Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 01/27/2009

Winner: Two Washingtonians

by Emilie Karrick Surrusco

Emilie Karrick Surrusco

Jewel Hall is my neighbor. Our rowhouses are separated by the two walls of the house in between. Oftentimes, Jewel and I will spend an hour trading neighborhood gossip or talking about our kids. We both are lulled to sleep by the recorded announcement of the Metro bus screeching to a stop on our street ("D4 Ivy City") or the throngs of teenagers laughing, cursing, shouting, fighting outside our windows. We both worry about the muggings and shootings and assaults that happen too close to home.

This is our shared Washington.

Jewel and I were both born and raised in D.C., but our lives were shaped by two very different cities. I grew up riding my bike down the wide, shady streets of Spring Valley in upper Northwest. I went to a school that catered to the sons and daughters of senators, where we were all groomed for the Ivy League.

Jewel grew up around the corner from where we live now in Northeast, just beyond Capitol Hill. She had her children early and stayed at home to take care of them and her husband. By the time she became a young grandmother, she found a job cleaning the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where she still works.

When I go to Dirksen, it's to attend a hearing or to meet with a staffer. My grade school classmates are the young political appointees and high-powered lawyers that will become the decision makers of tomorrow.

Jewel and I grew up in a city defined as the nexus of our nation's power. In different ways, that power has been part of our daily lives. For us, though, Washington is much more -- it's home.

To read about John Kelly's choices, visit Kelly's Commons. Join John Kelly in a live online discussion at noon to talk about what it means to be a Washingtonian.

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Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 01/26/2009

Poll: What's Your Favorite Entry?

As the essay contest nears an end, who do you think best summarizes what it means to be a Washingtonian?

Take a look at our submissions, and vote for your favorite. We will be announcing our pick on February 27, 2009 -- the anniversary of the passage of the District of Columbia Organic Act.


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Posted at 9:01 AM ET, 01/26/2009

'A Window Into Who We Are'

by Tina Fitzgerald Parks

Tina Fitzgerald Parks
Last summer I got married, and my husband and I honeymooned in Bora Bora. Surrounded by honeymooners from all over the globe, the first question we were always asked was, "Where are you from?" to which I would readily answer: "Washington, D.C." My husband would sometimes get irritated and say later, "We live on the Eastern Shore now; it's misleading to say D.C., and besides, you grew up in Potomac."

By the end of our trip, I finally did my best to explain to him my need to say "I'm from D.C.," and furthermore, what that means to me. "Look, I'm not just spewing out the closest metropolitan city to our Zip code; I am attempting to provide a window into who we are."

The proximity to the capital breeds a certain kind of people. We are sophisticated, politically conscious, culturally diverse, socially tolerant, environmentally conscientious and intellectually curious. We attend political rallies, walks for charity and fundraisers for anything; we believe in diplomacy and know how to "reach across the aisle." We join book clubs, rescue animals and attempt vegetarianism and Ethiopian food; we believe in the Redskins and hold a certain level of contempt for Ravens fans; we listen to WPGC and NPR in equal measure; we believe in education without being elitist and have an appreciation for classical music while also having a healthy understanding of go-go.

So, whether we are natives, transplants or living outside the Beltway, a certain Washington-ness bleeds from the four quadrants into the surrounding metropolitan area. Many of us Washingtonians have moved to other parts of the country since high school or college graduation, but we always seem to move back; we crave the companionship of like-minded people, of other Washingtonians, and that intangible that makes us so.

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Posted at 9:01 AM ET, 01/26/2009

Why I Love My Hometown

by Renee Sklarew

Renee Sklarew

Living in the nation's capital feels like sharing an apartment with a daunting giant who rules the world, while we, his roommates, go about our business. We live in the shadow of power. While some of our neighbors make decisions affecting the globe, others work to keep up with their groceries.

Mostly, we feel safe here and dine in restaurants of every ethnic cuisine. We care about the environment and raise our little Washingtonians to appreciate the rainbow of people they encounter every day. We willingly share our good fortune, even if we grumble about it occasionally.

Generally we obey the laws, try not to endanger others, and respect nature when we have the opportunity to enjoy it. We want to learn, long after our formal schooling, by reading and visiting our magnificent museums. We like the change of seasons, except when the humidity makes us weak at the knees. We love Metro and hate driving, but we do it a lot. Close by we have geographical choices -- rivers, oceans, mountains, beaches, along with parks, urban and suburban. We can enjoy sports as individuals or as spectators. While we indulge our pets, we share our town with wildlife like squirrels and deer.

It costs a lot to live here, but we think it's worth it. We struggle to afford our homes and lifestyle. We're giddy when the cherry blossoms bloom, no matter how many times we walked among their cotton candy petals.

