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Our Year in Photos – 2019

Brown family (credit: John Thorne)

The Browns – Together in December 2018 and looking forward to the year ahead! (photo credit: John Thorne)

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I continue my annual tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come. Despite all the turmoil in our country and throughout the world, so many of us still have much for which to be thankful in 2019.

Each December is a special time in our family, as we celebrate Andrew and Claire’s birthdays followed quickly by the holidays. Andrew did a bit of singing and celebrating with friends while in London, but both of the twins returned to Washington in late December 2018 during breaks in their school years. We were delighted to have everyone together again, if only for a few days, under one roof. The twins turned 26 last December, and less than two weeks later rolled off the family health care plan! I think that’s the new 21st century milestone for adulthood.

Andrew and Ella in London

Andrew and our family friend Ella Taranto celebrate the 2018 holiday season with Lessons and Carols at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London

Brown at Guapos

The Browns celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas in Washington…Mexican style!

As he pursues his Masters in Vocal Performance at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London, Andrew has maintained a busy singing schedule. Early in 2019 he was in a RCM production of Offenbach’s opera Robinson Crusoe, and then he sang the role of the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Buckinghamshire. Andrew’s partner Mark Bailey traveled to the U.K. in the late winter/early spring, where he joined Andrew for some sightseeing.

Andrew in Robinson Crusoe

Andrew in his Act II costume for RCM’s production of Offenbach’s Robinson Crusoe

Andrew singing the Evangelist in Bach's St. Matthew Passion in Buckinghamshire

Andrew singing the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Buckinghamshire

Andrew and Mark

Andrew and his partner Mark in Hampstead Heath

This was a year of milestones, perhaps most notably my departure after 22 years at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and my semi-retirement into a gap year. It was bittersweet, after more than two decades with the Trust and 40 years in the preservation field, but I felt it was time to step aside for others. My Trust colleagues gave me a great send-off, complete with a chance to play some live bluegrass! It was already too late to follow the amateur musician’s admonition to “not give up your day job,” so I just let it rip—singing that old bluegrass chestnut “I’m Sitting On Top of the World”—and had a fantastic time.

By-and-By Band

Playing Bluegrass with the By-and-By Band. DJB is the one in the jacket!

April, May and June were months of travel for the Brown family, beginning with Candice’s visit to Savannah in April to be with the “Hollywood Gang,” a group of friends from her grade-school days in Hollywood, Florida. In May, I was privileged to attend a two-week tour of Japan on behalf of the National Trust. It was my first trip to Asia, and the experiences were as exhilarating as they were diverse.

Hollywood Gang

Candice with members of the “Hollywood Gang” – friends from grade school days – in Savannah for their annual gathering in 2019

A child of the drum

A child of the drum: David learns the art of traditional Japanese drumming (photo credit: Melissa Blunt)

Candice and I then met up on the west coast to celebrate Claire’s graduation, with her Masters in Social Work, from the University of California at Berkeley. We loved our three days together where we could congratulate Claire on this milestone in her life.

CLaire graduation

Our wonderful Claire, now with her MSW degree from the University of California, Berkeley

To keep up the whirlwind pace, the three Browns boarded a plane for London, to connect with Andrew and spend almost three weeks in the United Kingdom. We had a chance to hear Andrew sing twice—once in Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte and then a few days later for his first-year RCM recital. We also used the time to explore and play, including a High Tea to celebrate Mother’s Day and Candice’s birthday.

Cosi Fan Tutte

Don Alfonso, Guglielmo and Ferrando (l-to-r) – in a 1950s setting of Cosi Fan Tutte – plot to test the faithfulness of their fiancés.

High Tea in London

Celebrating Mom/Candice at High Tea in London

Our explorations took us not only to London, but to the Cotswolds and Hampshire. We were in the U.K. during the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which was celebrated in cities, towns, and villages throughout the country. We also used the time to visit with friends, be guests at a wonderful Emmanuel College High Table, connect with National Trust colleagues in the U.K., and take in our second opera of the trip at The Grange Festival. A wonderful time was had by all.

