‘Washington DC’ Category


Final Glide

Originally published August 16, 2020 by Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – This is it. Today is the end of the NDI RTW. Tonight, I sleep in my own bed after 40 days of almost non-stop travel. I wonder if Katy cat will even remember me. But this morning I woke up in Washington, DC with two of my grandchildren, and this reality: our flight to Little Rock, the only DIRECT flight available (and I couldn’t bear going through Atlanta) didn’t depart until 6 PM. And the three of us were burnt out on DC sightseeing. So what could be better than a nice calm boat ride on the Potomac River to Mt Vernon? We were in agreement, up and packed and checked out by 8; at the Water Taxi dock in time to leave at 9.

The trip was a pleasant ride, the Washington skyline, a stop in Alexandria, and then ashore by 10 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. “You just added Virginia to your state count,’” I told Kayla and Sam. We had four hours of our own time to wander; George and Martha’s home, their tomb, the farm and farm animals, a gristmill and distillery, the Mount Vernon Inn for lunch. Though there are a few museums there, we went to something called Be Washington, an interactive movie theater. “Step into Washington’s shoes. What would YOU do? Your daring plan of crossing the Delaware River paid off with great military victories. As Commander In Chief, are you willing to do it again and risk your men’s lives? The Battle of Second Trenton, The Newburgh Conspiracy, The Genet Affair, The Whiskey Rebellion – all tests of your “presidential decision-making capacity.” That was entertaining!

Back at the DC dock at 3:30; a taxi to Reagan Airport, and now we’re flying. Will everything happen that we’re expecting? Kayla’s Dad Rick has been at my house all week, cat-sitting Katy and, I hope, spiffing things up and laying groceries in; that was part of the deal. Sam’s Dad Scott flew in yesterday; my oldest son Mike, and Brenda, picked him up at the airport as they arrived by car from Colorado, so the four of them have had an evening together. Did they make banners? Did they buy balloons? I just trekked around the world at age 81. I want adulation, and cheers! At the least a hand sparkler or two.

I think we’re over Tennessee now. Sam and Kayla have nodded off. We are all exhausted.

I’m ready to be home.


Then Let’s Do That

Originally published August 15, 2020 by Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – It has been said there are so many museums in DC you’d need to live here and visit one a day for a year to see them all. We didn’t have a year, and to tell you the truth, our bodies were beginning to feel the effects of walking, standing, and getting jostled in crowds. Not to mention brain overload! Particularly MINE, I’ve been “on the move” since July 7. When reviewing the possibilities this morning, we all sighed. Nobody wanted to do the Hop On Hop Off bus, and Fodor’s list of Top 25 Sights didn’t excite us a bit. Yes, we want to do it all. But not today.

“Just throw a dart,” Sam said. Kayla had a suggestion too, “You’ve been here so many times GMom, what do you think we’d like best?” I gave a qualified answer, “I can tell you what impressed me the most, and what sticks in my mind even though I saw it years ago.” “Then let’s do THAT,” they both said, before I even told them what it was.

The National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/

I chose the National Archives first because it is the repository of “US History” like nothing else. If you want to go straight to the horse’s mouth – it is HERE. In one room, in one building, you can see the original founding documents of the United States. The room is the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, and it is the permanent home of three documents that are instrumental to the founding and philosophy of the United States.

  • The Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, announces a complete break with Britain and expresses the ideals on which the United States was founded: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
  • The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. These four large sheets of parchment define the framework and powers of the Federal Government. Written in 1787, the Constitution established an ingenious practical system of government that derives its power from “We the People of the United States” and promotes the welfare of all its citizens.
  • The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly, among many other rights. The document on permanent display in the Rotunda is the enrolled original Joint Resolution passed by Congress in 1789, proposing 12 amendments to the Constitution. The 10 that were ratified became known as the Bill of Rights.

The documents are sealed in the most scientifically advanced housing that preservation technology can provide; the windowless Rotunda is carefully cooled; no sunshine and no photography allowed. Elsewhere in the building are many other important American historical items, including the Articles of Confederation, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Emancipation Proclamation, and collections of photography and other historically and culturally significant American artifacts. Seeing all those original signatures excited us the most.

The National Gallery of Art, https://www.nga.gov/

The National Gallery of Art is just across the street from the Archives, and houses more than 150,000 paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings spanning the history of Western art. It was my second choice for two reasons – when Sam and Kayla were small, we visited many art museums in Seattle and they always left “sparkly-eyed” and smiling. They talked about what they had seen, and usually got the crayons out as soon as they got home. The second reason for my choice was selfish; I wanted to be there again. I remember clearly my stop in front of a particularly magnificent Rembrandt in 1998, it left me breathless. The reds were so vivid; the depth of the painting so astonishing, I just kept looking. I knew, without question, that we’d be happier after visiting there today. Plus it is so well organized, the displays can be enjoyed without jostling. And we needed that.

