Posts Tagged ‘DC’

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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.   

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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.

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The Castle (front)

One of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in D.C. is the Smithsonian Institution Building.  Colloquially known as “The Castle,” it is located just off the National Mall at 1000 Jefferson Drive (MAP).  I’ve passed by it during bike rides literally thousands of times over the years.  And I’ve visited some of the many gardens surrounding it, such as The Enid A. Haupt Garden, The Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden, and my personal favorite, The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden.  But I’ve never researched it or featured it in this blog.  But with it appearing to be so picturesque on this ride, I decided it was about time I did.

The Castle was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, also in D.C.  It was the first Smithsonian building.  There are now 20 Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries, 11 of which are at the National Mall.  The Castle was designed and built in the Norman Revival style, a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs, which causes it to stand out among D.C.’s other architectural styles.  And it is constructed of Seneca red sandstone from the Seneca quarry in nearby Seneca, Maryland, which causes it to further stand out in contrast to the granite, marble and yellow sandstone from the other major buildings in D.C.  Construction began in 1847 and was completed in 1855.  It was designated added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1965.

The Castle initially served as a home and office for the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Joseph Henry.  And until 1881, it also housed all aspects of Smithsonian operations, including research and administrative offices; lecture halls; exhibit halls; a library and reading room; chemical laboratories; storage areas for specimens; and living quarters for the Secretary, his family, and visiting scientists.

Currently, The Castle houses the administrative offices of the Smithsonian. The main Smithsonian visitor center is also located in The Castle.  In the visitor center you can get a grasp of the scope and scale of the Smithsonian with an exhibit entitled “America’s Treasure Chest”, that displays items from collections across the Smithsonian.  There are also interactive displays and maps, and computers that can electronically answer most common questions.  There are volunteers and in-house experts as well, who can answer other questions and provide information about what to see and do based on what’s currently going on at all the Smithsonian museums.  Additionally, docent tours highlighting The Castle’s 19th-century architecture and history are available.

The visitor center is also home to a museum store featuring a myriad of souvenirs, and the Castle Café, where visitors can enjoy specialty sandwiches, soups, pastries, organic salads, antipasti, a coffee, espresso/cappuccino bar, teas, bottled beverages, beer, wine and, when in season, ice cream.

Finally, just inside the north entrance of The Castle is a crypt that houses the tomb of James Smithson.  Smithson was an English chemist and mineralogist who never married and had no children.  Therefore, when he wrote his will, he left his estate to his nephew, or his nephew’s family if his nephew died before him.  If his nephew were to die without heirs, however, Smithson’s will stipulated that his estate be used “to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men”.  Smithson died in Genoa, Italy in June of 1829, at the age of 64.  Six years later, in 1835, his nephew died without heir, setting in motion the bequest to the United States.  In this way Smithson became the founding patron of the Smithsonian Institution despite having never visited the United States.

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The Castle (back)

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The Newseum

On this bike ride I stopped by the Newseum building, located at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.  But that’s not anything new.  I have done that hundreds of times before over the years.  That’s because the Newseum had an exhibit entitled “Today’s Front Pages Gallery,” in which it displayed the front pages of dozens of newspapers along the front of its building each day so that passersby on the sidewalk could stop and read them.  So I used to frequently stop and read the headlines and a story or two.  Also, being able to see all the different newspapers together is something I’ve always found it interesting because of how different newspapers from different parts of the country, as well as foreign newspapers, cover the same story so differently.  For example, the way the different newspapers reported the election of Donald Trump in November of 2016 were vastly different.  Similarly, the coverage of the killing of Osama Bin Laden back in 2011 was covered quite differently by different newspapers, especially foreign ones.

After today’s visit, however, I decided it was about time I wrote about it.  I figured if I don’t write about it now, it might soon be too late.  Because the building will soon be known by another name.  Sadly, The Newseum is closed.  And not just temporarily because of the pandemic.  Last December, citing financial difficulties, the Newseum closed down permanently.  However, on May 15, 2020, the Newseum began searching for a new location.  So while the building, purchased by Johns Hopkins University for $372.5 million, will change, hopefully the Newseum won’t when it opens in its new location, wherever that turns out to be.

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D.C. Jazz Heroes Mural

During this bike ride, as I was leisurely riding around in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, I stopped to admire the mural on the side of the Right Proper Brewery, located at 624 T Street (MAP) next to The Howard Theatre.  Sadly, the brew pub was not yet open for the day.  But the mural made the ride worthwhile nonetheless.

