Oh, Say Can You D.C.? Our Essay Contest Winners
How does that song go? You don't know what you've got till it's gone?
I thought about that as I was picking my favorite entries in our "What Does It Mean to Be a Washingtonian?" essay contest. Many of the essays shared that as a theme: Washington as a place remembered, moved away from, happily returned to.
It's fitting. After all, people say the Washington area is transients, full of people from somewhere else. The truth is, a lot of us come from here. Many of us left and came back. Many of us came here and realized this is where we belonged all along.
For our winner, Emilie Karrick Surrusco (left, with son Liam), returning meant seeing a Washington she'd never experienced before.
Is her Washington your Washington? Maybe not. But read all four of my favorites and I think you'll find your Washington in there.
In fact, taken together they form a sort of composite of "Washingtonianness." There's Renee Sklarew, cataloguing the benefits and frustrations of living here. And there's Tina Parks and Kristin Stadum, each not knowing exactly what to call herself before arriving at the same conclusion: I am a Washingtonian.
I wasn't surprised to see a familiar school of thought arise in some of the essays. It's the rather rigid definition of who can be a Washingtonian. Not born here? Sorry. Live in Rockville or Fairfax? Nope. Born in the District, moved away, then moved back? You forfeit your right.
I favor a more expansive definition. And besides, if you've only ever lived in D.C., what can you compare it to? One thing our winners have in common is a bit of distance from our city, an absence that makes the heart grow fonder.
Share your thoughts, and take your own stab at answering our question, in the Comments section below. And join me at noon for my online chat. That's what a Washingtonian would do.
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