The Gallery’s Sculpture Garden was really fun, odd and wonderful sights, Kayla kept snapping photos, and Sam, who has learned welding, was fascinated by all the metal pieces, such as Halegua’s, America, 1970, a 25-ft steel construction. https://www.nga.gov/collection/sculpture-garden.html I didn’t think I’d get them to leave, but they finally got hungry. Lunch at the Pavilion Café, overlooking the gardens and grounds; in the winter, there’s an ice rink!

We hopped on the free shuttle and rode the few blocks to the Washington Monument. I wanted pictures of them standing beneath, with the White House in view across the Ellipse. I have a picture of their Dads standing there together, all jacketed up; it was the Christmas holidays and there were reindeer on the Mall, and a Christmas tree from every state. Not a single barricade, as there are today.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing https://www.moneyfactory.gov/home.html

I kept my third choice a surprise; they didn’t know where we were headed until I told our taxi driver. I chose the “Money Factory” for two reasons also. On a summer visit to DC when their Dads were very young, we toured this money-making facility and they still talk about it today. I thought Sam and Kayla would be equally fascinated – the process is actually quite interesting, and involved. PLUS, most young-people-just-entering-the-workforce are obsessed with money; how to get it, spend it, and keep it.

“Have you ever paid attention to what a dollar bill LOOKS like?” I asked. “It’s a pretty intricate design.” They looked at me. Hmmm. Well now they know. We got to see millions of dollars being printed; the tour overlooks the production floor. And they learned these facts about a dollar bill:

  • The first $1 notes called “Legal Tenders” were issued by the federal government in 1862 and featured a portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase (1861-1864).
  • The first use of George Washington’s portrait on the $1 note was on Series 1869 United States Notes.
  • The first $1 Federal Reserve notes were issued in 1963. The design, featuring George Washington on the face and the Great Seal on the back, has not changed.
  • Because the $1 note is infrequently counterfeited, the government has no plans to redesign this note. In addition, there is a recurring provision in Section 116 of the annual Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that prohibits the redesign of the $1 note.
  • Of all the notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the $1 note makes up about 45% of currency production.
  • The Fiscal Year 2018 Yearly Currency Order contains 2.2 billion $1 notes.
  • If you had 10 billion $1 notes and spent one every second of every day, it would require 317 years for you to go broke.

Imagine that! Last choice of the day I also kept as a surprise. We picked up some items from the Market in our hotel and grabbed a bite to eat in our room before One Last Thing. I wanted them to see the monuments after dark.

The Monuments At Night From a Red Roadster

This was just about the cutest thing ever, a small 5-passenger electric RED ROADSTER, driving us all around the city after dark. The route covered everything we still wanted to see (and some we’ve seen twice); but no crowds to contend with, just us and our guide.

First a drive through the entire Smithsonian complex, getting the story of each of the museums; then past the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. We stopped at the FDR and MLK Memorials, and got a chance to walk along the Tidal Basin. Then past the WWI and WWII Memorials to the Lincoln Memorial; great views there of the Potomac River and the National Mall, sparkling in the dark. Throughout the trip the guide gave us stories of the city’s history; then past the White House, and on to Capitol Hill, really something to see at night.

Of course, this is a fictionalized version of what we COULD have done in a COVID-free world; in reality, DC is mostly closed, or masked with limited opportunities. But this is my NDI RTW;  imagining makes anything possible. Then let’s do that.



Originally published August 15, 2020 by Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – Early morning planning by the window again, pulling together ideas for today. It’s a rainy Saturday, so the Hop On Hop Off bus might work best. Yesterday turned out great, it was a TAXI day with “first things first.” The Embassy of Iceland is only open on weekdays, so that had to be a Friday thing. It is way over on K Street NW, and opened at 9; we got a taxi right after breakfast. Taxis are everywhere in DC, hovering near hotels, just waiting. We had a decent tour of the city on our first morning ride – down New York Avenue, onto Massachusetts, around the circle where New Hampshire and Connecticut cross. I asked our driver to keep going on Embassy Row so Kayla and Sam could see the other countries nestled here: Haiti, Korea, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Cameroon, Marshall Islands, Chad, Slovenia, Japan, India, Turkey, Oman, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Iran, Britian, Finland; it was dizzying, we could barely keep up. We circled the US Naval Observatory before heading south through Georgetown towards the Potomac, and the Embassy of Iceland. It’s in the House of Sweden, and represents Iceland vis-a-vis the United States, as well as Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay. “Here we are, back on Iceland soil again today, nice.” We let them know just how much we enjoyed visiting their country and signed the guestbook.

Taxi! Next stop Nationals Park. Our drive along the Potomac passed the Watergate, and the Kennedy Center; across the river was Arlington Cemetery, and Kennedy’s grave. Turning east we passed directly by the Lincoln Memorial; the Pentagon was to our right, across the river, the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument on our left as we crossed over the Tidal Basin. Our driver kept up a running dialog but there was so much to see our pictures will be blurred. We turned south again and there was the Park.

