Episode 06. Washington, D.C.

“Cheers”

Washington, D.C. is the city that inspired this documentary series, exploring the role of restaurants in revitalizing neighborhoods. There’s so much good food, and such a premium on real estate in the city, that new restaurants are opening up in neighborhoods on the far corners of the District. Off the beaten path, those neighborhoods are often home to the city’s minority residents, and when new restaurants and businesses start to change the face of a neighborhood, those residents risk getting pushed out as developers buy up properties to build high rises targeted at a wealthier, whiter demographic.

One such neighborhood in the middle of change is Petworth. The Petworth area is a historically black neighborhood, but that’s clearly changing. I met with Jeremy Gifford of DC Reynolds and Paul Ruppert of the Petworth Citizen and Reading Room to talk about what they can do to help bring the community together as economic forces work to drive it apart. The secret might be in a neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name.

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Goodbye, Hello

There are many facts of life and one of them is that people change jobs.

There are a few reasons that people change jobs–they move, they get laid off, they get a better job–but there’s one constant to the act of job changing, and that is that people are always sad to leave.

I never watched the final season of “The Office” when it aired but I suppose that’s just as well because over the last two weeks it has been my dinner table companion. If you haven’t seen the final season of “The Office” I won’t spoil too much for you. But I will say that in wrapping up the show that final season, every reason you would ever leave an office happens: some move, others get laid off and still others get a better job. And there’s crying into cake, goodbye dance parties, promises to stay in touch…the usual components that come along with the act of leaving.

We all know that sometimes it is our friends leaving and sometimes it is us who will leave, but when it comes right down to it, it’s part of our shared human experience that transitions will happen.

Taxi Protest
Me, trying to find out why the taxi drivers were protesting by honking and driving around the Capitol in circles. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

So why–when we know this is coming be it tomorrow or next month or next year–why do we struggle to balance the sadness of leaving something behind with the excitement of starting something new?

I’m leaving National Journal. My first real job out of college, where I succeeded and stumbled, figuring out who I was and what I was capable of. I started out on the health care beat, where after a month and a half on the job, HealthCare.gov debuted and crashed and I spent the rest of the fall covering what would become the 2013 AP News Story of the Year.

After former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary, I snapped a photo of Speaker John Boehner. I probably gained 300 Twitter followers that day.
After former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary, I snapped a photo of Speaker John Boehner. I probably gained 300 Twitter followers that day.

From there I transitioned to covering Congress, studying the faces of lawmakers on the long metro commute to Capitol Hill only to realize that they’re all much older now than when their directory photos were taken. I quickly took to the foreign policy beat, writing about the one issue that will keep on going even when the political parties can’t agree on how deal with it. And it’s been a busy summer too; between the advances of ISIS in Iraq, Russia’s encroachment (invasion?) of Ukraine and the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, each story that it feels like I was there for from the start will keep on going until it morphs into the next chapter.

You'll always be my ominous House of Cards Capitol but I'll never be your Zoe Barnes.
You’ll always be my ominous House of Cards Capitol but I’ll never be your Zoe Barnes.

It’s been a good run. I walk away having learned who’s the friendliest face in the Senate, why the U.S. can’t keep its boots off the ground in the Middle East, and how to challenge charges from my health insurance company. I’ll miss my friends, my colleagues, my editors, and Rosita, the woman makes sure there’s coffee waiting for our tired souls as we start each day. I won’t miss the never-ending PR emails or the vitriolic commenters.

Waiting for a press conference to begin in the basement of the Capitol after a Pentagon briefing.
Waiting for a press conference to begin in the basement of the Capitol after a Pentagon briefing.

