Month: October 2020

Great communities don’t remain that way by chance

Early in my preservation career, I was privileged to serve five years as the executive director of Virginia’s Historic Staunton Foundation, an award-winning preservation organization recognized over more than four decades for its work to protect and revitalize this historic Shenandoah Valley community. Our children were born during the 15 years we lived in Staunton, it shaped each of us in significant ways, and we still have deep friendships that bring us “home” several times each year. Just as we like to return to this gem of a community, visionary leadership has made Staunton a year-round destination for tens-of-thousands of visitors annually and has generated national recognition for the city, including more than forty awards and accolades for its historic downtown from national organizations and media in the past ten years. Some of the top ones include : The Great American Main Street Award A National Trust for Historic Preservation Award Best Small Towns in America Award (Smithsonian magazine) The 15 Most Beautiful Main Streets Across America (Architectural Digest) That level of success does not …

Misinformation and the threat to democracy

Take any old laptop, add a legally blind store owner, conveniently forget to save security camera tape from the store before it is erased, throw in some Russian disinformation, turn to Rudy Giuliani and Rupert Murdoch — two titans of misinformation — to sell your story and “boom,” just like that you have a faux scandal! If you are not a regular consumer of the right-wing infotainment networks and watched the last presidential debate, you may be confused about all the talk by Trump of a “laptop from hell” that (allegedly) included emails (again!) and compromising photographs of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and “proved” that the whole Biden family was corrupt. Talk about your projection. Trying to control the flow of information is one of the chief threats to democracy, and in Donald Trump we may not have a master at the art, but it isn’t for lack of trying. Attorney, professor, and author Teri Kanefield writes, “Democracy is based on rule of law, which requires a shared truth (a functioning public sphere). Fascism, to …

Journeys that move us toward justice never end

Yesterday we took a walk through Brookside Gardens. It was a beautiful fall day, the colors were vibrant, and the air was clean. Along the path were small signs of “Garden Mindfulness” with reminders to “feel the air moving across your skin” and to “bring awareness to those parts of the body where you could feel the wind.” After a while we came upon a labyrinth placed in a tranquil meadow setting. As I slowly walked the curving stone path, I recalled the rules and morals of the practice from my reading of Rebecca Solnit’s delightful book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. “…sometimes you have to turn your back on your goal to get there, sometimes you’re farthest away when you’re closest, sometimes the only way is the long one.  After the careful walking and looking down, the stillness of arrival was deeply moving.” In these troubled times, we are all on a difficult journey. It is important to recall that sometimes the only way is the long one. Work that is meaningful takes time …

Be a good boy…and follow your mother’s advice

Pop quiz: Who said the following? She’s a ‘nasty woman.” A “crazed, crying lowlife.” A “dog” who has the “face of a pig.” “Low I.Q.” She is “ugly both inside and out!” A “monster!” Okay, enough already. I don’t even have to tell you who said all those things. You’ve no doubt guessed correctly. Sexism in America, like our country’s racism, never went away. But it also never had such a vocal champion in the Oval Office. For centuries, women have taken abuse from men. For much of that time they had few rights and legal remedies to help battle oppression. Sexism and abuse continues, as we see all too well in the actions of the current president, but today women have more rights, more ways to combat mistreatment, and a power that is already being seen across the country. Winning the right to vote in 1920 gave women the opportunity to play a significant role in addressing sexism, and they are taking advantage of that power to push against one of today’s chief threats …

Why I write

In my journey to write with clarity and passion, I often turn to what others have to say. I look for inspiration in works such as Yale’s Why I Write series. Writing should be easy, you say. Just turn on the computer and start typing, right? Or go old school, pull out the legal pad, and put pen to paper. Easy peasy. Getting a bad first draft can be fairly effortless for me. I did it with this short post, for instance. In a rush, I unfortunately called it a day and hit publish. Wrong decision. Writing well, as opposed to simply writing, is hard. Understanding why one is compelled to write can be an even more difficult journey. In many ways, each of us needs to answer that particular question, which differs individual to individual, before good writing truly begins to sing. I came to pick up the slim volume entitled Devotion by the musician and author Patti Smith because I was looking for inspiration and answers to those questions of how and why. …