Washington, A Work in Progress

US Capitol

I spent last week in Washington D.C. This city used to be a frequent destination for me to visit museums, take in the architectural beauty and reflect on our history as a nation. This was however my first visit in nearly nine years and it was a very different trip as it involved my 8 year old son. We spent some time up front discussing the history and importance of the city and reviewed maps and photo books. When I got there it felt like I was visiting an old friend.

It’s not a perfect city nor a perfect democracy. We need to remember that our country is still a great experiment and there is still much to learn. I do worry that we are in danger of forgetting how to learn or work together for a greater good. We’ve created so much in such a short amount of time. We need to take the next steps, together.

There were people everywhere from all over the world this past week. They came eager to learn and excited for the opportunity. There’s a huge benefit to being a tourist. We don’t have to do the negotiation or the hard work of trying to support a base and stay true to what’s inside one’s heart.  I don’t envy their job, but they chose it and I do expect them to make progress for the nation at large.

One thing is obvious. Much of what our founding fathers did was correct. They knew they were creating something from scratch, but were wise enough to incorporate aspects of what was working across the world at large. The layout of the city. The thought that went into the decisions is probably the most impressive to me. So many things were consciously planned with deep meaning. Lady Liberty on the Capitol dome faces east, because the sun never sets on freedom. The cities’ main architect Pierre Charles L′Enfant is buried in Arlington Cemetery at the highest point so he can forever watch over his design. The streets were labeled based on the population of the states at the time. The most populous states got the longest streets.

The city has bones with a capital B. It’s a low city. Flat. Things happen close to the ground where the interaction is most personal. And nothing is more personal that one’s government.

All Photos: Steve A Furman with either an Olympus E-350 or my iPhone5.

President Obama in the White House

It’s been a few days now since the inauguration and over two months since the world has known that Barack Obama would be working from possibly the most famous address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Each day since Wednesday I have come home and asked myself out loud, “What has he done today?” This will be a question millions will ask daily, then perhaps weekly. But my prediction is we will get news of significant and probably groundbreaking ideas and executive orders on a regular basis.

Obama's first act - Photo from the Associated Press

Although most of us are willing to give him some time, I believe he will not squander that precious gift. Kill time and you murder success, is one of my favorite sayings. President Obama knows that time waits for no man.

The modern White House
The modern White House

The White House is a storied structure of nearly mythic proportions. It”s overflowing with history and heavy burdens and retains something from all those who have occupied it as president in the past. The film director Oliver Stone gave us an ominous visual of the White House in his powerful but bleak pan across the iron fence in the film Nixon. It was a reminder that power can corrupt should one let his guard down.

The White House in 1846
The White House in 1846

I feel very comfortable with Mr. Obama installed in this residence. I know history is not lost on him, and firmly believe he will do his level best, and do it everyday in the bright light of transparency. It will be a refreshing next four years.