We care passionately about our government. We represent the pulse of the country and the founders of democracy. He's our Lincoln, our Jefferson, and the Vietnam Memorial is our wall of perished veterans. We're entrusted to keep them safe and well-tended. We welcome you to visit and share our pride. Though we complain about traffic, it's still home.

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Posted at 9:01 AM ET, 01/26/2009

A Place to Call Home

by Kristin Stadum

"Where are you from?" he asks, this friend of a friend.

"Originally or currently?"

He screws up his face.

"Ohio," I say, "but I've lived here for almost a decade. . . . When can I say that I'm from D.C.?"

"Never," says the friend in the middle. "You can never say you're from D.C., not to someone born here."

I screw up my own face and stew for a minute or five. It isn't fair. I chose D.C. I continue to choose D.C. -- this is my home.

Every day, I walk to work past the Library of Congress, the Capitol, the Smithsonian, and I pass the spot where I waited in line to see Rosa Parks lying in honor, the same spot where I met the couple who came decades earlier to hear Dr. King speak at the Lincoln Memorial. It's watching fireworks from those same steps. It's lending beds, couch and floor for the inauguration.

Washington is interns and summer nights on the waterfront. Tourists who stand on the left while locals pass on the right. Taking pictures of strangers on the Mall.

It is baseball at Nationals Park. Screen on the Green. The Millennium Stage. Waiting in line for bluebucks at Market Lunch.

It's homeless people and senators. It's protests, marches and marathons, all snarling traffic. But I don't need to drive. I know the Metro; I'm learning the buses.

Some nights, I mingle with political wonks and schoolteachers, Marines and meteorologists all at the same time, all in the same bar on Capitol Hill. I remember the fires at the Capitol Lounge, Eastern Market and the Georgetown Library. I carry a library card, and I use it. I swim in a free local pool because I can. Because I live here.

"I might be from Ohio, but Washington's home."

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/26/2009

Potomac Fervor

by Margaret Cheney

Washingtonians are erudite. Book sales top the nation. Strangers remark about people reading on the metro, bus, elevators, walking down the street, even when driving. Washingtonians travel widely, do cutting edge research and throng Smithsonian lectures. On any topic, there are Washingtonians who know all about it. They conscientiously point out the misspellings, grammatical and factual errors that appear in the Washington Post so the paper has material for its "Free For All" column.

Washingtonians are politically liberal, but conservative in taste. They like quality, not glitz. In NY Penn Station, one can locate the line for Washington by the Burberry and camel hair coats - in summer, suits - and attaché cases. Besides, everyone is reading. Washingtonians serve their country, but drive foreign cars.

Washingtonians make decisions of world import, yet remain friendly and polite. They say "please" and "thank you" and hold doors open. Washingtonians make change or pay the fare for tourists who board the bus with a $ 20.00 bill. They patiently explain that it is the Smithsonian "Institution," not "Institute." At the Kennedy Center, Washingtonians give a nice round of applause - even for less than stellar performances. However, they don't wait around for many curtain calls because they arise early to jog, walk the dog, catch a plane.

Washingtonians are very creative. They paint, compose music, write mysteries and political speeches. They are masters at dancing around the point.

Washingtonians love the Redskins and are themselves athletic, enjoying a wide range of unusual sports including polo, jousting and spinning the facts. They hike the mountains and sail the Bay, but fear snowflakes.

Washingtonians live in a beautiful area with a gorgeous central city. They catch "Potomac Fervor" and never "go back to Pocatello." They stay and become lobbyists and consultants.

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/26/2009

DNA of a Washingtonian

by Roberta Birdman

Living here, it helps to have an inquiring mind and a boundless appreciation of history. Everywhere you look on the National Mall and even around the city, there are symbols of the past, i.e., memorials, monuments, museums, and statutes.
But there are also symbols of how diverse our population is, with many colors and cultures displayed for all to see. Once could say that this city is one of extremes, with the very poor and the very rich, or the haves and have-nots. There are many signs of modern tools, (iPods and cells) but we do not know the source of the users or what they consider priorities in their lifestyles.
Nevertheless, this is a very exciting place to live, especially when you have lived in other cities around the world.
Even though the newer museums may now charge a fee, there are still enough of the older ones to warrant visits to the Mall. So do not be negligent in sharing our wealth of knowledge on Our National Mall with your loved ones. Start today! Now!!!

No name included (shocking? I think not)

"What does it mean to be a Washingtonian?"
To me being a Washington means never having to say "I don't know." You are in the "know" if you live or work in Washington, DC or its suburbs. You constantly read about in the best newspaper around, "The Washington Post."
It always comes up in conversations with family and friends, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. There is no escaping, even to the suburbs, being called a Washingtonian (I like it!) Washingtonians are wonderful sport fans with a great football team, baseball team, and basketball team.
You can be proud to be a "Washingtonian" with all its magnificent buildings and monuments. Streets are numbered going north and south while lettered streets run east and west. There is the Kennedy Center and Constitution hall. Who could for anything more!