As I would find out later, the mural is entitled D.C. Jazz Heroes, and was created in 2017 by artists Kate Decicco and Rose Jaffe with the sponsorship of Murals DC and the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities.  The colorful and vibrant mural combines painted wood cutouts on the painted brick wall, and features some of the significant jazz musicians who have shaped both the past and present of the city’s jazz scene.

In the piece Duke Ellington is pictured as a mentee – learning from the local jazz heroes Mahalia Jackson, Billy Taylor, Shirley Horn, Ron Holloway, Meshell Ndegeocello and Davey Yarborough.  The various musicians are depicted singing, or playing a piano, guitar, flute, and saxophone.  Interestingly, the mural is in the former location of Frank Holliday’s pool room, where future jazz great Duke Ellington spent much of his youth.

Sometimes researching what I saw on a bike ride is almost as interesting and fun as seeing it.  That was the case for this mural. And what I found out was that the artists behind the mural are particularly interesting.

Kate Decicco was previously based in D.C., but has sincere relocated to Oakland.  And murals have become a cornerstone of her practice, although she continues to have a multi-dimensional approach to her art.  She has said her work is “driven by [her] interests in equity, mental health, humor, community building and of course a passion for the activity of art-making.”  In addition to murals, she also participates in making art with people in locked spaces like mental institutions, prisons and juvenile detention centers.  She also works with young people.  But beyond just fostering their creative and artistic development, she sees arts education as a tool for coping, improving self-esteem, developing confidence and connection for those young people.  Decicco sums up her artistic approach and process by stating, “Any chance I have to support another person to discover their inherent creativity and the joy of making something with their hands brings me great satisfaction.”

Rose Jaffe remains local and loyal to D.C., and without any shade to Kate Decicco’s decision to relocate, she says, “I love D.C. and I think that we need artists to stay here.”  In addition to murals, her prolific career also specializes in ceramics and paintings while working in her Petworth studio.  But her studio provides her with more than just a space to work on her art.  She has sectioned off a large part of her studio and uses it as an events space.  This portion of her studio, which calls The Stew, has become an all inclusive art gallery, yoga studio, Zine workshop and whatever else she wants it to be.  And it is through both public and private events and get togethers at The Stew that she supports the local art scene and provides a space that can foster discussion about art.

Both Decicco and Jaffe purposefully connect with other people, both through their art, and the processes by which they create their art.  And I find that just as interesting as the mural they created together.

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Statue of Taras Shevchenko

In addition to numerous statues that pay homage to famous Americans, D.C. is also home to many that honor foreign heroes.  Some examples I’ve already visited are well-known, such as The Nelson Mandela Statue in Front of the South African Embassy and the Statue of Sir Winston Churchill.  Many others are less well-known, such as the Statue of Crown Princess Märtha, the Statue of Elefthérios Venizélos, and the Statue of Brigadier General Thaddeus Kościuszko.  But I haven’t yet visited many of the city’s hundreds, if not thousands of these statues.  And I think I better start prioritizing them during my bike rides so I can see them before angry mobs of rioters eventually tear them all down.

On this bike ride, I saw one of these statues that I hadn’t visited before – the Taras Shevchenko Memorial, which is located in the 2200 block of P Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood.  It is the 83rd statue to be profiled in this blog.

Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko was a Ukrainian poet, writer, artist, public and political figure, as well as folklorist and ethnographer.  His literary heritage is regarded to be the foundation of modern Ukrainian literature and, to a large extent, the modern Ukrainian language. Shevchenko is also known for many masterpieces as a painter and an illustrator.

The idea of a U.S. monument honoring Shevchenko began with the American Shevchenko Society, founded in 1898. The society did not achieve its goal of erecting a monument, but the idea did not die out, and many Ukrainian-Americans continued to pursue the creation of a Shevchenko monument.

The inscriptions on the memorial best describe the man and the reasons for the statue.  The inscription on north face of statue base reads:

Dedicated to the Liberation, Freedom and Independence of all Captive Nations

This monument of Taras Shevchenko, 19th century Ukrainian poet and fighter for the independence of Ukraine and the freedom of all mankind, who under foreign Russian imperialist tyranny and colonial rule appealed for “The New and Righteous Law of Washington,” was unveiled on June 27, 1964. This historic event commemorated the 150th anniversary of Shevchenko’s birth. The memorial was authorized by the 86th Congress of the United States of America on August 31, 1960, and signed into Public Law 86-749 by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States of America on September 13, 1960. The statue was erected by Americans of Ukrainian ancestry and friends.

