An Invite From DAR

1 DAR Presentation ArkadelphiaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I was invited by Charlotte Jeffers, Regent of the Arkadelphia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, to speak at their April 14 meeting. “Do you want me to talk about the history of the capital cities, or my travel experiences?” I asked. “What will everyone be most interested in?” “We are interested in everything,” was the reply, so I decided to focus on our likeminded objectives, which sent me to the DAR national website.

I learned that DAR was founded October 11, 1890 and incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress. Objectives are listed as Historical, Educational, and Patriotic, so I honed in on the “educational” factor, since that is a primary objective of Capital Cities USA. For DAR, “to promote…institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion.” For Capital Cities USA, “to build community, character and citizenship through humanities education.” From Objectives to Methodology explains the Journey Across America: Item 1 – to assess civic, community and historic resources in the 50 capital cities of the United States and their capitol buildings by gathering data through on-site visits to each capitol and capital city. In a nutshell!

I began my talk with bottom-line statistics – departed February 28, 2012 and concluded December 18, 2013 for a total of 659 days. Traveled 31,710 miles and spent time in 50 state capitols and the national capitol in DC. Shared neighborhoods with 12,947,450 people as I lived two weeks in each capital city. (With my two cats, no less.) I shared a map showing the 75 overnight stops I made before settling down in Arkadelphia, and then moved into story telling.

“What learning opportunities did I find in the capitols?” I focused on five that were exceptional:
• Austin, Texas – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia – Tie With Springfield, Illinois as Most Welcoming
• Springfield, Illinois – Tie with Atlanta, Georgia as Most Welcoming
• Montpelier, Vermont – Most Intimate & Inviting, Best Volunteer Program, Most Meticulous Restoration

Austin Capitol Picture TakingMarch 13, 2012 was the date of my visit to the Austin capitol. So much was happening that day – long lines to get in and see, tours every 15 minutes, kids and parents celebrating spring break, a demonstration out front, dog walkers and bike riders and picture takers on the grounds, business and pleasure and learning and fun, all mixed together on a redbud-blooming day. Here’s the full story called Goddess of Liberty:

Boise Capitol Kids TourMay 23, 2012 was the date of my visit to the capitol in Boise. A 4th-grade class from Twin Falls was visiting that day, and I followed their tour. The children were allowed to sit at the senators desks while the tour guide spoke (none of that “don’t touch” stuff). “One of these desks could be yours someday. All these legislators were kids one day, just like you.” What a stunning motivation! He wasn’t giving kids the “history talk,” he was giving them the “future walk.” Here’s the full story called Do The Best You Can:

Atlanta Capitol StudentsFebruary 6, 2013 I visited the capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. The building is old and worn, with peeling paint and practically no attention to décor. But that day students from all over the state of Georgia were visiting to observe the legislature in session and to meet them face-to-face. The place was working alive with good intentions made solid. I came away with the overriding feeling that Georgia’s young people are getting a real-time view of their value in the scheme of government, and life. Here’s the full story called But I Tell You What:

Springfield Capitol Welcoming StatueMay 20, 2013 I was in Springfield, Illinois, another “school kids on tour” day, and the experience was dizzying with color, and noise, and excitement off the charts. But it was the two fellows at security who made me feel the most welcome. They were excited to hear about the Journey, and promptly asked “Is any other capitol as pretty as ours?” They spouted off facts, beaming with pride, and pointed me toward the open-armed statue in the entry that is Illinois Welcoming The World. Here’s the full story called As Pretty as Ours:

11 jims bookSeptember 11, 2013 was the day I toured the capitol in Montpelier, Vermont. It claims to be “intimate and inviting” and it is – no other capitol has green velvet settees right down front by the speaker’s chair in the Senate Chambers where visitors may sit during session. This capitol has been meticulously restored and is beautifully maintained. But the real story is the volunteer program. A town of just over 7,000 with over 100 people helping out in the capitol, amazing! Here’s the full story called Meticulous Attention:

I summed up my talk with some Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down facts. Every capitol building had many GOOD points, but some were extraordinarily good and some were noticeably lacking in accessibility (or charm). Below are the 10 I mentioned.

THUMBS UP and kudos.
• Austin, Texas, Pop 790,390, 3rd Largest Capital City – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho, Pop 205,671, 18th Largest Capital City – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia, Pop 420,003, 10th Largest Capital City – Most Welcoming (Tie with Springfield, Illinois)
• Springfield, Illinois, Pop 116,250, 30th Largest Capital City – Most Welcoming (Tie with Atlanta, Georgia)
• Montpelier, Vermont, Pop 7,855, Smallest Capital City – Most Intimate and Inviting, Best Volunteer Program (Over 100 Volunteers Work in Capitol!), Most Meticulous Restoration

THUMBS DOWN but nothing that can’t be adjusted!
• Nashville, Tennessee, Pop 601,222, 6th Largest Capital City – Most Difficult to Gain Entry (Limited Hours 8-4 M-F, No Visitor Parking, Photo ID Required, Name Checked in Database, Bags Searched, Photo Permit Must Be Worn Inside)
• Richmond, Virginia, Pop 202,214, 20th Largest Capital City – Difficult Entry (No Visitor Parking Near, Area Congested & Hilly. Entry Through Visitor Center Only & Xray)
• Montgomery, Alabama, Pop 205,764, 17th Largest Capital City – Beautiful Building But Uninviting Tone Inside (Governor’s Office Closed to Visitors & Guarded, No Guestbook)
• Concord, New Hampshire, Pop 42,695, 42nd Largest Capital City – Historic Building But Worn & Uninviting (Limited Hours 8-4 M-F, Only metered parking, Few Exhibits, No Regular Tours)
• Des Moines, Iowa, Pop 203,433, 19th Largest Capital City – Missed Opportunity for Graciousness (Beautiful Building, Ample Parking, Good Directional Signage, but Walking Tour Guidebook Must Be Purchased – Cheap Shot!)

3 DAR Group ArkadelphiaMy audience on April 14 was wonderfully receptive and afterwards enthusiastically pored through the various materials I’d brought. Some orders went through for Board member Jim Stembridge’s wonderful book, “Fifty State Capitols” (which, I mentioned, the buyer won’t carry in our Arkansas capitol gift shop because it lists other capitols!). Charlotte Jeffers ordered one to donate to the Peake School library here in Arkadelphia. I was pleased to see so much interest in our capital cities and, as always, appreciate the opportunity to talk about them.

2 Charlotte JeffersThanks Charlotte, and all DAR members, for having me! Keep up the good work you’re doing for the Arkadelphia chapter of DAR. Monthly meetings are at the Clark County Library on second Tuesdays, check the site for more information:

The Arkadelphia Chapter was organized June 9, 1916. Current officers are:
Regent: Charlotte Jeffers
Vice Regent: Nancy Rucker
Chaplain: Tommie Anderson
Secretary: Cynthia Keyton
Registrar: Gail Hennagin
Treasurer: Mary Curry
Historian: Gail Hennagin

Here is my presentation in PDF format:

DAR Story Book R3