Britain remembers flag

Britain remembers its fallen troops on the 75th anniversary of D-Day: one of many flags along the streets in the Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh

DJB and CCB in Cotswolds

The photographer (ahem, Andrew) enjoyed the juxtaposition of the signs and people here as we set off for a ramble in the Cotswolds

Cotswolds Ramble

Candice and Andrew on one of our Cotswolds rambles

Emmanuel College High Table

The Emmanuel College dining hall, set for High Table

Dinner at The Grange

Dinner at The Grange in Hampshire with Catherine Leonard and Ben Wright

Life returned to our new normal in mid-June, as Candice and I settled into my gap year in Washington; Claire and her partner Blair Kittle adjusted to Claire’s first full-time job, as a therapist in an Oakland public middle school, by acquiring a new member of the family; and Andrew traveled and sang in wonderful venues around the U.S. and Europe.

Chai

Chai – Claire and Blair’s Siberian Forest cat and the newest member of our family. His name is short for Tchaikovsky, since his ancestors are from Russia.

Pomona classmates at Susan's wedding

Claire joins the Pomona College bridesmaids (and one bridesman) at classmate Susan Nussbaum’s summer wedding to Ryan Dodson.

Blair and Claire at summer wedding

Tis the season for weddings, as Blair and Claire celebrate with friends.

Milton Abbey, where Andrew sang the St. John Passion with Academy of Ancient Music and Voces8

Milton Abbey, where Andrew sang the St. John Passion with Academy of Ancient Music and Voces8

Andrew in the gardens around Glyndebourne before seeing Handel's Rinaldo

Andrew in the gardens around Glyndebourne before seeing Handel’s Rinaldo

Andrew and Ana (a soprano at RCM) in Châteauneuf-de-Grasse, France

Andrew and Ana (a soprano at RCM) in Châteauneuf-de-Grasse, France

And then October arrived…and have you heard that the Washington National’s are World Series Champions!?! It was a great month of baseball, capped by my first trip to a World Series game. The Nats had a magical run that brought the entire city together, and we enjoyed every minute of it. I was pretty thankful that I didn’t have to get up and go to work the morning after each big Nationals game. What a way to spend a gap year!

View from my World Series seat

View from my seat at Game 3 of the 2019 World Series. Note the pencil behind my ear…yes, of course I scored the biggest game of my life!

DJB and CCB

Celebrating our World Series Champion Washington Nationals at DC’s parade: DJB with Candice and her Baby Shark decal

And Now We Dance

And Now We Dance

Claire and Blair

Claire and Blair at a Mondovi event this fall

November brought us back to California, as we came to support Claire’s first run in a half marathon. She did a great job, and we were so glad we could be there and cheer her on. It was a beautiful weekend, with time spent not only at the race, but with Claire, Blair, and Blair’s parents, Tracy and Logan, over a wine tasting. Very California!

Claire runs through Cal campus

Claire runs through the Cal campus as part of the Berkeley Half Marathon

Satisfaction and relief

A great sense of satisfaction

Celebrating with Blair

Celebrating with Blair

The Browns (photo credit: John Thorne)

The Browns (photo credit: John Thorne)

Our family continues to be blessed, and for that we are incredibly thankful. We remain grateful for each of you and the friendships we share. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

More to come…
DJB

Beyond Identity Politics

Identity

“Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” by Francis Fukuyama

We all saw the same thing. Yet, what we saw differs sharply in our mind’s eye, and in our retelling of the story.

Over the past two weeks, all Americans had access to the same impeachment inquiry hearings. We all saw the same witnesses testifying. We all heard the same Members of Congress asking the same questions (or making the same speeches).

And yet, taken individually, what we saw and heard during those hearings differed widely.

Why is there this contradiction if we all saw and heard the same testimony presented to the same Congressional committee? One answer to that conundrum may lie in the increasingly narrow ways in which we identify ourselves.

It just so happened that I was reading Francis Fukuyama’s smart and insightful 2018 book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment during the hearings. A Japanese-American political scientist, Fukuyama’s thoughtful take on how our nation, and how much of the world, came to a place where we are identifying ourselves with a series of smaller and smaller tribes while also expanding our resentments into larger and larger grievances, is timely. I found it to be, ultimately, hopeful as well.

As he notes in his preface, this book would not have been written without Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016. But Fukuyama sees the challenges we are facing as pre-dating Trump’s election. American institutions such as the rule of law and democratic accountability “were decaying as the state was progressively captured by powerful interest groups and locked into a rigid structure that was unable to reform itself.”

