. A fantastic venue filled with passionate, loud and proud fans. It was an honor to compete against you in the Stanley Cup Final. You are truly VEGAS STRONG.”

Now that’s #CapsClass.

Yesterday was National Cancer Survivors Day. And to celebrate I signed up for the Great Cycling Challenge (GCC). Let me explain.

The concept of the GCC is simple. Participants set a personal riding goal for the month of June, and then get people to sponsor them. And all of the money raised from the sponsors goes toward fighting childhood cancers.

As it states on the front page of this blog, I’m not a fanatical cyclist. I’m just a guy who goes for bike rides. I use my lunch break each day at work, or occasionally on a weekend day off, to go for a ride and discover some of the interesting sites and events in and around D.C. I then write about it in this blog.

But I am now committed to some bike riding that is a little different than my norm. I have pledged to ride 250 miles during my lunchtime tides this month. That puts me on a pace to ride a cumulative distance during this year’s lunchtime bike rides equal to the distance between New York City and Los Angeles.

As a cancer survivor myself I know how scary and difficult such a diagnosis can be. But I was diagnosed as an adult. I can’t begin to imagine how much more scary and difficult it is for children. And despite being a parent, I can’t imagine what it is like for the parents of a diagnosed child. I love my children more than my own life and would rather have cancer myself than see one of my children diagnosed.

Currently, cancer is the biggest killer of children from disease in the United States. Over 15,700 children are diagnosed every year. And tragically, 38 children die of cancer every week.

So I signed up for the GCC to raise money to help these kids and their parents fight back, and to support The Children’s Cancer Research Fund in continuing their work to develop lifesaving treatments and find cures for childhood cancers. And I’m asking you to please go to my personal GCC page and sign up to be one of my sponsors.

I know there are lots of charity options, as well as bills to pay and other demands on your finances. So any amount you can give will be appreciated. All you have to do is go to my GCC personal page, or click on the logo at the top of this post, to donate using a credit card or PayPal. And like the lack of a minimum or maximum number of miles participants can ride, there is no minimum or maximum to the donations.

Anything you can give will help keep me motivated. But more importantly, it will help the kids. And I can’t think of a better was to celebrate being cancer free than do something to help kids with cancer.

32839174_10213448679144086_6051075592500019200_o

This Year’s Soggy National Bike to Work Day

The month of May is National Bike Month, May 14 through 18, 2018 is Bike to Work Week, and today was Bike to Work Day. And although it hasn’t been raining all month, it has been raining all week. And it continued to rain all day today. But Bike to Work Day is a rain or shine event, but that didn’t stop this morning’s Bike to Work Day event, which went on more or less as planned.

The League of American Bicyclists began Bike to Work Day as part of Bike Month in 1956. Over the years, Bike to Work Day has grown into a widespread event with countless bicyclists taking to streets and trails nationwide in an effort to get commuters to try bicycling to work as a healthy and safe alternative to driving a car. In the greater D.C. region, Bike to Work Day has grown from a small group of a few hundred in 2001 to more than 18,700 participants last year.  This year’s event was coordinated locally by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) . And even more riders were expected to participate this morning.

Each year WABA, along with local bike shops and organizations, sponsor 100 pit stops along many of the commuter routes in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The pit stop which I signed up for was to be located at Freedom Plaza, the same pit stop where I’ve stopped for the last several years.  But due to the rain it had to be moved across the street and inside to the lobby of the National Theater, located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP).  I also rode by some of the other pit stops.  They were a little less crowded than previous years’ pit stops have been, but I was able to pick up my free T-shirt, as well as have a nice breakfast of a breakfast burrito, a fresh banana, and a bottle of pomegranate blue acai juice.   They also were handing out other fresh fruit, granola bars, locally-baked bagels, and various other snack items. They also gave away other free items like water bottles, sunglasses, tire repair kits, bike lights and bells, area maps, etc.  And by signing up and stopping at the pit stop I was also entered into a raffle for a new bike.  So the pit stop all served their purpose, including the indoor one, even if I didn’t win the new bike.