Nationals Park is the home ballpark for the Washington Nationals, a National League East division team that’s been here since 2005. “They were the Montreal Expos before that,” Sam explained. This is a new park, opened in 2008; it seats over 41,000 and is the first LEED-certified green major professional sports stadium in the United States; it cost $784 million to build. (That we got from our tour materials.) In 2018 the Major League All-Star Game was played here; then last year it hosted games 3, 4, and 5 of the World Series, the first in DC since 1933! Games 6 and 7 were back in Houston, and the Nationals won all 7 games, defeating the favored Astros and securing their first title in franchise history. Yes, the team and Manager Dave Martinez were honored at the White House. The Park sits beside the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard neighborhood; the Washington Monument and the Capitol are visible from the upper decks on the first base side of the field. No games while we’re in town, but the tour was fun. https://www.mlb.com/nationals/ballpark

Taxi! Two miles to the Air and Space Museum. Last year 6.2 million visitors stopped in; it was the fifth most visited museum in the world, and the second in the United States. So wow! It’s all about aviation, spaceflight, planetary science, terrestrial geology, and geophysics. There are 23 galleries in the main museum; on display are 61 aircraft, 51 large space artifacts, and over 2,000 smaller items. Name dropping – the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the Friendship 7 capsule flown by John Glenn, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 which broke the sound barrier, the model of the starship Enterprise used in the television show Star Trek, and the Wright brothers’ Wright Flyer airplane. The Wright Brothers papers are in the Museum of Flight in Seattle (they outbid the Smithsonian!). Sam’s Dad (Kayla’s Uncle) is affiliated with the production of Boeing planes at the big plant just north of where they both live; interesting to see the many Boeing exhibits here. The space craft was mind boggling in size; a lot of gazing up, plus IMAX® films on a five-story screen, and a quick cafeteria lunch. https://airandspace.si.edu/

Taxi! Tours of the Capitol begin in the Visitor’s Center on the east side now; I remembered that from my 2013 visit. Tours are free but you need an advance reservation, ours was for 3 PM. First a 13-minute intro film, then stops in the Rotunda. The Dome is encircled by murals, and the fresco on the eye of the ceiling is called The Apotheosis of Washington. The walls of the Rotunda have large paintings depicting significant events in American history such as The Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Other stops include the Crypt, National Statuary Hall, and connecting corridors of the Capitol, where there are statues representing every state. We got pictures beside the Washington and Arkansas statues. The Arkansas statues are of James Paul Clark and Uriah Milton Rose, both lawyers and politicians; the Washington two are Mother Joseph and Marcus Whitman. I visited their duplicates in the Olympia capitol with Kayla in 2012. https://capitalcitiesusa.org/?p=4667#more-4667 I’ve visited two state capitols with Kayla, the other was in Honolulu; and two with Sam; Juneau, Alaska and Jackson, Mississippi. Both have been to the Little Rock capitol with me, and now the US Capitol! Our guided tour didn’t include the Senate and House galleries, but we were able to make a quick walk-through to see where our state representatives and senators meet to conduct business. And debate. Live streaming is available when in session. https://www.house.gov/watch-houselive

Taxi! Our hotel for a rest before deciding on dinner. I was hoping the “roller skating waiters” French restaurant was still open; not so, it closed years ago. But Martin’s Tavern is still open, with this enticing blurb: A GEORGETOWN TRADITION. For almost nine decades, visiting guests, future presidents, senators, staffers, and stars have called Martin’s Tavern their home away from home. It’s where JFK proposed to Jackie, and where baseball greats including Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Yogi Berra dined in the “Dugout Room.” Every president from Harry S Truman to George W Bush has come to dine, discuss, and relax while shaping the nation’s history. https://www.martinstavern.com/

While we enjoyed our salads and all manner of good solid American food we watched for any presidents since George W Bush to pop in. And shaped our own history, NDI RTW style.



Politics and Legacies

Originally published August 14, 2020 by Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – When asked what they most wanted to see in DC, Kayla answered: the National Air & Space Museum. Sam answered: a Nationals game, I go to a baseball game in every city I visit. My choice was the Capitol, I never tire of seeing it, outside and in. I’ve been going to DC since I was fourteen, back before everything was barricaded and closed to cameras. According to an old scrapbook, I visited the White House on June 14, 1953, when Ike and Mamie lived there, though I have no memory of “politics” then, except for the familiar “I Like Ike” slogan, surely one of the catchiest any candidate has ever had.

Eisenhower’s 1952 presidential win was a landslide, with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, ending a string of Democratic Party wins that stretched back to 1932. Eisenhower was the last president born in the 19th century, and the oldest president-elect at age 62 since James Buchanan in 1856. He was the third commanding general of the Army to serve as president, after George Washington and Ulysses S Grant, and the last not to have held political office prior to being president until Donald Trump entered office in January 2017.

