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Contest Winners: Making Obamas Feel At Home

With the president-elect and the future First Lady making sounds about being more involved in the local community than the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been (would it be possible to be less involved?), I asked readers last week to submit suggestions on how the Obamas could best connect with the Washington area.

First, here are the three winners of the contest (if you see your entry here, drop me an email with your name and address and I will send you a prize from the Vast Vat of Values):

Winner #1:
--From Bpookah: "First and foremost: replace those 'Taxation Without Representation' plates on the limo. Clinton used them, but W. had them removed instantly."
Excellent idea, and one that could be accomplished quickly, painlessly and with virtually no political risk. A definite winner. Putting the basic D.C. license plate on all presidential vehicles would give the locals a boost and at least put the president on symbolic record as supporting democracy in the nation's capital.

Winner #2:
--From "Beautiful Silver Spring:" "The Obama daughters should attend a National Symphony Orchestra kids concert or two. Get 'em knowledged up about classical music. Next time Chuck Brown plays Strathmore, Barack and Michelle should go to that."
Absolutely--presidents truly interested in the life of the city have realized for many decades that an occasional visit to local arts, cultural and culinary spots can be a tremendous boost both for local venues and programs and for arts philanthropy as well. It's time and energy well spent, and it can lift the intellectual, artistic and spiritual life of the nation.

Winner #3:
--From Johnklenert: Two excellent ideas. First, "Let DC appoint its own judges." A small gesture toward real home rule, but one that could boost the quality and credibility of our court system in a powerful way.
Second, "Make it to as many of our churches as you can. No need to choose just one to attend." A good way for the new president to get around town and bolster his message of an ecumenical, bipartisan, barrier-breaking America.

And now, the runners-up--no prizes for these, but truly honorable mention:

--From Kmcnayasha: "Hold several rally-type events with government employees at the Verizon Center (perhaps as a reward for good work?), to reinvigorate morale."
Splendid idea--and it would play to Obama's strength, while also perhaps making it cool again to work in the federal government. You'd think that a president might eventually realize that nonstop bashing of your employees is not the world's best morale booster--maybe this is the president to turn that around.

--Alexandria, Va., writes: "Instead of White House dinners for 'people of note,' Obama could continue an idea he used during the campaign. A couple of times, he held dinners with half a dozen or so supporters who made contributions during a specific interval. He could do the same without the contribution twist."
Great idea--hard to imagine he'd do it. But you'd think that in this era of focus groups and consultants banging on pols to demonstrate some connection to the lives of regular folks, a president might dish out a few White House invitations, and by all means, haul in the TV cameras while he's at it.

--Similarly, from Akchild: "Open the White House back up to the tours they used to do, perhaps he would be able to get down and meet with people coming through. It's a perk for everyone."
Another opportunity for the security-obsessed to protest against change, but the fact is that strangers come through the White House in great numbers even now. They just happen to be people who have connections to someone who works there, or tourists who are really, really determined to get in on the tours that do exist. There'd be no harm in reopening the White House the way it was before the terror attacks--obviously with security checks, but that's true at any of the most sensitive buildings in town.

--From Djwpost: "Externally by speaking out in favor of DC voting rights; re-opening the City Museum and similar acts to put DC's unique cultural history on the map from Duke Ellington to Marvin Gaye, etc. Maybe he could show up at a couple DC street fests, even if briefly such as "Adams Morgan Day" or "Taste of DC" etc. We need a larger voice that will let the American people know that people of all kinds live here, not just politicians and lawyers."
I wouldn't expect Obama to play any significant role in whatever the next chapter of the D.C. voting rights campaign may be. If a serious drive by a powerful Republican congressman--Tom Davis from Fairfax County--didn't do the trick, it's hard to see how a liberal Democratic president is likely to change the dynamic on the voting rights issue. And Democrats have a history of talking big and doing nothing on this question; see Clinton, Bill.

--From Washington, D.C.: "It would be great if the president used his powers of persuasion to institute a pre-season basketball tournament among the area's colleges and universities -- AU, GW, G'town, Catholic, Howard, Gallaudet and, yes, George Mason and Maryland could all participate. Would some schools be overmatched? Yes. But the community building effect could be extraordinary -- especially with the president presiding over the first tipoff."
An excellent idea, and just the sort of thing that a tiny bit of presidential pulpit-pounding might be able to bring to pass.

--Reopening Pennsylvania Avenue to car traffic. This came up several times, and it's a perennial wish among commuters. But it isn't going to happen, not in the next few decades anyway, and it has long since gotten to the point that the federal security mavens just roll their eyes when D.C. officials raise the issue. Equally important, the pedestrian mall that the avenue has turned into has proven a popular success, and a shortcut for commuters can't compete with that.

Finally, from benhere, an idea that was sure to win lots of support at this here news organization:

"Sit down with Weingarten, Shroder and Barry and offer to become part of the next Post Hunt (May 17, next year[yay!]). He could be at the very end of the End Game so he would only have to hang around for about 20-30 minutes. Or he could record the phone message that (inevitably) will be part of the End Game. Obama has a natural, well-developed sense of humor and likes to laugh - I think he might actually dig this idea."

That would be very cool indeed.

Thanks for playing, all.

By Marc Fisher |  December 5, 2008; 8:23 AM ET
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A great collection of ideas, Marc. Will you make some effort to ensure that they find their way to a high-level Obama staffer?

Posted by: ndgirl | December 5, 2008 11:35 AM

With all due respect to Winning Entry #2 -- isn't it a little presumptuous to assume that the Obama girls need to learn about classical music? How do you know they haven't already? They live in Chicago, after all, which last I checked has a better arts scene than DC.

Posted by: simpleton1 | December 5, 2008 2:46 PM

I think #2 is on the right track with The Kennedy Center. I've always thought that if I were president, the one perk I'd take fullest advantage of would be the Presidential Box. And on the nights when I wouldn't be using it, I'd make an effort to get those tickets beyond the usual circle of White House staff and cronies.

Posted by: cpnich | December 8, 2008 11:34 AM

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