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Proud to be and eat and buy American

November 6, 2009

I just returned from Washington, D.C. as part of the delegation from my high school there to receive the Blue Ribbon Award presented by the U.S. Department of Education.  BRAwardThe award goes to 300 or so schools out of the 135,000 schools in the country.  For three days, a principal and teacher from each of these school gather together for conversation and celebration of this accomplishment.  To be honest, I didn’t go there expecting to be as wowed as I was.  Not by any people I met, in particular, and not by any of the workshops or presentations, but by what it felt like to be in the same room as all of these winners.  When Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, spoke to us, I was overwhelmed by the sense of being part of something much larger.  In this room were the people who are part of the enormous task of education the future generation of our nation.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of forms and meetings and grading (ok, not minutia in that last category by any means after the mountain of essays and notebooks I’ve slogged through in recent weeks, but that’s not the point) and not stop and consider the larger forces at work.  Having driven around the monuments the previous day I was already getting the great DC buzz that overtakes Jimmy Stewart’s character of young senator Jefferson Smith in the beautiful Capra montage magic at the start of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  On top of that, it was election day – albeit a minor one in many ways – but still the core celebration of a democracy in electing its own leaders.  So with that background, I threw myself into the moment and tried to meet as many of the other teachers and principals as I could – from Montana, from the Texas panhandle, from Alaksa, from urban to suburban, from sea to shining sea.  Oh Woody Guthrie, if you could only know how the words of your eternal “This Land is Your Land” echoed through my head all day as I embraced it all.  It did leave me thankful for where I am fortunate enough to teach, but above all re-energized to see this award as a starting point for myself as an educator, not a finish line.

Of course, while in our nation’s capital, I couldn’t resist the opporunity to dine at both Founding Farmers and Blue Ridge.  With the chef, Barton Seaver, of the latter just being named by Esquire as the top chef in the country, could I go wrong?  Not at all.  Both of these restaurants embrace the locally-sourced, sustainable agricultural goal that’s all the rage as they add their flair to classic mid-Atlantic American cuisine.  Both night featured fried green tomatoes, cornbread, meatloaf, and pies, and both meals were outstanding.  When your restaurant has giant jars of vegetables on display, or a waitstaff clad in comfy flannel, you can do no wrong.


I managed to sneak in a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library while in DC.  Although for years of teaching Hamlet I’ve seen the “Folger Library” seal of approval proudly emblazoned on each copy the students buy, I didn’t really know much about this outstanding institution – among the top collections of Shakespeare-related volumes in the world given a magnificent home (tudor manion inside, Greco-Deco outside) just steps from the Supreme court.  I didn’t have time to cuddle up with a First Folio, so I capped off my brief visit with a truly American tradition – a visit to the giftshop.  Although I wanted a mini version of the Puck statue from outside of the museum (see left – the incription, facing Congress, reads, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”) I settled for a Shakespeare action figure.  Take that, Spiderman!  Now if only there were ones for all of the cabinet members to complete my visit – that’s what I really need.


One Comment leave one →
  1. November 9, 2009 9:05 pm

    Very proud of you.

    But, gosh, as an English teacher & one who prides himself on a mastery of language, how can you omit the hyphen in Spider-Man?!

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