Tag Archives: Washington

Visiting Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Lesson in Incrementalism

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Mount Vernon — otherwise known as George Washington’s home. It was quite lovely. The grounds are beautiful — so many wide open spaces, lots of greenery, and access to a waterway. Just what you’d want in an estate, I suppose. It was a bit goosebump-inducing to be able to walk through (and be near) the room where Washington and some of the other Founding Fathers plotted.

After walking through the museums on the estate, I was a bit surprised. I didn’t grow up with American history (having spent my youth in Canada), so I didn’t know much of the story of how the United States came to be of the United States. As a result, I was surprised to read about just how tenuous the beginning actually was. Of course, I’m aware that some of it may have been a bit dramatized, but Washington did a remarkable thing (depending on your perspective).

The surprising part, though, comes when I reflect on the discussions of the “greatest” President in the history of the United States. Whenever I read articles about this superfluous ranking, invariable, Lincoln tops the list. Part of this could be because some of the articles I’d been reading about the greatest US Presidents were written right around the time that the Lincoln movie was coming out. I’m also not trying to minimize what Lincoln did for the US — it is certainly important. Although, without Washington, would there even have been an Abraham Lincoln (in the way that we know of him)?

One other thing that was interesting to read about when walking through the museum was the idea that Washington also believed that the slaves should be free. Some attribute this belief to the fact that he freed his slaves when he died. Part of the reason (it’s theorized) that he didn’t free all the slaves was because of the shaky grounds that the US was still on when he was alive. Had he tried to make such a bold movie, the US might not have survived. In all fairness, some could make the argument that the US is still struggling with Lincoln’s decision to do just that (and that was a generation after Washington apparently considered the act).

In seeing that Washington was considering freeing the slaves, it made me think about incrementalism. When I used to watch politicians debate seemingly “small” measures to big problems, I would always grow frustrated. I would think to myself, why can’t they just make the big solution? I’m reminded of the phrase, “all in good time.” Sometimes, it’s not feasible to make big changes all at once. Even the small changes take time adjusting to (in politics). Making a big change could be untenable to some groups of people.

I look at the Affordable Care Act that President Obama pushed so hard for a couple of years ago. Many Democrats and liberals were upset that there wasn’t a push for a single-payer system. One would assume that President Obama opted not to push for that because he didn’t think that it could have passed. Healthcare, in and of itself, was hard enough to pass, so trying to pass something like a single-payer system would have been that much harder.

Circling back to Washington… I wonder what he would/could have accomplished for the country had he stayed on for a third term as President. I know that he died two years after stepping aside, but if he had continued as President, would we have gotten the 22nd Amendment sooner? Would Presidents like Jefferson or Madison stayed on for more than two terms?

The Best Kept Secret When Traveling — Tours!

It’s been a few days since my last post. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit under the weather, so I’ve heeded my advice — rest. I think I’m through the worst of it, though, so I wanted to give you a small — but important! — piece of advice before we get too far into “summer traveling season.”

For the average westerner my age, I’ve been many places. I was born and raised in the Toronto area and spent a lot of time traveling within Southwestern Ontario because I played baseball for a traveling team. I moved to Michigan for my bachelor’s degree and while there, I visited the Upper Peninsula, plenty of other towns in Michigan, traveled to South Carolina for an Alternative Break, traveled to Costa Rica as part of a class, and then to the Dominican Republic for pseudo-Alternative Break.

After this, I moved to California (driving across the country) to start graduate school in psychology. I stopped short of the PhD I’d intended to complete and ended up traveling to New Zealand for a few months. Upon returning, I lived in British Columbia before moving to Hawaii. After Hawaii, I moved to the DC area (where I currently am). As part of school trip, I spent some time in Europe. I haven’t named all the little side trips, but suffice to say, like I said, for the average person from North America, I’ve been many places.

While I’ve been many places, I don’t know that I’d say I’ve “seen” them the way that I’ve now seen Washington, DC. I’ve lived in the DC area for almost two years. I didn’t take the opportunity to see the Lincoln Memorial until I’d been living here for over a year. Of course, I’d been into DC several times, but never went to see the Memorial. Recently though, I saw DC in a new light. Why? How? I took the chance to go on a tour!

I’ve been part of tour groups before, but something about this one felt different. Maybe it’s because it was something I chose and not something that was simply part of the experience. Maybe it was because the material was the US National Monuments and there’s certainly an air of mystique to them. I can’t put my finger on the whole reason, but I can tell you that most of the reason was probably because of the tour guide.

If you are ever in DC, I can’t recommend enough taking the time to go on a tour with Tim and the Walk of the Town. If you check TripAdvisor, you’ll note that of all of the activities in Washington, DC, his tour is ranked 1st. And, if you click-through to see his ratings, you’ll see that he’s received 595 Excellents out of a possible 609. That’s incredible! I can tell you that it is certainly deserved. I first went on the Saturday Night Tour and loved it so much that I came back a few days later for the Waterfront Walk. We learned about so much! I’d probably have to do the tours a couple of times to really have taken in all of the information that he offers. I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned this, but this may be important for some — one of the best parts about the Walk of the Town is that it’s free.