We’ve hit DC in an election year, on this NDI RTW, and my 18-year-old grandchildren will be voting in a presidential election for the first time this November. What is important to take away from their visit to our national capital? The current buzz is awful, mean-spirited, and not particularly useful in helping anyone make good decisions. Have election-years ever been this bad before? The answer is – well, yes, they usually are.

For instance, not everybody liked Ike! Before, during, or after his presidency. The Wikipedia report of the life of Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) describes his many accomplishments, from his birth in Texas as the third of seven sons to photos of the 66 medals and awards he received from all over the world. Some of his official titles were Supreme Allied Commander and Operation Overlord, Military Governor in Germany and Army Chief of Staff, President of Columbia University and NATO Supreme Commander, President of the United States (1953–1961). Pretty lofty stuff.

Though his reputation declined when he left office – crictics dubbed him as “an inactive golf-playing president” – historian John Lee Gaddis summarizes how he may be remembered: He did, after all, end the Korean War without getting into any others. He stabilized, and did not escalate, the Soviet–American rivalry. He strengthened European alliances while withdrawing support from European colonialism. He rescued the Republican Party from isolationism and McCarthyism. He maintained prosperity, balanced the budget, promoted technological innovation, and facilitated (if reluctantly) the civil rights movement.

I’m reading about Ike on my laptop this morning, near the window of our hotel room that overlooks the city. We’re only three miles from the capitol, we saw it as we came in last night. Maybe I’ll mention some of Ike’s legacies to Sam and Kayla when they wake up, before we start our adventures. Both have visited the Civil Rights Museum in Little Rock with me, where the story of the integration of Central High is told. On September 4, 1957, the Arkansas National Guard was called in by the governor to “preserve the peace” by preventing the nine newly enrolled black students from entering the school. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to support the integration, and held firm through the chaotic times that followed. Another legacy that might be of interest to Kayla: after Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union in October 1957, Eisenhower created NASA as a civilian space agency and signed a landmark science education law. Kayla’s interest in the National Air & Space Museum is strong; she attended Space Camp a few summer’s back, and her school interests are science and math, classes that were not available, especially for girls, when I was a teen.

Two states were admitted to the Union during Eisenhower’s presidency; Alaska on January 3, 1959, the 49th state, and Hawaii on August 21, 1959, the 50th. I’ll remind Sam of our visit to the Alaska capital in 2012; we went back a second time just to get pictures of all the newspaper articles of “statehood day” and to see the short-lived 49-star flag. We talked about the fact that Eisenhower was the only president ever to serve under 49 stars. https://capitalcitiesusa.org/?p=5308#more-5308

I’ll tell them about “The Pledge of Allegiance” too; how it was changed in 1954 to add the words “under God;” something Eisenhower encouraged Congress to do because Communism was so feared in the country at the time. And then there is the legacy of the FREEWAYS! The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized construction of “The The Dwight D Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” How many miles of freeways we have in the country today I do not know; I do know that the longest stretch is I-90 that connects Boston and Seattle – 3,020 miles. I was living in Seattle when the very tail end of it was completed in the early 80s, in fact, I moved downtown to get away from the construction noise!

It’s getting noisy outside now, cars moving on a busy morning, and I still need to figure out how to get us to all the places we want to go. A baseball game is out; the Nationals are in Baltimore today, but maybe we can get a taxi to Nationals Field and at least tour the place. The National Air & Space Museum is about halfway between our hotel and the stadium; so is the Capitol, my plan is lining up.

Will we see Secret-Service black limos go whizzing by today? Campaign posters everywhere? Is POTUS in town?


About Kamala Harris

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton – Go wide and go deep are marketing buzzwords, football strategies; and just plain common sense when you go about considering things. Yesterday I talked about Joe Biden and his depth of experience. Today, let’s go wide with Kamala Harris, the 49th Vice President of the United States. Her experiences are as wide as the oceans, borderless and interracial. She is half black, she is half Asian; she is 100% American. Her father was born in Jamaica, her mother was born in India, and she was born in the United States. An interesting connection popped into my mind about these three countries: as different as they are, all were once under British colonial rule; all struggled for independence; all succeeded.

India & Jamaica & the USA

Let’s talk about the biggest country first. Located in south Asia, India takes up more than 1 million square miles on the planet; it is the world’s 2nd most populous country with over 1 billion people; it is the world’s most populous democracy. Kamala’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born there in 1938, when India was still under British colonial rule. Independence was attained in 1947, when Shyamala was 9 years old, and by the time she was 28 in 1966, Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, the first female to serve her country as such.

Jamaica is a tiny Caribbean island nation, just south of Cuba, with a land area of 4,244 square miles and a population of just under 3 million. Kamala’s father, Donald Jasper Harris, was born in Jamaica in 1938, when Jamaica was still under British colonial rule. A colonial Jamaican government scholarship brought him to the University of California Berkley in 1961. On August 6, 1962, Jamaica gained its independence and Alexander Bustamante became Prime Minister. And that was the year Donald Harris met Shyamala Gopalan.