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/26/2009

'A Real Native'

by Jeannette Bradley Dere

Just being born in the city Washington does not make a person a native of the District of Columbia. Ones forbearers make a big contribution in their claim to being a real native.
My great grand father owned the finest steam cutting marble plant in the city. It was located in what is now the middle of the mall. Marble was supplied for the Capitol Building, The old Renwick Gallery across from the old Sate and Ware building, Congressional Cemetery and many other building in the city.
As a small child we were taken each year to the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. After cracking a few eggs we took them to my father at the Treasury Department where he was employed in the Supervising Architects office. There blue prints and charts were printed for all Government Buildings in the United States.
On one occasion we were taken to the White House to meet the President. Access was fairly easy in those days as there was no tight security. President Hoover didn't even have a bodyguard with him. Later on Mrs. Hoover came to Ben W. Murch School in Chevy Chase to plant a tree.
As a bold young 8 year old her to bring the President when she came again!
I grew up knowing so much history of Washington. My mother was a former schoolteacher and a schoolteacher can never forget to still teach.
We went by public transportation all over the city to see new additions to Washington. Walking the mall to visit all of the museums and memorials were always favorites on a Sunday afternoon.
The Hoopers and Bradleys were old families in the city owning land around Washington Circle and on Capitol Hill. They original came from England in the mid 1700s and mid 1800s.
So my sister and I really feel like we are native Washingtonians. Our children also were born in Washington D.C. at the Columbia Hospital for Women.

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/26/2009

'In the Loop'

by Ruth Darmstadter

It means to think I'm "in the loop" of being informed of things that are going on in the city, the country, and in the world--
Even if I'm not;
It means to think I'm aware of all the political gossip, scandals, and crimes against the national body politic--
Even when they happen I'm not on the spot;
It means to have access to some of the nation's best in theater, music, art, and other cultural events--
Even if I don't get out a lot;
It means that I really care when the Redskins, Nats, and/or the Wizards lose-
Even if at league titles they don't have a shot

It means to be outraged that DC has no voting members of Congress--
Even if I probably could do more to help DC get at least one;
It means wanting to help get the best in public education for DC children--
Even though I moved to Bethesda so my kids could go to schools there when all was said and done;
It means having parkland, hiking trails, and bike paths galore--
Even if I feel safer if I'm also close to members of the police corps
It means giving my grandkids a chance to learn the history of our country first hand--
Not just on school trips from across the land

For almost 50 years Washington has been, in my heart, my home
The city is unique, both as the nation's capital and locally;
Which is why I've tried to show in this so-called poem
That being a Washingtonian means so much to me

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/26/2009

Washington: In Pictures

by Lauren Henkin

Rock Creek Stables

Row Houses

Row Houses

Row Houses

Row Houses

16th Street Synagogue

The Avalon

Cleveland Park

Dumbarton Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks

National Arboretum

Q Street Bridge

Rock Creek Park

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 01/26/2009

'Inauguration Day'

by Natalie T. Ganley

I am never more proud to be a Washingtonian than on Inauguration Day. Only once have I been absent from the city January 20. That dramatic day in 1961 I was dreaming backwards through homesick tears to 1949.

In 1949 my fifth grade friend, Marylou, had invited me to the Inauguration. Zipped in velveteen leggings, hat and plaid wool coat against the cold, I climbed with Marylou and family into their black Chevy with its single digit DC plate. Downtown we were whisked through a back door to the District Building's second floor and Mr. Flanagan's Office of the Public Utilities Commissioner. The corner office had not one but two white stone balconies, one facing Pennsylvania Avenue and the other Fourteenth Street. Inside, the room soon filled with close friends and family. Platters of food began to arrive from nowhere. At swearing-in time the grownups huddled around a radio. Marylou and I listened politely, then with some success, tried out the soles of our black patent leathers on the polished corridor floors. We even explored an open broom closet and designated it our hideout. But the balcony, even in the bitter cold, kept luring us back. President Truman passed by and we cheered. But the main attraction for us was the parade of West Pointers and Midshipmen. All the way home we argued about which academy had the straighter formation.

That night, back at Volta Place, bathed and fed, we sat on the steps dreamily and watched Helen Flanagan adjust her elbow length gloves in the hall mirror while Jim Flanagan did a quick check on his tuxedo bow tie. They kissed us both and took off for the evening's events downtown.

I was born in Washington and loved growing up here. This Inauguration Day will be a first, to be sure. For myself, I'll be scanning the screen for those two white stone balconies at the corner of 14th and Penn and I'll remember fondly the Flanagans and my first Inauguration.

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