A love letter to DC

I have always loved DC for a variety of reasons. My standard line is that it has all the culture and amenities of a big city while preserving  the charm of a small town. It’s pretty, clean, walkable, open…all in all, a lovely place to live and work. When I travel elsewhere, I am always happy to return.

While visiting New York for a wedding this past weekend, I think I stumbled upon what really draws me to DC. As usual, I was struck by how different cocktail conversation is outside of the beltway. Imagine, discussions not dominated by one’s career and politics. That, I would venture to say, is something we all notice when we leave this little city. That superficial detail also says a lot about the kind of people who populate this city versus most any other.

Around this time of year, with an election approaching, it’s almost too easy to see the “bad” of American politics today. The polarized, partisan, soundbyte driven, self-interested culture of the beast is on full display. One can nearly understand why vast swaths of the population are completely turned off by the whole process to the point of not participating at all.

Nearly, but not quite. Being here in the heart of it all affords one a unique view of the other side of the coin. It is the lament of anyone interested in this little system of government we have that the aforementioned characterization of its current state is quite true. However, as a resident of DC who works in that arena (doesn’t everyone who lives here?), I am struck by the people I meet on a daily basis. The overwhelming desire to do good is everywhere. Sure, the endless networking circuit can seemingly wring a lot of the purity out of one’s motivations in the drive to get ahead, but the core is still there. Most everyone I know works for organizations trying to bring about some vision of “improvement.” While we don’t always agree on the logic and method of getting there, there is a common sincerity, passion, and commitment to doing good that has motivated so many thousands of people to move to this itinerant city, which makes it truly unique.

The next time you find yourself rehashing the political drama of the day at a happy hour, consider how lucky we are to be surrounded by an entire community of people who know about what is going on in the world and endeavor, in one way or another, to play a part in it.

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3 responses to “A love letter to DC

  1. Having lived in DC since I was 18, I don’t think I’m fit for cocktail chatter anywhere else for just the reasons you cite. It’s one of the (many) things that keeps me here.

    I know, right? I feel like a fish out of water sometimes. :)

  2. I agree, people in DC are more educated and informed about national and world events, political and otherwise, than most other places I’ve been. But I disagree that most people who live here work in politics. I’ve been here 16 years, live a block from your picture, and my group of friends consists of artists, scientists, teachers, actors, writers, government employees, business consultants, economists, work for high-tech firms, museums, or law firms, none of whom are professionally involved in politics. Only one or two of our friends work for non-profits that lobby for a cause. I think it is misleading to characterize DC as being full of only political or politics-related jobs. In fact, probably a minority of jobs in this city fit that category. But you tend to make friends with people you work with and may not know much outside that life.

    That is certainly a valid point. I think it’s obviously the thing for which the city is most known, but your description might have been more accurate in that people generally just know and care a lot more about world events than most other places regardless of whether they make a living doing something relating to politics.

  3. I lived in Atlanta before I moved to DC (MANY years ago… before the internets), and I read the morning and afternoon newspapers, watched the local and sometimes the national news, and I subscribed to a news magazine, so I thought I was pretty well-read.My best friend from college grew up in Bethesda and she came down to visit me in Hotlanta — and I was greatly puzzled by how much more she knew about what was going on in the world that I did! I came to the conclusion that you get the news/politics/etc. by osmosis in DC. It’s one of the things I love about DC – but really, it’s the myriad ethnic foods that really makes the difference to me. :-)

    Interesting observation, thanks for your comment! And I’m definitely with you on the ethnic food options, haha.

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