According to the author, populism and nationalism—both forces behind Trump’s election—are not necessarily bad ideas. It is just that in Trump’s hands, as in the hands of authoritarians around the world, all the wrong instincts and prejudices come forward.

In examining what encourages people to make harmful turns toward populism and nationalism, Fukuyama takes the position that the sense of being dismissed, being invisible to others, drives human affairs much more than does economic interests. New York Times columnist Timothy Egan made a similar point recently, in a column on how the “insufferably woke” help Trump. Fukuyama writes that, “To be poor is to be invisible to your fellow human beings, and the indignity of invisibility is often worse than the lack of resources.” He also points to the invisibility that comes in the form of racism, which sees people of color as somehow less human. This diminution of inherent value happens on the individual level, but it can also be found in nations and their leaders. Russia, Hungary and China all have rulers who are driven by past national humiliations. Fukuyama notes that Osama bin Laden was driven by the treatment of Palestinians. And, in a sentiment that helps explain some of the last two weeks of hearings in the Congress, many on the right, while claiming to loathe identity politics, are driven by their own perception of being dismissed. In each of these instances, the dismissed are demanding—in their own, often destructive ways—to be recognized, to be heard, and to have power.

In setting out his thesis and describing the modern concept of identity, Fukuyama dives into the weeds in his first few chapters. But his work took off for me when he stated, “The broadening and universalization of dignity turns the private quest for self into a political project.” There are numerous and varied examples, from the right and the left and from all around the globe, to describe the disasters that have arisen from resentment of our fellow citizens and, globally, our fellow humans. Yet the final section of the book is hopeful. It turns when we realize that the “protection of ever narrower group identities ultimately threatens the possibility of communication and collective action.” It finds the remedy not in abandoning the idea of identity, but “to define larger and more integrative national identities that take account of the de facto diversity of existing liberal democratic societies.”

The larger national identities begin “with a shared belief in the legitimacy of the country’s political system,” and also extend into the realm of culture and value. Fukuyama argues that national identities shouldn’t be built around “narrow, ethnically based, intolerant, aggressive, and deeply illiberal forms,” but instead around “liberal and democratic political values, and the common experiences that provide connective tissue around which diverse communities can thrive.” Out of the crucible of the Civil War, the U.S. began to live up to its promise as a creedal nation. Fukuyama first asserts that it needs to return to reemphasizing that proposition, but he also maintains that it is necessary that we gain “an understanding of positive virtues, not bound to particular groups, that are needed to make democracy work.”

The final chapter lays out what is to be done to achieve this new sense of national identity. He has strategies pointed toward the left and the right, and toward how to assimilate immigrants to a country’s creedal identity. While the U.S. benefits from diversity, Fukuyama maintains that we cannot build our national identity “around diversity as such. Identity has to be related to substantive ideas such as constitutionalism, rule of law, and human equality.”

Last Thursday I saw this play out in real life as Dr. Fiona Hill, a naturalized U.S. citizen, took a stand for the primacy of the constitution and the rule of law. She did so throughout her testimony, as John Cassidy writes in The New Yorker, by “making a broader point about the need to defend the stated values of her adopted country, and the threats it faces—internal as well as external.”

Fukuyama ends his book with a similar look forward.

“Identity is the theme that underlies many political phenomena today, from new populist nationalist movements, to Islamist fighters, to the controversies taking place on university campuses. We will not escape from thinking about ourselves and our society in identity terms. But we need to remember that the identities dwelling deep inside us are neither fixed nor necessarily given to us by our accidents of birth. Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has also been used to integrate. That in the end will be the remedy for the populist politics of the present.”

Our leaders that help heal this time of division in the country must work to articulate, and then live by example, the core belief—stated so eloquently by Lewis Lapham—that what joins Americans one to another “is not a common nationality, language, race, or ancestry” but rather our “complicity in a shared work of the imagination.” We need to get back to imagining the type of country that matches our ideals.

More to come…

DJB

Saturday Music: My Favorite Buskers

One thing I miss in my gap year is the morning commute. That may sound strange, but I do miss the interactions with fellow travelers. I miss the friendly conversation around music, politics, and coffee during my stop at Filter coffeehouse. I miss the 30 minute routine I established twice each day to sit on the train and read.