I’m headed to Green Buzz Agency. My second real job and I can’t keep my face from lighting up when people ask me about it. I’m going to be the new Assistant Producer, working on corporate client videos and expanding our film work into original documentaries. I’ll be doing everything from researching to interviewing to script writing to working on set to editing, but I’ll also be writing the blog, public speaking, managing the intern program and planning events. It’s a start-up, so I get to wear a lot of hats, and with such a small team, my input will really shape the direction and the success of our work. And it’s going to be a lot of work. But multimedia storytelling is where my heart has always been, and I’m so thrilled about the chance to build my creative visual skills. I’ll still be in the D.C. area, so despite the fact that I’m leaving, it’s not really goodbye.

It still feels like it though. It’s a strange limbo, knowing you are closing the door, knowing what you’re saying goodbye to, but not having the familiar comfort of knowing what comes next.

In the final season of “The Office,” people who had left come back. They weren’t gone forever, they were just doing something else, having their own adjacent narrative.

A new adventure.

And you can see it in their eyes. They’re really happy.

#Inauguration2013

  1. Rule No. 1: I will not use more than one tweet from each handle. This is mostly to limit me copying my feed into Storify and then hitting “publish.”
    Addendum to Rule No. 1: For every tweet included, many more were left out. Show some #FF to the gurus who kept the microblogosphere in business!
  2. Not going to lie, I’m secretly delighted that I couldn’t pick up @clararitger‘s Inaug credentials bc it means she’s coming sooner/sleepover.
  3. Friday, Jan. 18: In a last minute turn of events, I wound up arriving 24 hours earlier than scheduled so that I could pick up the #NotreDame student media credentials. NDtv pals @alliepriede and @NarratorVoice would land Saturday evening.
  4. What to do with an extra 24 hours? Eat delicious food, of course.
  5. Washington D.C. is home to some of the best food in the nation. Brenna – a NBC News Desk Assistant and 2012 grad – took me to Surfside in Glover Park, where I quite possibly dined on the best Mexican food in the northeast U.S.
  6. Saturday, Jan. 19: I met up with other Notre Dame alums – including Washington Editor for the National Review Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) – to see comedian (and fellow Irishman) Joe Kwaczala perform. He was hilarious, also, we were in a mall.
  7. Monday, Jan. 21: Malls are the hip and happening places in D.C., as you will witness below.
  8. An estimated one million people were standing in that crowd, and yes, I was one of them. If you want to find me, here’s a perspective shot taken by yours truly.
  9. An anti-abortion protestor somehow managed to get through security with a sign and wiggle his way up a tree. Capitol Police told me one reason the crowds were so bad was because they had to blockade the area around the tree in case he fell down. A ladder would not extend all the way up.
  10. Full audio of President Obama’s inaugural address now on @SoundCloud: at.wh.gov/h07E2 #inaug2013 Share favorite quotes w #InaugQuote
  11. I was very thankful for this audio, as the man in the tree was quite loud. Even louder were the chants from the crowd to “Shake the Tree!” to get him down. Walking up to strangers to ask them what they thought of the speech was fun because half of them either a) said they couldn’t hear it or b) said they didn’t know why I was media and standing among them. Frankly, I did not know either.
  12. #NotreDame student media taking over NBC News cc @NarratorVoice @alliepriede http://pic.twitter.com/74nIAB25
  13. That’s as legit as we get.
  14. Analysis: In second inaugural, Obama appeals to his progressive base nbcnews.to/SrYlSk #NBCPolitics
  15. Young people in attendance told me they were pleasantly surprised that Obama talked about climate change and LGBT rights. He got a favorable rating (expected) from those in the crowd who heard what he had to say.
  16. why was the president being inaugurated at a Beyonce concert?
  17. If only she hadn’t lip-synched, maybe she’d be more popular than the GOP at the ball…
  18. One thing Repubs seem privately confident about: O is a singular, historic figure. Loud chants of O-Ba-Ma today on mall isn’t the Dem norm
  19. Speaking of the ball and performances, they were aplenty. All live, too.
  20. fun. is doing their sound check at the DC Convention Center. @clararitger is pretty excited. #metoo #inauguration2013
  21. Fun. stole the show. Alicia Keys came a close second with her rendition of “Obama’s On Fire.”
  22. Alicia Keys Obama On FIRE 2013 Obama Inauguration Ball Changes Girl On Fire Performs
  23. Jeffrey Gerlomes of NDtv was with me at the event, and astutely recognized one young reporter’s media swag logo as of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.
  24. Arizona represents with @cronkitenews at #Inauguration2013. Lost cell service! #CNaz @JessicaGoldberg @Radnovich57 http://pic.twitter.com/KyANS1jP
  25. Vaughn Hillyard, center, is working in D.C. as a reporter and graduates in May. We shot stand-ups together, and Jeff interviewed him for Irish Eyes, a show on NDtv. All in all it was a great trip to D.C., spending time with fellow journalists and Notre Dame grads, and producing articles and news packages galore.
  26. Anyone free to be awesome and pick me up from the airport at 12:45? I have no cash for a cab #helpmeimpoor