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

Related Links:

Police Week Tributes 2018

This week is National Police Week, and during this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  I stop by every year during National Police Week because it is one of the most personal and deeply meaningful aspects of the week.  The things you see here in D.C. during the week can be entertaining, like the various vehicles.  And the Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, to include the procession that precedes it, as well as the Peace Officers Memorial Service like the one yesterday, are all quite moving.  But to better understand the sacrifices made by the officers being honored and remembered, and the loss and the pain of the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind, looking through the tributes left on or near the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is one of the most meaningful ways to do it.

Beginning last year, one of the first things I look for at the memorial are tributes left in memory of Officer Ashley Guindon (see photo above), a local area officer who was ambushed and killed in 2016 on her very first day on the job.  Her name was added to the wall last year.  After that, as I look through the tributes, I try to imagine the stories behind them.  When I see them some of the tributes such as official photos and news articles give me a glimpse into the personality of the hero lost.  And when I see small footprints or handprints made with paint, or family photos taken during happier times, I think about the children who are growing up without a parent.  When I see beer or a couple of shot glasses, I think about the partners and coworkers who used to go out for a drink after their shift or maybe on the weekend, but are now learning to live with the pain of their loss.  When I see hearts or flowers or other personal mementos, I think of the spouses or other family members who will never see their loved ones again during this lifetime.  And when I see tributes to officers who were killed years or even decades ago it shows me that the passage of time does not diminish the losses suffered.

The tributes left behind at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial change every year, sadly, much like the memorial itself, to which names are added every year.  But the names are more than just inscriptions in cold marble.  They are the names of men and women who were heroes.  But they were not just heroes for the way they died.  They were heroes for the way they lived.  And the tributes left at the memorial help convey that to those of us for who they died to serve and protect.

 

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

The 37th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service

Today is Peace Officers Memorial DayThe idea of a Peace Officers Memorial Day came into effect when Congress asked the president to designate May 15 as a day “to pay tribute to the law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to voice our appreciation for all those who currently serve on the front lines of the battle against crime.”  President John F. Kennedy signed the bill into law on October 1, 1961.   

In observance of this event, this afternoon I attended the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on the west lawn of the United States Capitol Building.  The service, sponsored by the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police and the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, was the 37th annual national service to honor and remember those law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the previous year, as well as the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind.  Overall, 129 officers suffered line of duty deaths in 2017.  It is those heroes who were honored during today’s service, and whose names will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

The names of an additional 231 officers who died in previous years but whose stories of sacrifice had been lost to history until now will also be added to the memorial this year.  The names of all 360 fallen officers nationwide were formally dedicated during this year’s Annual Candlelight Vigil that was held this past Sunday evening on the National Mall.

Thankfully, there were no line of duty deaths here in D.C. during 2017.  But in the surrounding area, there were two deaths in Maryland:  Sean Matthew Suiter of the Baltimore City Police Department (End of Watch 11/16/2017), and; Sander Benjamin Cohen, of the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal (E.O.W. 12/08/2017).  And in Virginia, we lost four heroes:  Curtis Allen Bartlett, of the Carroll County Sherriff’s Office (E.O.W. 3/09/20170); Michael Timothy Walter, of the Virginia State Police (E.O.W. 5/27/2017), and; the two Virginia State Police troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the civil unrest that was occurring in Charlottesville, Virginia, during last summer’s “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally: Berke Morgan Matthew Bates and Henry John Cullen III (E.O.W. 8/12/2017).

 

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

In addition too seeing and hearing the remarks offered by President Trump and Vice-President Pence, one of the highlights of the service for me was a performance by country music artists Branch and Dean of their song “The Dash.”

Prayer for Policemen

“O Almighty God, Whose great power and eternal Wisdom embraces the universe, Watch over all policemen and Law enforcement officers everywhere.  Protect them from harm In the performance of their duty To stop crime, robbery, Riots and violence.  We pray, help them keep our streets And homes safe, day and night.  We commend them to your loving care Because their duty is dangerous.  Grant them strength and courage In their daily assignments. Dear God, protect these brave men and women.  Grant them your almighty protection, Unite them safely with their families after Duty has ended.  Please God, grant us this wish.”

