Well, I’m back. I was in Washington most of last week with my new gig, Corporate Voices for Working Families. And I had the opportunity to be involved again with an announcement that actually did have some news value and received some national news coverage, in print and online. The idea was to recognize members of Congress for their personal and legislative support of polices that help working families.
One of the many things I’ve learned during the past few months is that Congress has no uniform set of polices that govern how each member operates his or her own office. In effect, each operates as an independent, small business — and the range of benefits provided to staffers varies widely. So Corporate Voices in conjunction with Working Mother magazine highlighted the “best of Congress.”
And being in Washington gave me the opportunity to spend some time gawking at the memorials and other landmarks. During all the years that I’ve been going to D.C. I always try to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — the Wall. I did that Saturday, during a walking tour that took me from the Washington Monument to beyond the Tidal Basin. (I had a longer tour on foot during the mid-1980s during the Marine Corps Marathon. But that’s another story.)
Anyway, the emotional pull to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remains just as strong for me today as the first time I visited years ago. Maybe because Vietnam was my generation’s war — although thankfully, I was able to sit it out at Kent State during my first tour of duty at the university now almost 40 years ago. Still, there is the starkness of the Wall — listing more than 58,000 names. And people throughout this nation and around the world — family, friends, strangers — still leave items at the base of the Wall to salute those who went to Vietnam and never returned.
This is all history now of course. Many strolling through the park were not alive during Vietnam. And I sat on a park bench Saturday listening the the park rangers and veterans talk about Vietnam and the memorial. And I thought to myself, good grief. How did we as a nation let that happen?
And how many names will there be on a Wall honoring those who don’t come back from Iraq?
Even though it seems the presidential election has been going on now for four years, the nominating conventions begin next week. Let’s see if there is some serious discussions of issues: Iraq, the economy, education.