And I miss the opportunity to hear street musicians—or buskers—on a daily basis.

These performers put themselves out there for all to see and hear amidst all types of weather. The 30-to-90 seconds (or occasionally more) I was typically within earshot invariably brightened my day.

As noted in Wikipedia, the term busking was first used “in the English language around the middle 1860s in Great Britain. The verb to busk, from the word busker, comes from the Spanish root word buscar, with the meaning ‘to seek.’ It was used for many street acts, and title of a famous Spanish book about one of them, El Buscón.”

Thankfully, I still see buskers some days in Silver Spring and on my less frequent forays into the heart of the District. In the past few weeks, I came upon three of my favorites, and wanted to share their music with you.

Emma G

Emma G (photo credit: emmagmusic.com)

When she’s playing inside the entranceway to a metro station, Emma G‘s voice—which is powerful in its own right—takes on superhuman qualities. She rocks, she wails, she sings in so many styles and with so much style. Named by the Washingtonian magazine as one of the city’s top buskers, she regularly performs in concert halls and venues around the city and around the world, and she has videos of her original music on the web. But it is always great to catch her on the street to hear her sing from the heart and to have the chance to interact with her friendly and welcoming personality.

Brass Band Buskers

Our brass band buskers in Silver Spring

My second favorite busker is not a specific musician, but a type: the brass band and its subset, the all-trombone band. When these cats are playing, you can hear them for miles, and—unless you are an uptight DC law firm—they will bring a smile to your face. New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band is one of the most famous of these groups, but there are a number of DC-based bands who can bring the heat. We’re fortunate to have one regularly playing in downtown Silver Spring at lunch as well as by our local metro station in the afternoon.

Moe the busker

Moe, busking at the Silver Spring Farmers Market, to the delight of a young fan

Finally, the one-man band has always been a favorite, and we have a great one in Silver Spring in Moe Nelson.  A marine biologist with NOAA for his day job, Moe often plays Saturdays at the Silver Spring Farmers Market and—along with our regular juggler—is a guaranteed kid magnet. With his string bass, harmonica, and ukulele, he shifts effortlessly between various styles, which is understandable given that’s he has played bass with nationally-known performers such as Bill Kirchen (King of Dieselbilly), Dan Hicks (swing songwriter), Maryann Price (jazz vocalist), Johnny Gimble (western swing fiddler), Jethro Burns (swing mandolinist), and Big Walter Horton (blues harmonica). In addition to his wonderful one-man-band work, he also plays with several D.C.-area groups, including the Hula Monsters, Grandsons, and King Teddy.

Be on the lookout for your neighborhood street musician. And always remember: tip the busker!

More to come…

DJB

In Praise of Women Moderators

When it came to the existential challenge facing our democracy, there was no debate at the debate.

Every candidate for the Democratic nomination for president agreed that the corrupt and criminal enterprise in charge of the executive branch—now being called out day-after-day by the testimony of real patriots—needs to be removed.

However, as you might expect, that wasn’t the surprise of last evening’s Democratic presidential debate, held in Atlanta.

I watched the entire 2 1/2 hours and was generally captivated from beginning to end. I say that knowing that the debate wasn’t perfect. Where was former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, for instance? He has a much better chance of being first or second on the Democratic ticket than does billionaire Tom Steyer or Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. But even with its missteps, the debate was highly engaging on several fronts. Certainly, some credit for the night’s conversation with American voters goes to the smart group of candidates, even those who aren’t going to win. (I’m looking at Andrew Yang.)

But I think a good deal of credit for the evening’s lively and informative conversation goes to the moderators. The all-women panel of moderators.

Here’s why it matters: The moderators asked smart questions on things people care about. We heard discussions on housing, paid family leave, child care, climate change, foreign affairs, equal pay, voting suppression, racism, abortion rights and social justice. And yes, there were also discussions around the impeachment inquiry and the criminal conduct taking place in our government at the moment. Health care had its time in the sun as well, but as part of an array of issues. As more than one candidate pointed out, many of the remedies discussed for a range of across-the-board issues are favored by two-thirds or more of the American public, yet these common sense solutions remain bottled up in the Senate, hostage to extreme ideology and power grabs.

