Taking a Few Days of Vacation, Visiting Washington, D.C.

Kansas Viewpoint

Trip has become annual event, still evokes memories of first trip to D.C., powerful emotion

Published on: April 2, 2013

I’m about to do something I don’t do very often: take vacation days.

As most of you know, I really, really love my job. I love it so much, in fact, that I find myself forgetting it is actually a job and not something I do just because I want to do it. I guess that is why I often forget that I am entitled to take vacation from it now and again.

This week and next I am taking a few days either side of the annual North American Agricultural Journalists spring meeting (which is technically work that it is hard to think of as work amid the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.) to just enjoy being in Washington with one of my daughters, her husband and four of my grandkids.

We’ve made kind of a family tradition of the spring trip to the nation’s capital and the joy of introducing fertile young minds to the amazing history of this country, its heroes, its villains (thinking Ford’s Theater here, not modern politics).

I feel that we are incredibly blessed that we have an opportunity to do this. I didn’t see Washington, D.C. for the first time until between my junior and senior years of high school when I won a trip as a Rural Electric Cooperative essay contest winner. The topic was “How Rural Electric Cooperatives Strengthen Democracy” and I represented Cuivre River Co-Op in northeastern Missouri. I can still recite part of that essay, but don’t worry, I won’t.

That experience still stands out as a trip unlikely to be topped. We had an audience with the President in the Rose Garden that year -- 1965 -- and those who think that we are enduring national strife these days are either too young to know or have forgotten what life was like back then.

Since then, I have twice accepted first place writing awards, and a whole drawer full of lesser ones, from NAAJ at the annual awards dinner at the National Press Club. I have met subsequent presidents and am well-acquainted with Congressmen, Senators and other dignitaries, thanks to my job. The passage of time and the experience of myriad events in history have left my mind less impressionable than it was at 15.

One thing that never changes is the incredible sense of awe I feel when standing in LaFayette Square or the Rotunda of the Capitol building or at the bottom of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or in front of the words of Thomas Jefferson inscribed on the walls that pay tribute to his wisdom.

I can’t not visit the Vietnam Wall but I can’t go there without shedding tears for the dozens of names that evoke vivid memories of people from my childhood; playmates I grew up with, said good-bye to as they went off to war and never saw again; my first crush, the brilliant young Angus rancher who would have been my brother-in-law in a better, saner world.

We have endured much, overcome much as a nation. Every time I visit Washington, I am reminded of that and I feel encouraged. During the next 10 days or so, I hope you will follow me on this blog, the Farm Progress Website and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

I’ll keep you updated on the breaking news as the spring meeting unfolds and on some of the personal joys, memories and thoughts as we play and work and play some more in the capital city of this great nation.