The United States sits mostly in the middle of North America, with a land area of 3,796,742 square miles and 330+ million people, the 3rd largest country in the world in both size and population. Kamala Devi Harris was born in the United States October 20, 1964, some 181 years after the end of British colonial rule. Vice President Lyndon Johnson had become President after the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963; it was the time of the Great Society, the War on Poverty, the Voting Rights Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The 1960s, and Then

Berkeley was a hotbed of activism in the 1960s. Donald Harris arrived there from Jamaica in 1961, remember, as a graduate student in economics. Shyamala Gopalan had been there since 1958, heading halfway around the world at age 19 to study nutrition and endocrinology. The two met in 1962 at a meeting of the Afro-American Association, he spoke that evening; they talked; more meetings, more talk. They married the next year; two bright, intelligent people caught up the electricity of change – at Berkeley, across the United States, in their home countries. Jamaica became an independent nation; Indira Gandhi became India’s first female Prime Minister; Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights agenda took hold. Shyamala earned her PhD in 1964; Donald earned his in 1966. They had babies together, two daughters, Kamala in 1964, Maya in 1967. They moved around as their careers began to bloom; university teaching appointments, research. In 1972, they parted ways. Shyamala’s reputation in cancer research is legendary; it led to advancements in the knowledge of hormones pertaining to breast cancer; she served on the President’s Special Commission on Breast Cancer. Donald’s reputation is equally solid; Professor of Economics at Stanford from 1972-1998, now Professor Emeritus there. Throughout his career he has worked on economic analysis and policy regarding the economy of Jamaica and served as economic advisor to successive Prime Ministers.

Going Wide

So what did that mean for Kamala? It means she was born to parents from vastly different backgrounds; college students who left their home countries and worked hard to earn advanced degrees and move forward into productive lives. It means that in 1969 California, as part of Berkeley’s comprehensive desegregation program, she was bused to kindergarten from her black neighborhood to a more prosperous white one. It means that when she visited grandparents, she got to travel to Jamaica, and to India. It means she romped and played with cousins whose accents were different from hers, and each other’s. It means she became the child of divorced parents; she and her sister moved to Quebec with their mother. She attended a French-speaking primary school; she graduated high school in Montreal in 1981; then on to Howard University in Washington, DC. While at Howard, she interned as a mailroom clerk for California senator Alan Cranston, chaired the economics society, led the debate team, and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, graduating in 1986 with a degree in political science and economics. Law school next at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where she was president of its chapter of the Black Law Students Association. Law degree 1989; California Bar 1990. That’s 26 years of Going Wide, I’d say.

The Next 30 Years

Beginning in 1990, Kamala did “lawyer work,” Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, California; Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco; she prosecuted homicide, burglary, robbery, and sexual assault cases; she ran the Family & Childrens Services Division representing child abuse and neglect cases. Then in 2003, she ran for her first elected position, and won; here’s the list from there:

  • 2003 San Francisco District Attorney
  • 2007 San Francisco District Attorney
  • 2010 California Attorney General
  • 2014 California Attorney General
  • 2016 US Senator, California (note: sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden in 2017)
  • 2020 US Vice President

Personally, she lost her mother; Shyamala died in 2009; Kamala and sister Maya journeyed to India to scatter their mother’s ashes in the Indian Ocean. In 2014, she got married, gaining not only a husband, but two step children. Douglas Craig Emhoff was born to Jewish parents in Brooklyn October 13, 1964; the family moved to California when he was 17. He has a law background too; as the new Second Gentleman he gave up his law practice but will be joining the faculty at Georgetown University Law Center. The kids from his earlier marriage – Cole and Ella (named after John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald) – are 26 and 21 now, did you notice them on the platform at the Inauguration? They call Kamala “Momala,” a new term for our dictionaries, as is “Second Gentleman.” Her family has continued to grow; sister Maya (also a lawyer) has a daughter Meena (also a lawyer); Meena has two daughters, Amara and Lela, the cuties you may have noticed in the Inaugural Parade wearing those faux fur leopard coats which were inspired by similar coats worn by Kamala and Maya when they visited their grandparents in India as children.

So Here We Are

Kamala’s inauguration as the United State’s first female, inter-racial, multi-cultural vice-president was celebrated not only in the United States, where a dazzling fireworks display capped off the evening, family members and followers celebrated the event in Jamaica and in India too. It went wide! Note the poster display congratulating Kamala with flags from each of the three countries.

What brought Kamala to this place in history? I dug up a few things her parents said to her over the years.

Father Donald Jasper Harris: My message….was that the sky is the limit on what one can achieve with effort and determination and that, in this process, it is important not to lose sight of those who get left behind by social neglect or abuse and lack of access to resources or ‘privilege’; also not to get ‘swell-headed’ ….and that it is important to ‘give back’ with service to some greater cause than oneself.

Mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris: “It’s too hard!” is never an acceptable excuse. Being a good person means standing for something larger than yourself. Success is measured in part by what you help others achieve and accomplish. Most of all, Kamala recalls, her mother instilled in her that she should always “fight systems in a way that causes them to be fairer, and don’t be limited by what has always been.