Matthew 5.9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

ASA01

Observing Ascension Day at The Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes

Today is Ascension Day, a Christian celebration day commemorating Jesus’s ascension into heaven.  According to the Bible, Christ met several times with his disciples during the 40 days after his resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out his teachings. It is believed that on the 40th day he took them to the Mount of Olives, where they watched as he ascended to heaven.  Therefore, Ascension Day occurs ten days before Pentecost and is observed on the 40th day of Easter, which always falls on a Thursday.  However, some churches, particularly in the United States, celebrate it on the following Sunday.

In observance of Ascension Day, on this lunchtime bike ride I stopped by the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, located at 1215 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in the Downtown neighborhood of northwest D.C.

The origin of the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes dates back to May 7, 1844, when several people who had previously attended services at nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square met to discuss establishing their own parish.  After approval from the diocese, the territory of St. John’s was split between the two churches, formally establishing the Church of the Ascension on March 1, 1845.

After the donation of land on H Street, between 9th and 10th streets, by Parishioner Martha Burnes Van Ness, a prominent local socialite and the wife of banker and future D.C. Mayor John Peter Van Ness, the cornerstone was laid for the church’s new home on September 5, 1844.  Construction of a the Gothic Revival brick building was complete enough to use by December 1844, and the first services were held on December 14th.

During the Civil War there were disagreements within the church. with some parishioners as well as clergy sympathizing with the Confederacy while others were Unionists.  After one such disagreement in which the parish’s bishop asked the church to pray and thank God for recent Union victories and the church’s rector refused, Washington’s Provost Marshall notified the church that the authorities would assume control of the church to prevent a disturbance.  The Church of the Ascension then became a military hospital to house casualties from the war, as did Church of the Epiphany, and Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.

During the subsequent war years after their church was seized by the government, the parish was without a home. The problem was solved by member William Corcoran, a prominent banker and partner in the firm of Corcoran and Riggs, later known as Riggs Bank. Corcoran offered the use of a building he owned on H Street, between 13th and 14th Streets.  The congregation met there, and would not return to its permanent home until after the conclusion of the war more than three years later.

Within a short period of time after the congregations return to the church, the structure proved too small and not grand enough for what was now one of the most affluent areas of the city.  So after much debate, church leaders decided to erect a new structure. William Corcoran donated the site at the northwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 12th Street where the church continues to be located, as well as approximately half of the $205,000 construction costs.

The cornerstone for what is still the church’s current building was subsequently laid on June 9, 1874.  The building is constructed of white marble quarried near Cockeysville, Maryland, with accents of pink Ohio sandstone.  Designed in the Victorian Gothic style, it reaches a height of 74 feet with a 190-foot tower and spire that was visible across much of the city at the time it was built.

After World War I, membership at the Church of the Ascension began to decline, and in 1925 the congregation merged with nearby St. Stephen’s Church to help stabilize the parish.  This worked briefly until the onset of the Great Depression, when a downturn began that lasted through 1947, when the diocese considered selling the building to another congregation.  It was then that the Vestry received a proposal from St. Agnes Episcopal Church to merge.  It accepted and adopted its present name, under which its diverse, urban congregation continues as an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

ASA02     ASA04     ASA03

ASA05     ASA06     ASA07

ASA06a     ASA07a     ASA12

ASA08     ASA09   ASA11
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

A President’s Surprise Visit to the Lincoln Memorial

During this morning’s bike ride I not only rode by The Lincoln Memorial, but I also rode back in history.  As I paused at the memorial, I went back in time as I thought about this day in 1972.

Today is the anniversary of one of the strangest things to happen during President Richard Nixon’s time in office.  And that’s saying something when you think about some of the other things that happened during his time as commander in chief, such as the time, when he was still running for president, when he appeared on the politically charged, sketch comedy TV show “Laugh-In” and awkwardly asked, “Sock it to me?”  By the way, for the rest of his life Nixon contended that “appearing on Laugh-In is what got him elected.”  Other incidents during his presidency include: the time he met in the Oval Office with Elvis Presley, during which the King of Rock and Roll lobbied to be deputized as a federal agent in the War on Drugs, and; the time he declared to a roomful of newspaper editors during a press conference in Disney World at the height of the Watergate scandal, “I am not a crook.”