And an inscription on reverse face of the relief sculpture of Prometheus reads:

“…Our soul shall never perish. Freedom knows no dying.
And the greedy cannot harvest
fields where seas are lying.”

“Cannot bind the living Spirit
nor the living Word.
“Cannot smirch the sacred glory
of Th’Almighty Lord.”

 

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

NOTE:  A second Ukrainian monument was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2006.  The monument honors the millions of Ukrainians who died as a result of the 1932–1933 Holodomor, a famine-genocide caused by the Soviet Union.  The memorial site is located on a triangular lot on Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station.  On December 2, 2008, a dedication ceremony was held at the future site for the Holodomor Memorial, with Ukraine’s then-First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko among the speakers.  Formally dedicated on November 7, 2015, it is also the second memorial in D.C. to honor victims of Communism, the other being the Victims of Communism Memorial, also located near Union Station.

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The Million Mask March and Guy Fawkes

The hacktivist group Anonymous announced they would be gathering at The Washington Monument at 9:00am this morning to begin a protest in Downtown D.C.  It’s an annual protest that is in its 7th year here in D.C. (23rd year worldwide), and is part of an annual global protest associated with Anonymous. The protest has come to be known as the Million Mask March, or “Operation Vendetta,” and takes place each year on Guy Fawkes Day, the 5th of November.  I’ve been to one of these protests a few years ago. So I decided to learn some more about the group and protest, and then to go and observe this year’s protest.

The motives for each year’s march varies, but are usually broad in scope and include some consistent themes and beliefs that are prevalent in the Anonymous movement. They include: corruption in politics and governments; banks, corporations, and big pharma companies; government surveillance; demilitarization; capitalist greed; climate change; internet censorship; police violence; the erosion of civil liberties; self-governance, and; the treatment of vulnerable groups like migrants, disabled people, and those living in poverty.

Anonymous also ascribes to what many people would call “conspiracy theories.” According to the web site for the Million Mask March the group contends that: Jackie Kennedy, and not Lee Harvey Oswald, shot John F. Kennedy; Julian Assange was an orphan raised in a CIA child sex slave camp and was framed in the 9/11 attacks, and; Jeffrey Epstein, the American financier and convicted sex offender who was recently reported to have committed suicide while in Federal custody is, in fact, not dead but living on a ranch under the protection of the Federal government.

Anonymous associates itself with Guy Fawkes, and those attending protests usually wear Guy Fawkes masks. And they schedule their main protest on Guy Fawkes Day (which is also known as Bonfire Night and Firework Night). Guy Fawkes Day is an annual commemoration observed primarily in the United Kingdom. Its history began with the events of November 5, 1605, when a man named Guy Fawkes, a participant in what became known as the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James the First had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London; and months later, the introduction of the Observance of the 5th of November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

Fawkes was sentenced to be executed for his part in trying to assassinate the king. But shortly before the sentence was scheduled to be carried out, Fawkes fell from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of being hanged, drawn and quartered.

So after learning about the planned protest and the group, I took an early break from work today and went down to The Washington Monument at 9:00am to observe the Million Mask March. I got there at about 8:45am, but didn’t see anyone wearing a Fawkes mask, or that looked like they were there for a protest. But I was early. So I waited. It wasn’t particularly crowded at the monument. In fact there were no more than a couple of dozen tourist coming and going. I waited for over an hour but no protesters showed up. I eventually gave up and went back to work. I checked a site that was supposed to be live streaming the march. But I got a message that read, “404 – Page Not Found.” And later, after the march was scheduled to have concluded, I checked the Facebook page that was set up for the march. Despite multiple posts made today, there were no posts or photos of the march.

So, I find it ironically interesting that the group aligns itself Guy Fawkes, a man and a day famous for failure. If the purpose of the march was to influence people and communicate with the public, today’s march was as much a failure as Fawkes and The Gunpowder Plot.

Capital Harvest on the Plaza

During today’s lunch break I rode to the weekly farmer’s market, Capital Harvest on the Plaza (CHoP), located on the Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in Downtown, D.C.  Actually, instead of “during” today’s lunch break it would be more accurate to say “for” today’s lunch break.  Because I went there to eat lunch at one of the many eateries that sets up as part of the farmer’s market.