Don’t be limited by what has always been. “I may be the first to hold this office,” Kamala said on November 7, 2020, commenting on the uniqueness of her election, “but I won’t be the last.”


About Joe Biden

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton — Joseph Robinette Biden Jr is the 46th president of the United States. Besides what you’ve heard from media blasts, what do you know about the man? Probably what the latest media focus tells you, and which media you choose to listen to. To start with a basic fact, let’s take Joe’s birthdate. It is November 20, 1942, so yes, he’s the oldest elected president ever. Is that a bad thing? Maybe that depends on your age. Do you have respect for your elders? Or do you lean towards the theory that people “lose it” as they age? I was three years old when Joe was born, so in my mind, Joe hasn’t lost it, he “gets it.” He, and I, have lived through the scares and fears and patriotism of WWII and its aftermath; the conformity of the 50s when folks settled back into traditional roles, though civil rights issues began to grip our thinking. The 60s, 70s, 80s brought us Barbie, Vietnam, Moonwalks; women’s rights, gay rights, Watergate; hippies, me-first, greed, AIDS. We morphed into the 90s learning to depend on the internet, chatting with total strangers once the whine and click of “signing on” connected us to the world beyond. We got mail! We eased into a new century despite doomsday forecasts of our worldly systems shutting down. We got hooked on technology and upping our range; our phones became cameras; Bluetooth, Facebook, YouTube became our crutch; Twitter and Going Viral became the norm.

Then came 2020, “the worst year ever” is its label now; it slapped us hard. A virus? As the year wore on, our disbelief turned into shrieks of blame; or avoidance of the issue. We quarantined at home, or we did not. We masked our faces, or we did not. We were angry, disillusioned, unemployed, sad. We canceled plans, and dreams. Buried feelings festered as we sat at home, losing sight of what had been our normal life. Small irritations grew large. We missed the human touch. When you can’t be in the world yourself, you reach for promises, hoping somebody knows what to do.

That is the world as Joe Biden steps into the role of leadership in 2021. What a plate of hoo-ha we’ve handed him to deal with! Can we trust him to do it? Joe is not perfect. But he has lived through vastly changing times, as humans have behaved badly, and then regretted it; as thinking has changed with lessons learned. Joe has done some really good things in his lifetime; and apologized for a lot of things he regrets. Joe has experienced great loss; he was sworn into his first role as a Senator in 1973 in the hospital, just after his wife and infant daughter died in a tragic accident that injured his young sons. He has been a single parent, but moved on into a second marriage with Jill Jacobs, now in its 44th year. He has fathered four children – Beau, Hunter, Naomi, Ashley – and has seven grandchildren today. He has a sister and two brothers, Valerie, Jim, and Frank. His parents – Joseph Sr and Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden – lived long, into their 80s and 90s; they died in 2002 and 2010; his oldest son Beau had too short a life; he died in 2015 at the age of 46. Various members of his family have made him proud, and at times given reason for concern, but he’s always been a family man, and a man of faith. Records show that Joe lived a basically middle-class life; his parents dealt with both good times and hard times. Joe had to overcome a speech impediment; his college years were not extraordinary. But Joe persevered. Joe gets it.

A lot of people like Joe Biden. Let’s look at his electoral record, since 1970, when he was 28 years old, just starting out there in Delaware:

  • 1970 County Councilor, 10,573 votes or 55% of total
  • 1972 US Senator, 116,006 votes or 50% of total
  • 1978 US Senator, 93,930 votes or 58% of total
  • 1984 US Senator, 147,831 votes or 60% of total
  • 1990 US Senator, 112,918 votes or 63% of total
  • 1996 US Senator, 165,465 votes or 60% of total
  • 2002 US Senator, 135,235 votes or 58% of total
  • 2008 US Senator, 257,484 votes or 53% of total
  • 2008 US Vice President, 69,498,516 votes or 53% of total
  • 2012 US Vice President, 69,915,795 votes or 51% of total
  • 2020 US President, 81,268,757 votes or 51% of total

That adds up to 217,722,528 times people “voted for Joe” in the last 50 years. And 81,268,757 people who want Joe to be our President for the next four years. If you are one of them, or if you are not, you need to read what he said in his Inaugural Address on January 20, as he accepted the job we elected him to do; all 2,514 words of it. It’s a declaration of intent, filled with purpose, and closing with a sacred oath. It’s a request to each of us to do our part; a leader is there to lead, to enable us to be the best that we can be. A great America is a cooperative effort. Wear your mask. Get your vaccination. Help your neighbor. Listen before you leap. See the possibilities.   https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/01/20/inaugural-address-by-president-joseph-r-biden-jr/

I share with you a few lines of that Inaugural Address that were most meaningful to me.

From President Joe Biden

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.

I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next. I get it. But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.

We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility. If we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes just for a moment. Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.

