All posts filed under: Random DJB Thoughts

This is where I put anything that is not easily categorized…

All Men Are Created Equal, Except . . .

Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter in 1855 to Joshua F. Speed that became famous for the future president’s stand against the anti-immigration Know-Nothing Party. Lincoln and Speed met during the 1830s and remained friends even though their views differed on slavery. Speed grew up on a plantation and owned slaves. A turning point in Lincoln’s life that rekindled his interest in politics was the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and opening the territories to slavery. It was in this context that the 1855 letter was written. In referring to the nativist Know-Nothing Party—which came out of a secret society in the 1850s and was primarily anti-Catholic, xenophobic, and hostile to immigration—Lincoln used his letter to make his point of view very clear: “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. . . .Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except …

The NFL Season Begins Anew. Heaven Help Us.

Late yesterday afternoon I was watching a bit of ESPN. Suddenly, the excitement level of the announcers’ voices rose significantly as they began talking about “THE FIRST NFL PRE-SEASON GAME OF THE YEAR” scheduled for later that evening. On August 1st. Doesn’t this thing ever go away? Heaven help us. We’re in the midst of a baseball pennant race where, with two months to go, 17 teams are either division leaders or within four games of the two wild-card slots in each league and thus have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. Teams are going on improbable streaks (I’m looking at you, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants). Strong teams (Houston) just made themselves better with deadline trades, while other teams (New York Yankees and Washington Nationals) left their fans disappointed by their lack of imagination and just plain guts in filling in their weaknesses. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to watch (and talk about) around baseball. But noooo. We have to hear about pro football ad infinitum. Well, I’m (still) …

The American Equation

It was an easy call as to which Washington region July 4th celebration to attend in 2019. I’ve been writing about the July 4th parade in nearby Takoma Park for the past decade, and each year has featured a different spin on wackiness. In 2012, it was the precision grill team (with signs of cherry pie and the tag line: “You want a piece of this?!”) along with Mitt Romney’s poor dog Seamus, of the famous car top ride to Canada. Elvis made one of his frequent appearances in 2014, as did the Takoma Park Kinetic Sculpture Racing Team. Last  year was a well-received appearance by the Mad Dog PAC featuring their MAGA (Mobsters Are Governing America) float and stickers. Admittedly, it will be difficult to match the antics of the “Salute to America” — featuring “your favorite president, me!” — on the National Mall this afternoon, but in looking for the real spirit of America, I know I can find an important piece of it here in the region’s only nuclear free zone. We …

Honor Our Children

“Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them.” This Abraham Lincoln quote, from a letter he wrote prior to his election, was part of my Presidents Day post two years ago. It came back to me as I read today’s news reports about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in this country’s immigration detention centers. In those subhuman camps, degradation of our fellow travelers appears to be not only the result of our actions but the actual policy objective. If immigrating to the U.S. is seen as difficult, the thinking goes, perhaps fewer will attempt the journey. We may say, “We’re better than this.” But at the moment, this is what we are as a country. Our institutions are under attack, not only in spirit but at the very core of their existence. We have purported leaders who only want to elevate people who look, think, and act like themselves, conveniently forgetting the “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal.” As they …

Hiroshima 1945 / 2019

Pearl Harbor. Normandy Beach. Hiroshima. Names, places, memories, and lessons we should never forget. Last week I was moved beyond words by time spent at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Garden and Museum in Japan. In fundamental ways the experience mirrored my reactions during visits in recent years to Pearl Harbor and Normandy Beach. The world at the time of those earlier visits seemed more stable than it does in 2019. Just a few years ago we didn’t have out-of-control individuals in positions of immense power in the United States; individuals threatening to use nuclear weapons against other nations and people just because the capability exists. Instead, we had leaders who sought, at least at some fundamental levels, to try and unite us as a people and as a world. There seemed to be adults in charge who had the memories to understand the horror to humankind of nuclear war. As John Hersey, the author of the landmark 1946 piece on Hiroshima in The New Yorker, once wrote: “What has kept the world safe from the …

I Hate to Say Goodbye, So I’ll Just Say So Long

NOTE: The following is adapted from a message I wrote to my staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the Monday of my last week as the EVP and Chief Preservation Officer with the organization. In a typical three-point sermon from the Baptist church of my youth, the preachers would:  1) tell you what they were going to say (the introduction); 2) then say it (the sermon); then 3) tell you what they had just said (the conclusion).  To keep up the symmetry, the sermons themselves often had three points.  The last of my Monday morning emails will be my personal three-point sermon. The Introduction  I’m going to expand my audience beyond the Preservation Division and write to the full Trust staff along with a number of friends outside the organization.  In doing so, I’ll use the first part to explain a bit about these Monday emails.  Second, I want to say a few words about what the past twenty-two-plus-years at the National Trust have meant to me, both professionally and personally.  Finally, …

A Great Send-Off

Last Friday, my colleagues at work hosted a wonderful send-off party.  There was a “B” theme to evening, as we had barbecue (Rocklands, my local favorite); bourbon (with gifts of several very nice bottles of whiskey over the course of the week); and bluegrass (the latter supplied live by the By-and-By Band). The band was even kind enough to let me sit in with them on a spirited rendition of Sitting On Top of the World! Friends, former and current colleagues, and partners came in from as far away as Los Angeles to celebrate. I used the occasion to say a few words (no surprise there), beginning with the observation that I was finding that almost anything that was said in the office brought to mind something that happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago—what I’ve dubbed the Old War Stories part of my transition. I knew everyone would be thankful if I kept it short, so I brought notes.  On the occasion of my 60th birthday, I composed a post entitled 60 Lessons From …