In addition to ready-to-eat, farm-fresh edibles and artisanal novelties, the weekly farmers market allows local farmers, artisans, and producers to sell home grown, fresh organic fruits, vegetables, meat, and other locally produced food, as well as flowers and canned and baked goods, at an affordable price.  You can also stop by their information booth and stock up on recipes and tips for maintaining a healthy and socially responsible lifestyle.

The CHoP Farmers Market is open Fridays, spring through fall, from May 3 to November 22, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., and is accessible via metro by either the Federal Triangle (blue/orange/silver lines) or Metro Center (red/blue/orange/silver lines). Parking is available onsite in the Reagan Building’s underground parking garage.  But, of course, I prefer to ride a bike there.

There are also a number of other good farmer’s markets in the city that are also open during the workweek, including: the U.S. Department of Agriculture Outdoor Farmers Market, located next to the U.S.D.A. Headquarters at 12th and Independence Avenue in southwest D.C. (also open Fridays); the Freshfarm by the White House Market located at 812 Vermont Avenue in northwest, D.C. (open Thursdays); the Penn Quarter Market, located at 801 F Street in northwest D.C. (also open on Thursdays); the Foggy Bottom Market, located at 901 23rd Street in northwest, D.C. (open Wednesdays); the Rose Park Recreation Center Farmers Market, located at 1499 27th Street in Georgetown (also open on Wednesdays), and; the CityCenterDC Market, located at 1098 New York Avenue in northwest, D.C. (open Tuesdays).  There are additional farmers markets throughout the city that are open on the weekends as well.  Now, if I could just find a good farmers market open on Mondays.

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

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The Oscar S. Straus Memorial

The Oscar S. Straus Memorial is located just two blocks south of The White House, in the Federal Triangle on 14th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue, in front of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (MAP), and was the destination of this lunchtime bike ride.

The memorial commemorates the accomplishments of the first Jew to be a member of the cabinet of a U.S. president, having served as Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Theodore Roosevelt from 1906 to 1909.  He also served under Presidents William Howard Taft, William McKinley, and Grover Cleveland, and was offered a cabinet position by Theodore Roosevelt.

Oscar Solomon Straus was born on December 23, 1850, in Otterberg, Rhenish Bavaria, now in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (now Germany).  At the age of two he immigrated with his mother and siblings to the United States, joining their father, Lazarus, who had emigrated in 1852.  The family settled in Talbotton, Georgia.  At the close of the Civil War in 1865, Straus’s family moved to New York City, where he graduated from Columbia College in 1871 and Columbia Law School in 1873.  In 1882, Strauss married Sarah Lavanburg, and they had three children: Mildred Straus Schafer (born the following year), Aline Straus Hockstader (born in 1889), and Roger Williams Straus (born in 1891).

Straus first served as United States Minister to the Ottoman Empire from 1887 to 1889, and then again from 1898 to 1899. In January of 1902, he was named a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to fill the place left vacant by the death of ex-President Benjamin Harrison. Then in December of 1906, Straus became the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Roosevelt. This position also placed him in charge of the United States Bureau of Immigration.  Straus left the Commerce Department in 1909 when William Howard Taft became president and became U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire until 1910.  In 1912, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York on the Progressive and Independence League tickets. And in 1915, he became chairman of the public service commission of New York State.

The memorial fountain was designed by Adolph Alexander Weinman, and funded with a public subscription beginning in 1929.  It was dedicated on October 26, 1947, by President Harry S. Truman. It was disassembled and placed in storage in 1991 during the construction of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. After the building was completed, the fountain was reinstalled with all original materials. It was rededicated on October 26, 1998.

In the center of the memorial is the massive fountain with the inscription “statesman, author, diplomat.”  To the sides are two statues.  The one to the left is one entitled Justice, which depicts a woman representing “Justice,” with her arm resting on the Ten Commandments.   It is intended to symbolize the religious freedom which allowed a Jew to serve in such a position of authority.  The inscription on this statue reads, “Our Liberty of Worship is not a Concession nor a Privilege but an Inherent Right.”   To the right of the fountain is the statue entitled Reason.  It depicts a partially draped male figure and a child holding a purse, key, and hammer, symbolizing the capital and labor efforts put forth by Straus throughout his career.