There are some days when we need a hand. There are other days when we’re called on to lend one. That is how we must be with one another. And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future….in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.

My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you I give you my word.

  • I will always level with you.
  • I will defend the Constitution.
  • I will defend our democracy.
  • I will defend America.
  • I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Tomorrow: About Kamala Harris


Inauguration Day 2021

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton – Yesterday was a great day for unabashed television viewing. I watched our incoming Vice President and her husband arriving on the platform at the Capitol; then our incoming President and his wife taking a seat. Much hype was made of the fact that “Joe Biden is the oldest president ever elected” and “Kamala Harris is the first woman, the first black, and the first Asian elected to such a high-ranking federal position.” Since I am both OLD and a WOMAN, the whole thing tickled me pink. I watched the oaths of office, solemnly taken, Vice President Harris first, as custom dictates. I watched the supporting spouses, right there, a new First Lady and our first ever Second Gentleman. Masked faces, except when speaking, and in between, a conscientious fellow with a pack of Sani-wipes, making the podium safe for the next person. Famous people showed up to sing for us; Lady Gaga in gigantic glamorous red sang the National Anthem, Jennifer Lopez sang a medley of patriotic songs with the Pledge of Allegiance done in Spanish, and Garth Brooks took his hat off for Amazing Grace. Plus, and it’s a big plus, a new star lit up the sky! Her name is Amanda Gorman, and her reading of her poem, The Hill We Climb, has everybody talking.

Following are some of my favorite moments from the televised events of the day. My “screen swipes” I believe they are called.

Arriving for the ceremony.

Incoming Vice President Kamala D Harris takes the oath of office.

Incoming President Joseph R Biden Jr takes the oath of office.

Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence departs the Capitol.

President Biden and Vice President Harris at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama and their wives observe.

Secret Service agents escort #46 on the way to the White House. The Presidential limousine has doors five inches thick; manhole covers are welded shut before such processions take place.

Awaiting the Presidential limousine, view from the White House porch.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden wave from the White House.

The evening ends.

Tomorrow: About Joe Biden


The President Takes Office

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton – Every four years, that’s the limit, and it’s been that way since George Washington’s day. It’s right there in the Constitution, Article. II, Section. 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector. The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States. Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript

March 4, 1789 was set as the date “for commencing proceedings” of the new government; unfortunately bad weather delayed George Washington’s first inauguration until April 30. After that inaugurations took place on March 4 until the 20th Constitutional Amendment, ratified in 1933, moved Inauguration Day to January 20. Why so long between the November election of a new president and vice-president until they actually assume their duties?

Because back then things simply took longer to get organized – counting votes, assembling a new cabinet, and traveling to the capital. That in-between period, referred to as the lame-duck time of a presidency, has caused problems for our country, especially in times of crisis. After the 1860 election seven states left the Union; outgoing President Buchanan took no action; incoming President Lincoln had no power to act. After the election of 1932, when the country was in the throes of the Great Depression and shanty-towns dotted the landscape, outgoing President Hoover and incoming President Roosevelt met to discuss policy, but did not agree on a move forward; no action taken. And even with the switch to a shorter lame-duck period, the election of 2020 occurred during a worldwide pandemic. As our country floundered, plagued by a rapidly rising death count, a desperately sinking economy, and unparalleled business and school shutdowns, outgoing President Trump took no action; incoming President Biden had no power to act.

Until today. Inauguration 2021 may go down in history as one of the most unusual ever – masked faces and sparse crowds because of our deadly health crisis and the new norm: social distancing. Intense crowd control due to violent political activists who stormed the capitol January 6 with the alleged purpose of overturning the Congressional certification of votes.

The tried and true were there – members the of Biden and Harris families, members of Congress, former presidents – Bill Clinton with Hillary, George Bush with Laura, Barack Obama with Michelle. Outgoing Vice President Pence was there, but our outgoing president chose not to attend. How many times has that happened? Not many; here’s the list:

  • John Adams did not attend the 1801 inauguration of Thomas Jefferson.
  • John Quincy Adams did not attend the 1829 inauguration of Andrew Jackson.
  • Martin Van Buren did not attend the 1841 inauguration of William Henry Harrison.
  • Andrew Johnson did not attend the 1869 inauguration of Ulysses S Grant.
  • Donald Trump did not attend the 2021 inauguration of Joseph R Biden Jr.

But guess what. Though the crowd had to be limited, over 40 million people were able to participate in the inauguration of Joseph R Biden Jr as President and Kamala D Harris as Vice-President, thanks to extensive media coverage.

And I was one of them.

Tomorrow: Inauguration Details


A House Full

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton – Yesterday I talked about the US Census. Now you can see why the count of PEOPLE is so important in our united STATES! Each state gets two senators, but the Constitution provided for a House of Representatives based on population. Let’s go back to that original document, where Section 1 states: All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. Section 2 spells out the directives for the House – two-year term, at least 25 years old, a resident of the US at least seven years, and a resident of the state they represent.