March to Death

The University of Notre Dame and civil rights groups are not unfamiliar entities, and their connection lies in their leaders.

Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holding hands at a civil rights rally at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Photo taken from Hesburgh’s personal website. Click the photo to link to source.

Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sang “We Shall Overcome” on June 21, 1964, while at a civil rights rally. The image was acquired by the Smithsonian and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, though copies are also seen on campus at Notre Dame, most notably in the west archway of the LaFortune Student Center. Hesburgh was also the university president who allowed women to enroll as students in 1972, just forty years ago.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Discussion and dinner, student leaders gathered to confer on topics including America’s role abroad, the use of social media, poverty and inequality and the Notre Dame Catholic identity. The chat was brief, and I hope students will continue the conversation beyond what was tossed around over delicate salads and exquisite cakes.

Spotting a student whom I had encountered (and interviewed) previously, I bundled up in my overcoat and scarf and accompanied him on the brisk walk to our dorms.

A pro-life advocate and previous participant in the March for Life, he speculated his invitation to partake in the dinner was a result of his involvement in the well-resourced Right to Life organization on campus. His first comment?

“I’m not going to the March for Life this year,” he said matter-of-factly. “Perhaps if there were more opposition. During the civil rights movement, people were hosed down with water from fire hydrants. We’re not. Our protest just doesn’t have any sort of visual imagery. At the end of the day, we have to persuade you with words. And everyone is pretty set in stone with their views on abortion. I just don’t see the point.”

The March for Life occurs annually as a protest in Washington, D.C., where pro-life advocates gather to raise awareness about their cause. Notre Dame offers an all-expenses-paid trip for students who want to attend. They also grant coveted university-excused absences for those missing class to attend. Though I did not apply for one for my trip to the inauguration, knowing full well the result, my colleagues did try their luck to no avail.

I entreated him to go into greater detail.

“We carry signs that say ‘Stop Abortion,'” he told me. “I find it more beneficial to talk with students who maintain different views than my own and figure out where we have common ground. If I can get my guys together and he can get his guys together and we can all find one policy option we agree on, then who is going to stop us from building a bipartisan coalition and getting something done about abortion?”

I was astounded. There remain people in the world who are willing to compromise?

“Too many conservative politicians in D.C. take the all or nothing approach,” he furthered. “Either they pass their entire bill, untouched, and parade their triumph, or they boycott everything until they get their way. Look at gun control. They could take a trick or two from the liberals who are taking a step by step approach to reform. First, background checks. Then they can try for limiting magazines and models.”

My peer wants to start with getting third trimester abortions banned, which account for less than one percent of all abortions performed in the U.S.. This rare and invasive procedure is tough for pro-choice supporters to defend and the photos are grotesque. Plus, there’s much scientific evidence out there that the procedure poses safety risks to the mother. And of course, the new Sundance film also explores the practice.

“We must act” came from the mouth of a leader oft compared with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the progressive thinkers of our past. But it never seemed more appropriate than when I spoke with a pro-life brother.

Click to view source of featured image.