Here’s what we didn’t see: a push to have the candidates fight with each other just to generate news clips and gotcha moments for cable TV and opposition political ads. We didn’t see a one-hour food fight around health care. There were some sharp exchanges, especially generated by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) who seems to want to run in the Republican primary or audition for FOX News rather than be a serious candidate for the Democratic ticket. But overall the tone was respectful, serious, thoughtful.

And, at times, funny.  Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) had the best line of the night: “If you think a woman can’t beat Trump, Nancy Pelosi does it every day.”

I couldn’t agree more with Christina Reynolds, who tweeted during the debate: “Elect more women. Have more women as moderators. Make sure more women are at the table…wherever the table is.”

Here’s a shout out to the panel of moderators. Well done…and thank you!

More to come…

DJB

Boldness in Leadership

Leadership in Turbulent Times

“Leadership in Turbulent Times” by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Timesis, as one would expect from the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, a thoughtful analysis that deserves to be taken seriously. At a time when the country has entered the public phase of Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry and as the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination—and perhaps the soul of the country—escalates during the twelve months before the 2020 election, there are lessons to be learned from the past.

This 2018 work is a study of the life of four presidents and the ways in which they addressed major issues in fractured times: Abraham Lincoln (winning the war, ending slavery and saving the union); Theodore Roosevelt (responding to the sharp inequities and unfairness of the industrial revolution); Franklin D. Roosevelt (rebuilding a country out of the Great Depression); and Lyndon B. Johnson (the fight to ensure civil rights for all Americans).

Kearns Goodwin observes that we have come through difficult periods before. In a more troubling sense, she also makes it clear that we have always had scoundrels in positions of power in our government, individuals who are only interested in self-gratification and enrichment.

In looking for the lessons to take from the profiles in her book, Kearns Goodwin calls out similarities and differences between the four presidents. Their resilience in the face of serious personal hardships—in these cases poverty, depression, polio, and the death of a young spouse—is a shared trait that rises to the forefront when considering their life’s work. All four of the national crises they faced called for a strong sense of moral purpose—a quality I see missing from too many in positions of power when facing our existential crisis in democracy. Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Johnson were each ambitious, but that’s hardly exceptional among men and women who believe they can lead the United States. More importantly, in these four presidents, ambition did not get in the way of their moral compass. In each instance outlined in Leadership, crucial decisions were made to enlarge opportunities for others.

There’s one other shared characteristic of these four leaders: boldness.

Today, we have timid politicians and a smug pundit class, each supported by political consultants and a corporate-sponsored media culture, who push against big, bold ideas. The former Republican speech writer David Frum, in a recent article in The Atlantic, sums up the Washington Beltway conventional wisdom when he lays out all the reasons why we’re in trouble, no matter if Trump leaves office through impeachment, a close loss, or a blowout win for the Democrats. In Frum’s telling, the resources don’t exist for the bold ideas being proposed to respond to financial inequities, a broken health care system, and environmental disaster; proposals put forward to reshape society to support the public at the expense of the rich and ruling classes. And, in any event, he asserts that the one-third of the country that supports Trump’s backwards-looking agenda, won’t let anything happen that affects their place of privilege.

Doris Kearns Goodwin notes that Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Johnson all faced strong opposition and limited resources (at least on the face of things) for transformational change. Guess what? They all led, instead of listening to the conventional wisdom of the day.

Surprisingly, a current counterpoint to Frum comes from John F. Harris at Politicowho, as the founding managing editor at that online site, built a news and commentary platform that is famous for focusing on the game of politics at the exclusion of substance. But in stepping back from that role, he has shown some surprising self-awareness in noting that the bias of much of the pundit class is a centrist bias. He admits to having that bias himself, but then notes that it is usually the radicals who write history.

Harris quotes historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s skepticism about Bill Clinton’s middle-of-the-road path to uniting the country in the 1990s.

“Great presidents,” he told me, “are unifiers mostly in retrospect.”

In their own times, he noted, they divide the country over large questions—slavery, civil rights, the proper role of government versus the private sector—and only later “unite the country at a new level of understanding.”

That observation is right in line with Kearns Goodwin’s assessment of leadership.