Straus died on September 3, 1910, and is buried at Beth El Cemetery in Ridgewood, New York.  For more on his life and career, you can read his memoirs, entitled  “Under Four Administrations,” which he wrote and published in 1922.  

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

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ShutDownDC Protest

Today I encountered a protest. That’s not unusual, however. The same can be said almost any day of the week depending on where in you are here in the city. But today’s protest occurred at various locations around D.C. There was a similar protest at the beginning of this week as well. Entitled “ShutDownDC,” the protests were timed for the beginning and end of the week, along with strikes in a number of other cities, in order to coincide with the start of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

A coalition of several climate change and social justice groups participated in this week’s protests. The groups included climate change organizations: “Rising Tide North America” and “Extinction Rebellion DC.”  But it also included such diverse groups as “Code Pink: Women for Peace,” which describes itself as a grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S.-funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally and to redirect the resources used for those things; the “Democratic Socialists of America,” the largest socialist organization in the United States; “World BEYOND War,” a “global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace”; “Werk for Peace,” a queer and transgender rights movement, and; Black Lives Matter. According to a website for the events, the purpose of the protests were “to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels, and a swift and just transition to renewable energy.”

On Monday the protesters split up and blocked various major intersections and other key infrastructure in the city in an attempt to disrupt traffic and gridlock the city during morning rush hour. Today’s protest took the form of a march, causing rolling street closures and traffic backups. It started and ended at McPherson Square. Along the way they paused in front of certain companies and organizations in order to “call them out as fossil fuel villains.” They included the investment management company BlackRock, located about a block northeast of the White House. which the protest group accuses of being “the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels and deforestation”; the Environmental Protection Agency building on Pennsylvania Avenue, which they describe as stopping at nothing to destroy existing climate protections; the Trump International Hotel, which they say is a symbol of corporate influence in U.S. politics; and a branch of Wells Fargo Bank, which they contend has put $151 billion into fossil fuel industries in the past three years during “a time when really we should be thinking about the managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.”  The intent of today’s march was to again disrupt traffic and cause gridlock for commuters during the morning rush hour.

In general, a protest is a way of making opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy. In this case, however, I don’t think the protests were very effective in achieving that goal. When a protest is designed to disrupt traffic and inconvenience the average working person who is just trying to go to work to support themselves and their families, you lose the support of the very people you are trying to influence. You fail to influence or gain the support of the grassroots people needed to sway public opinion and influence government and corporate action.  And you can end up looking like self-absorbed attention seekers.

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

Earth Day Park

During this lunchtime bike ride, I discovered a very small park wedged into a narrow strip of land along 9th Street, stretching from Independence Avenue to C Street (MAP), and situated between the Federal Aviation Administration Building and the U.S. Department of Energy Building.  The land also serves as the roof of  the Interstate-395 Tunnel.  A small sign at the northern end identified it as Earth Day Park.  Having passed by it many times without ever noticing or hearing about it, I decided I needed to find out more.    

It turns out that the park was a combined effort of several government agencies, including the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the General Services Administration, and the D.C. Department of Transportation.  Apparently enough employees from the adjacent government buildings, including Department of Energy Secretary Hazel R. O’Leary, had gotten tired of seeing the neglect of this weedy, trash-strewn piece of land located adjacent to their buildings.  So contact was made with the General Services Administration, which manages and supports the land and buildings and basic functioning of federal agency facilities, who then coordinated the building of the park with the D.C. Department of Transportation, who owned the land.

Earth Day Park has a number of unusual aspects to it.  As part of the celebration of Earth Day 1994 President Bill Clinton outlined a series of recommendations for Federal agencies to increase “Environmentally and economically beneficial policies on Federal landscaped grounds.”  Earth Day Park embodies these “greening” principles.

The park utilizes solar energy, including an array of photovoltaic cells on top of the sign at the front of the park,  to provide electricity for the lamp posts and lighting.  The park also incorporates the use of different plants.  For example, it uses dwarf ornamental grass instead of lawn perennials and annuals, reducing the need for gasoline powered mowers, edgers and trimmers along with fertilizers and pesticides.  The park’s use of mulch and drought tolerant plant species, as well as the raised beds, allows for moisture to be retained by the soil, thus conserving water.   And the use of regional plant material, adapted to local climate and biological conditions,  provides a unique ecosystem that increases the rate of success of the plants.

And because of the incorporation of these principles, Earth Day Park requires far less maintenance than that of a traditionally developed park, making it a truly “green” park.

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