It all began days earlier, on April 30, 1972.  The anti-war movement was shocked when President Richard Nixon announced a major new escalation in the Vietnam War – the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.  It took many people by surprise inasmuch as he had addressed the nation just ten days earlier, outlining his plan for the withdrawal of 150,000 troops from Vietnam, seemingly signaling that he was serious about his promise to get America out of the war.  Near the end of his announcement about Cambodia, Nixon appealed for calm, especially on America’s college campuses.  He nonetheless expected blowback.  And that is exactly what he got.

Campuses across the country exploded in dissent, culminating on May 4th when National Guardsmen unleashed a 13-second, 67-shot barrage of gunfire toward student demonstrators at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine, one of whom was paralyzed from the waist down with a bullet lodged in his spine.  In the tense days following Kent State, more than 450 U.S. colleges, universities, and even high schools were disrupted by strikes.

Locally, impromptu rallies erupted all over the D.C. region, and a major demonstration was planned for May 9 on the National Mall.  Law enforcement entities went on alert, mobilizing all available resources including the entire D.C. police force and 5,000 military personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division who were stationed in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House, which was encircled by D.C. transit buses parked bumper to bumper as an additional security barrier.

The above information is provided to give a sense of what a highly-charged and volatile atmosphere existed nationally, and especially here in D.C., at that time.  Because it was within this setting that one of the most bizarre moments of Nixon’s presidency took place when, in the early morning hours of May 9, 1970, the president made an impromptu visit to The Lincoln Memorial.

At approximately 4:00 a.m., Nixon was awake and listening to a composition by Rachmaninoff as he took in the majestic view that the White House affords of the Lincoln Memorial.  He also observed students protestors beginning to gather for the protest planned for later that day.  Inspired to visit the hippie contingent, Nixon asked his valet, Manolo Sanchez, if he wanted to take in the Memorial up close at night.  The Secret Service was astonished but adhered to the orders of their commander in chief to take the impromptu trip. Nixon, Sanchez and approximately four agents took the presidential limousine to the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was there that Nixon engaged a small group of students.  He began by acknowledging that most surely thought of him as a real “S.O.B.”  Irregardless, he explained that they all shared the same goal – stopping the killing in Southeast Asia.  And despite varying interpretations of his recently announced invasion of Cambodia, his overall actions proved this contention as he did more to extricate the U.S. from that conflict than his predecessors. During his discussion with the protestors, he also spoke about his views as a pacifist, given his Quaker background. Nixon explained that he changed after WWII to a view war as only useful as long as it was necessary.

The discussion also vacillated with lighter subjects, which was the socially awkward Nixon’s attempt to communicate with young people on their terms.  He spoke about the benefits of traveling and dating while young.  Nixon discussed the Syracuse football team with students from New York, and surfing with a student from California.  This was a leader not naturally at ease with people.  Yet it was Nixon who was willing to open a dialogue with individuals naturally opposed to him in a manner few with such power have ever attempted.

As the sun began to rise, Nixon, having exhausted both himself and his welcome, began walking back to the presidential limousine. As he did, a student Nixon describes as “a bearded fellow from Detroit” rushed up and asked if he could have his picture taken with the president. Nixon instructed the White House doctor to take the student’s picture with the president.  “He seemed to be quite delighted,” Nixon says of that bearded fellow from Detroit. “It was, in fact, the broadest smile that I saw on the entire visit.”

The president along with Sanchez and his entourage, including the Secret Service agents, whose numbers had increased during the course of the visit, then departed.  But they did not return to the White House.  Not yet.  Sanchez had never seen the famous “well” of the House of Representatives, either. Having roused security there, the President was sitting at one of the House desks as his valet took to the same podium used for State of the Union addresses.  From there, and now also with press secretary Ron Ziegler in tow, the presidential entourage proceeded to the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue for breakfast, before heading back to the White House.

There were no news crews or fanfare. There was no prepared speech, talking points, or plan on what to do when Nixon arrived. And all that remains are a few photographs and the recollections of those involved, including Nixon’s, as can be heard on the video below.

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

National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer, an annual observance inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation.  It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress which requested the President to proclaim a day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation in places of worship, in groups, and as individuals.  It was subsequently signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer.  Each year since its inception, the president has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.

