Sunday, December 07, 2008

Opening the White House

There was much of interest in this morning's Meet the Press interview with Obama, but the end excited me the most:  first Obama makes politics cool; next up poetry.   
 MR. BROKAW: And General Shinseki was right.
Let me ask you as we conclude this program this morning about whether you and Michelle have had any discussions about the impact that you're going to have on this country in other ways besides international and domestic policies. You're going to have a huge impact, culturally, in terms of the tone of the country.


MR. BROKAW: Who are the kinds of artists that you would like to bring to the White House?

PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Oh, well, you know, we have thought about this because part of what we want to do is to open up the White House and, and remind people this is, this is the people's house. There is an incredible bully pulpit to be used when it comes to, for example, education. Yes, we're going to have an education policy. Yes, we're going to be putting more money into school construction. But, ultimately, we want to talk about parents reading to their kids. We want to invite kids from local schools into the White House. When it comes to science, elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about. Thinking about the diversity of our culture and, and inviting jazz musicians and classical musicians and poetry readings in the White House so that, once again, we appreciate this incredible tapestry that's America. I--you know, that, I think, is, is going to be incredibly important, particularly because we're going through hard times. And, historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that, that sense that better days are ahead. I think that our art and our culture, our science, you know, that's the essence of what makes America special, and, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House.
 As he began that answer I thought to myself, but say why the arts are important, especially now.   And then he did.  (That happened a couple of times and more often than ever, what comes out of his mouth is exactly what I'm thinking and hoping will come out of his mouth). 

As someone who worked who started her professional career working for the Congressional Arts Caucus (and later for PBS), I strongly believe in the importance of arts - literature and music and theater in our cultural and civic life.   So hearing this so excited me.  Our new president is a writer, a good one. 

When I think of this, it all seems unbelievable to me! He is really going to be our President.  

The other aspect that excited me was his statement that the White House needs to be open.  I'm not sure what that means beyond what he stated above, but I hope it means more than that.

For those of us who have lived in DC for the last 20 years, so much has been barricaded off.   One used to be able to drive right by the White House - north or south of it.   Now, all is blocked.  Not only do the road closures wreck havoc in the community, the message these concrete walls send is horrible.  Obama seems to understand that - both the importance of the relationship to the immediate community of DC, and the message such a lock-down sends.  

Here's hoping he opens the White House not only to local students, but allows local traffic to go by without locals having to be reminded of nefarious threats.  

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