A brief aside: In the coming weeks, I intend to do a few posts on some of the things I learned while on these tours and I’m really looking forward to it. For instance, even though I just finished an MBA at George Mason University, I had no idea that — essentially — George Mason is the grandfather of the Declaration of Independence!

As I said, if you’re ever in DC, I can’t recommend enough the Walk of the Town. And you can be sure that the next time I find myself in a new city, I’ll be sure to find out who the best tour guide is, so I can learn about that place.

The Lincoln Memorial and Civil Rights

This past weekend, I had the quintessential DC experience. Even though I’ve lived in Metro DC for over a year now, I hadn’t been to many of the monuments/memorials. On Saturday, I went to just about all of them. As a side note, I never realized just how big they were. There was one monument in particular that made me think — the Lincoln Memorial.

On my way to the bathroom (at the Lincoln Memorial), I noticed a tiny museum of sorts that had a number of Lincoln’s quotes on the wall. There was also a history channel (I think?) documentary-like movie playing in one corner of the museum. In the place where the video was playing, there were more things on the wall. One of the things on the wall that caught my eye was of someone holding a sign opposing civil rights. To me, it seemed an odd thing to find in a museum about the Lincoln Memorial. It also reminded that there was opposition to civil rights.

After I left the museum and continued my exploration of the other Memorials/Monuments, it made me think: what’s “today’s” version of what happened then? Is it marriage equality? Is it something else? More than that, what will be the next generation’s version of that? Or the generation after that? It’s a question I’ve wrestled with before: what are we doing today that will be thought of as ludicrous by the generations that follow.

~

I’m really glad I had the chance to check out the Lincoln Memorial this weekend because I’m planning on watching Lincoln tomorrow afternoon. My plan on watching it in the afternoon is that I’ll be more “alert” for what I’ve read is one of the best movies of the year. I’m certainly excited for it because I’ve wanted to read Team of Rivals for some time. In fact, when I borrowed a bunch of books a few months ago, I had Team of Rivals on my list!

How Can You Be Blackmailed with Public Information: the CIA, Petraeus, and Paula Broadwell

By now, you’ve no doubt read about Gen. Petraeusresignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). And, you’ve no doubt read about how this resignation came to be. I’m not inciting conspiracy, but something about this situation doesn’t feel right to me — particularly — the idea that Petraeus could be blackmailed.

The argument goes that it was important for Petraeus to resign because the information (affair) could be used to blackmail him. Okay, I hear that, but — the information is now public. Why does he have to resign? Why couldn’t the information have been made public and then Petraeus could have gone on as the Director of the CIA? Of course, this might not have been the most pleasant news conference or press release, but it would have allowed someone who is widely considered one of the smartest minds in Washington to continue in an integral position for the administration of the US.

I want to say that I’m not endorsing Petraeus’ actions (nor) am I endorsing extra-marital affairs. Though, it is worth noting that public officials having affairs (and resigning) is not new. One would think that they may learn from other’s past transgressions. Of course, expecting them to learn from other’s past transgressions is a bit unreasonable.

Circling back to my main point: why would someone have to resign if the information is public? In this particular instance, that information had to do with an extra-marital affair. Due to the culture of the US, this kind of transgression is just about unforgivable and as a result, requires that the leader resign. However, sex (and affairs) are seen much differently in other countries. That’s not to say that other countries would endorse extra-marital affairs, but it’s worth noting that had this happened in another country, the leader’s resignation would not even have come up in conversation.

[UPDATE: I wrote this post on Saturday afternoon, so there’s been some time for the story to develop and for others to opine. Here’s the closing paragraph from an article in The New Yorker posted on Sunday:

A final question, at least from my standpoint, is whether Petraeus had to resign at all. It appears that Clapper, who like Petraeus is a military man, saw it as a no-brainer. Within the military, there are rules about adultery. But within civilian life, should there be? The line of the day on the morning talk shows in Washington seemed to be that Petraeus did the “honorable” thing, or “he had to resign.” The old saw that, if he wasn’t squeaky clean, he could be subject to blackmail by his enemies, thus endangering national security, was mentioned again and again. To me, the whole Victorian shame game seems seriously outdated. Something like half the marriages in the country now end in divorce, and you can bet a great many of those involved extra-marital affairs. Is it desirable to bar such a large number of public servants from top jobs? It certainly seems fair to question Petraeus’s judgement, ethics, and moral fibre in this matter. But if infidelity wasn’t treated as career-threatening, its value to black-mailers would be much reduced (the fear of a spouse is another matter). In this instance, evidently, there were no crimes. So why again did this blow up as it has? Fans of thrillers, like me, are waiting for more answers.