It was announced late last year that the theme for this year’s observance is “Pray for America – Unity,” based upon Ephesians 4:3, which challenges believers to mobilize unified public prayer for America, “Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

In recognition of this year’s observance, during today’s bike ride I stopped by the American Center for Prayer and Revival, located in the basement of 117 2nd Street (MAP), right across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court Building, in northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  There they provided a prayer room, a red, white and blue “Pray” button for me to wear for the rest of the day, and a pre-packaged Eucharist pack with both wine and a communion wafer.

The American Center for Prayer and Revival is a center designed for day-and-night prayer in the National Capitol city, much like David’s Tent is for worship.  Through hosting teams of intercessors who maintain a 24/7 prayer vigil focused on asking God for a spiritual re-awakening and re-evangelization across our country and among our nation’s leaders.  Believing that only a powerful movement of repentant prayer and engagement in God’s Word will bring America back to spiritual life again, the center hopes to see a true religious revival in the United States, much like the great awakenings led by Jonathan Edwards in the 1750s and Charles Finney in the 1850s.

As I left and passed by the Supreme Court building, it made me wonder about the legality of the National Day of Prayer, and if it had yet been challenged in court.  Some people might say that it is wrong for the President to issue such a proclamation, contending that it is improper for the government to do so because it violates the separation of church and state and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

But while looking into the National Day of Prayer and learning more about it, I discovered that it has been challenged in court.  And the court ruled that it is perfectly legal.

In October of 2008, an organization named the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to challenge the constitutionality of the designation of a National Day of Prayer. On October 3, 2008, the Wisconsin-based organization filed suit in a federal court in Madison, naming as defendants President George W. Bush; White House press secretary Dana Perino; Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle; and evangelist James Dobson’s wife, Shirley Dobson, in her capacity as chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.  After initially being declared unconstitutional in April of 2010 by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned Crabb’s decision.

The panel ruled that the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not have standing to sue because the National Day of Prayer had not caused them harm and stated that “a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury.” The court further stated that “the President is free to make appeals to the public based on many kinds of grounds, including political and religious, and that such requests do not obligate citizens to comply and do not encroach on citizens’ rights.”  In its issued opinion, the Federal appeals court even cited President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which referenced God seven times and prayer three times.

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

Today’s 24th Annual Blue Mass and Procession

During today’s bike ride I rode to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to attend the 24th annual Blue Mass, which is an annual mass celebrated as an opportunity for the community to show gratitude to first responders and their families.  Celebrated each year by the Catholic Church, the Blue Mass is similar to the Red Mass, a service held to honor law enforcement officers and others in the public safety field who died in the line of duty during the past year, and to pray for the safety in the coming year of those still serving.  Here in D.C., the service is usually held shortly before the beginning of National Police Week

Located at 619 10th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, St. Patrick’s is the oldest parish in the national capitol city.  It was founded in 1794 to minister to the needs of the stonemasons building the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building, and continues to serve the needs of downtown D.C. through daily Mass and confession, as well as adult education and cultural activities.

Before the beginning of the Mass, hundreds of law enforcement officers and public safety officials gather outside for the solemn processional into the church. Units from a variety of Federal, state, and local jurisdictions from the D.C. Metropolitan Area and around the country gather in official formation to pass under a huge American flag proudly hung over the street by two fire ladder trucks. Also gathered outside are officers on horseback, as well as bagpipe and drum corps units.

Inside the church, the principal celebrant and homilist again this year was His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. The Blue Mass included A Police Officers’ Prayer to Saint Michael, who as the Archangel of battle and defender of Heaven, is said to be the Patron Saint of policemen.

The police officers’ prayer to St. Michael is as follows:  “Dear Saint Michael, Your name means, “Who is Like a God”, and it indicates that You remained faithful when others rebelled against God. Help the police officers of our day who strive to stem the rebellion and evil that are rampant on all sides. Keep them faithful to their God as well as to their country and their fellow human beings.  Amen.”  The Mass also included the solemn playing of “Taps” in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past year.

Today’s Blue Mass was a powerful reminder of that working in the public safety field is not only extremely difficult and dangerous, but also involves a willingness to sacrifice for others, even if they don’t appreciate it.

 

The Procession Leading Into the Church for Mass

 

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