The Logic

The Constitution intended to have two different groups each with a different method of representation: the Senate, always, to have TWO representatives from each state, no matter the land area of the state, or the number of people who live in that state. Meaning, today, Rhode Island, the smallest US state with 1,545 square miles, and Alaska, the largest state with 665,384 square miles, are entitled to the same number of senators: TWO.

But the House of Representatives, the Constitution writers figured, should be based on the number of people in each state – We The People, remember? So they rigged up a system to count people, and then allot a certain number of representatives based on population.

Today, the number of Representatives is fixed at 435 (a House full!), representing – got your calculator handy? – whatever a state’s population may be. Here’s a link to see, and track, who represents you, and how that divvies up state by state, and political party by party; it’s the website maintained by the House of Representatives. https://www.house.gov/

From That House Site: Also referred to as a congressman or congresswoman, each representative is elected to a two-year term serving the people of a specific congressional district. The number of voting representatives in the House is fixed by law at no more than 435, proportionally representing the population of the 50 states. Currently, there are five delegates representing the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. A resident commissioner represents Puerto Rico. Learn more about representatives at The House Explained.

Unlike the Senate, where residents of the District of Columbia and US Territories have no voice, the House provides for delegates who have no vote, but do have floor privileges, can serve on committees, and can introduce legislation.

Can you guess which state has the most delegates in the House? You guessed California, of course, because California has the most people.

In 2021, California has 53 delegates in the House of Representatives. Seven states – Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming – have 1 delegate each in the House of Representatives because these states have the fewest people. Does this change as population shifts? Yes, it does. “Reapportionment” is the word.

Seeing the People

Imagine the differences in needs and viewpoint scattered out there in our 50 states! To really get a handle on these variations, read the summaries I wrote during my Journey Across America as I experienced PERSONALLY what makes up our country. What a way to dispel pre-conceived notions and see what is really there. It took me two years and 31,710 miles to get around to all of you. But I can vouch for this: the United States is  full of great people.

Our 435 delegates in that crammed-full House have a tremendous task to do, representing not just their state, but working for the good of everybody. And us PEOPLE have a tremendous task too (besides getting along with each other), and that is to thoughtfully elect delegates – to both the Senate, and the House of Representatives, that work together for the highest good of all of us.

We The People is a pretty awesome concept, when you think about it.

‘Nuff said.

Tomorrow: The President Takes Office


Two by Two – The Senate

Posted from the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas by Linda Lou Burton – Although the 2020 US Census count has not yet been released, there is a rolling counter on their website that will give you the second-by-second estimate. As I write this post on Monday, January 18, the counter says there are 330,831,523 of us in the United States. By the time you read this post, the number will have changed – there is one birth occurring every 9 seconds, one death every 10 seconds, and one international migrant every 47 seconds, for a net gain of one new person becoming part of the United States of America every 26 seconds. Here’s the counter link, look for yourself: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/geography.html

Back in 1790, when our Constitution went into effect, the US had 13 states and a population of 3,929,214. The largest city in the country, New York, had a population of 33,331. Philadelphia, where those 55 guys met to thrash out a Constitution for this baby country, was the second largest, with 28,522 residents. Just think – there were no cell phones, no airplanes, no fast foods, and, in their summer meeting room, no air conditioning. Those fellows could not possibly have foreseen what we are today – almost 4 times as many states, and almost 100 times as many people!

Yet the Constitution they put together still stands, with the additions of The Bill of Rights (rather quickly) and, over the years, 27 Amendments. But interestingly, Article 1, concerning the Congress, still stands as set out in Section 1: All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The Senate

Let’s look at the Senate first. Every state, regardless of area or population, gets two senators, and each senator has one vote. Residents of the District of Columbia, and of the US Territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are not represented in the Senate.

That totals up to 100 people sitting in for 330+ million of us. These men and women have a tough job, but, unlike the 1700’s, an excellent system of two-way communication. The Senate.gov website, https://www.senate.gov/ not only lists every one of those 100, but allows you to connect with them throughout their term, and to observe the proceedings when they are in session.

So if you want to see for YOURSELF, sans the filters of the media, you can. In addition to LIVE sessions, all sessions are archived. Pick a date, say, January 3, 2021, when 32 newly elected senators were sworn in, and watch the elegant ceremony – two senators at a time, called in alphabetical order and accompanied by the other senator from their state, came to the front for the administration of the oath of office. They carried a Bible or a favorite text in their left hand, raised their right hand, and said “I do” to these words read aloud by the President of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence:

Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God?

There was a congratulatory elbow bump afterwards by President Pence, then each new mask-wearing senator stepped to the desk of the Senate secretary and signed the Senate Oath Book.

Something worth watching, two by two. https://www.senate.gov/floor/index.htm

The 117th Senate convened during the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, and will end on January 3, 2023, meeting during the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency. Beginning January 20, 2021, the new President of the Senate will be Vice President Kamala Harris.