I appreciate all that Frum, who writes regularly for The Atlantic; Jennifer Rubin (who is spot on in her commentary) and Max Boot at the Washington Post; Nicolle Wallace (who I watch daily) and Steve Schmidt at MSNBC; and even George Will and the other former Republicans and Never-Trumpers have done to call out the damage and hypocrisy of the Republican Party and the Trump administration over the past three years. However, in my estimation they should not be given, or expect, a role—small or outsized—in helping Democrats choose their next nominee to lead the party and hopefully the country forward. All of them worked in the recent past for a party whose core beliefs align with the corporate and wealthy classes and against a broad, inclusive view of America. And as Harris suggests, as much as he might want to be proven wrong, real change comes from those who think boldly and listen to the people who are burning for change.

In last Monday’s Washington Post, Daniel W. Drezner—a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University—calls out the beltway pundits for their myopic and cocooned way-of-life. Whenever he talks to D.C.-based folks,

“…the despair runs deep. I was in the District last week, and less than two weeks after the Washington Nationals shocked the baseball world the city is in a serious funk, fearing another five years of Donald Trump. Elizabeth Warren’s rise has triggered an allergic reaction among the Beltway’s centrist tribe. Last week’s New York Times/Siena battleground poll showed Warren losing to Trump across a swath of key states. That one poll caused an awful lot of panic in D.C. and, I suspect, played a significant role in Michael Bloomberg’s gold-plated trial balloon.”

Leadership, whether in politics or the media, involves—duh—leading. Yet so much of what we see these days is based on incremental moves, following polls, scoring points on Twitter, and covering one’s behind. Drezner points out that “premature pessimism is a lousy way to go through life.”

We are at one of the most turbulent times in national history. We have politicians who are having difficulty upholding their oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We have a corporate pundit class that controls much of what we hear. We have a large and influential right-wing corporate infotainment network funded by many of the industries that are at the heart of our country’s problems. We have billionaires who are up in arms that they may get taxed at a higher rate than their personal assistants and other members of the working class. We have a Supreme Court increasingly dominated by political hacks put into power by outright lies and blatant disregard of the Constitution.

And yet I am hopeful. Because there are people—yes, leaders—who take their oath of office seriously and have stepped forward to defend the rule of law. People like Ambassador Marie Yovanovich. Quiet yet strong leaders who show more character in one morning’s worth of testimony than that shown in the past three years by a former top-of-his-class graduate at West Point who now, as Secretary of State, can’t seem to find the words to support his staff in the face of bullying by our bully-in-chief.

Kearns Goodwin ends her book with a chapter entitled “On Death and Remembrance” and she rightly chooses Lincoln—our greatest president and leader—to close this section. As she notes, “The master story Lincoln told grew deeper and simpler throughout his life. It was the narrative of our country, the birth of our democracy, and the development of freedom within our Union.” She notes that, beginning with the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the future president “invited his audiences on a communal storytelling journey so they might collectively understand the dilemma of slavery in a free country and, together, fashion a solution.”

She continues with,

“At Gettysburg, he challenged the living to finish ‘the unfinished work’ for which so many soldiers had given their lives—that ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.’ At the Second Inaugural, Lincoln asked his countrymen ‘to strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.’ These same words nourished Franklin Roosevelt. He drew upon them, he said, because Abraham Lincoln had set goals for the future ‘ in terms of which the human mind cannot improve.'”

Lincoln, in Kearns Goodwin’s telling, “continued to grow into a leader who became so powerfully fused with the problems tearing his country apart that his desire to lead and his need to serve coalesced into a single indomitable force. That force has not only enriched subsequent leaders but has provided our people with a moral compass to guide us.”

Let’s find and support the leaders who will point toward regaining our nation’s moral compass and—working with all Americans—do the hard, bold work required over the months, years, and decades ahead with “humanity, purpose, and wisdom.”

More to come…

DJB

Saturday Music: Al Petteway and Amy White

Amy White and Al Petteway

Amy White and Al Petteway (photo credit: Al Petteway)

Acoustic duo Al Petteway and Amy White will celebrate 25 years of music together at a special Institute of Musical Traditions (IMT) concert on Saturday evening, November 23rd. Favorites of the IMT crowd (and former Washington, DC-area residents before a move to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina), these are musicians sure to fill the room at St. Marks in Rockville, the main IMT concert venue where I’ve heard them live through the years.

Al and Amy’s music is eclectic yet uniformly lovely on the ears. Petteway is an award-winning fingerstyle guitarist (voted one of the Top 50 Guitarists of all time by the readers of Acoustic Guitar Magazine) while Amy is a composer and singer who is no slouch on the instrumental chops as well. Their repertoire has been described as “original, traditional, contemporary Celtic- and Appalachian-influenced music with occasional nods to Blues, New Age, and Jazz.” That about sums it up.

Al and Amy have provided music for the soundtrack for several Ken Burns documentaries, most notably The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Both are award-winning photographers, and Winter in the Blue Ridge Mountains showcases their music and photography. I also recommend a UNC-TV piece on the duo, which gives the background on their life and work, how they met, the range of their interests, and includes a lovely vignette about how Al brought the adult Amy and her father—an oboist with the Nashville Symphony—together after having never played music with each other in over three decades.

This is lovely music for the heart. Recommended.

More to come…

DJB

UPDATE: The IMT concert on Saturday evening was beautiful, with Al and Amy playing to a full house; yet, it had the feeling as if they were in a living room with a group of friends. One of the most beautiful new tunes for me was Amy’s Never Got to Say GoodbyeThanks to these two talented musicians, and to IMT, as always, for their wonderful concert series.

Stop Reporting on the Impeachment Inquiry as if Nothing has Changed Since Watergate

The Mainstream Media (MSM) is largely taking it on the chin for their coverage of the first day of the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry.

They earned the ridicule, from my perspective.  Here are two quick examples.

First, NBC News and Reuters both complained about a lack of pizzazz in the hearings. They were rightly taken to the woodshed by thoughtful commentators and by late night comics (who, come to think of it, are now among our most reliable branch of thoughtful commentators.) That “If it doesn’t involve sex or drugs, it is dull” type of coverage isn’t just lazy, it is irresponsible journalism, and the MSM should be better than this. As is often the case, Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post had one of the best satirical responses to this nonsense in her, “Hey, I got your first draft of the Impeachment Hearings. Here’s what it needs!

My thought was, who died and left Eric Trump—with his “horribly boring” and “Snoozefest” tweet—to set the ground rules for how to cover the impeachment inquiry of his father?

Second, comparing this inquiry and the times to Watergate is also lazy and worse, it sets up a narrative that’s bound to fail. Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times that the country wasn’t “riveted” by the testimony on Day 1 of the Trump inquiry, as he suggests it was during the Watergate hearings. Well, I’m a bit older than Peter Baker and was in college in 1974 during the summer of the hearings. If Wikipedia can be believed, Peter Baker was seven years old at the time. I recall a country 45 years ago that had three major television networks, not 500 cable channels and countless internet, social media, and blog sites to choose from. FOX News and the right-wing infotainment network didn’t exist. As Joan Walsh writes in The Nationwe’re not riveted by anything anymore—except maybe the Super Bowl, and some of us haven’t watched that in years.

The two Senators who led the Watergate hearings—Sam Ervin and Howard Baker (my senator at the time)—were not anyone’s idea of riveting television. What they were, even with all their faults, were Members of Congress who cared more about the future of their country than they cared for their next race for office or their jump to a lucrative K Street lobbying job or a spot on cable news. They took their responsibilities seriously and they worked hard, through a lot of dull hearings and background work, to get to the truth.

As Walsh writes in her compelling take on the subject, we fetishize Watergate today because we know how it ended. Nixon resigned. She notes that many of us are craving “some type of playbook” and some obvious force of “moral authority” when, in fact, we have neither. “We have to create it.” I would add that just because we create a story that sounds insightful doesn’t mean that the story is necessarily true. If you are going to cite something like Watergate, at least understand the full context and history, and then try and understand how the times today are different.

Jennifer Weiner ends her commentary in the Times excoriating news outlets looking for pizzazz with the following:

“Here’s a thought: The next time we see a partisan or a politician or, worse, a reporter complain that the hearings are boring, we push back. We point out that our political process is one thing and professional wrestling is another, and shame on anyone who faults the first for not resembling the second. We remind people that just because something is shown on TV, that does not mean it’s a TV show.

Because, if we keep insisting that impeachment has to entertain us, we’re going to channel-surf our way right out of our democracy.”

Consider this a small part of my push back.

More to come…

DJB