Saturday, June 23, 2012

Week in D.C. (I am back on blogging)

Those who actually followed this blog in the past (ancient past since it has been a year or so) know that I have been thinking about doing some continuing study and that has pulled me from blogging. Indeed I am doing study again, working on a PhD in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.  Part of that learning involves three summer institutes, the first was in Dallas last summer, this summer it is in Washington D.C. (focus on Political Leadership) and next summer will be in Oxford, England (focus on Global Leadership).

Specifically during this week we will be focusing on the leadership of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. utilizing the lens of Ron Heifetz's book Leadership Without Easy Answers (among many, many others). Most critically, thinking about how these three leaders, from three different centuries of American history, led the nation in adaptive change.  In addition to being in D.C. and visiting the Pentagon, Congress, White House, Ford's Theatre and Holocaust museum, we will be traveling around to the Naval Academy, Philadelphia, Mount Vernon, Antietam and Gettysburg. All in an effort to better think about how leadership works in both positive and negative ways, and how leaders can help their communities do the hard work of adaptive change. During this week I will be blogging about this experience which comes at an interesting time as on Sunday, July 1st we will be having our annual Patriotic emphasis worship at Trinity. Certainly this week will give some interesting fodder for thinking about preaching when I return.

With that introduction, just a brief comment about today and the experience of arriving in D.C. This is certainly not my first time here, but it has been several years since I spent any significant time here. For those also in the know, I have signed up to run the El Scorcho race on July 15th, as such, I needed to get a good run in today. So having a couple free hours this afternoon I took a hot and humid tour of the national mall and monuments.

My run started just east of the Capitol then down through the mall to the Lincoln Memorial and around all the newer memorials, back over by the White House, and then back to the Capitol.  A good long run, and an opportunity to see Washington in full action.  

The town is full of tourists and locals, out enjoying the summer, getting prepared for the July 4th festivities.  I had to refresh my skills from the days of living in Boston, strategically running as to avoid colliding with the streams of tourists following after their leader, completely unaware of anyone else around them. No fewer than 10 languages were overheard, couples were sitting down next to the Potomac,  wedding parties hopping out of vehicles to get that perfect shot with the Capitol in the background. Families with children, mom's and dad's trying hard to remember their civics classes to answer their kiddo's questions.

The new King memorial was busy, with busloads of people coming. The steps of the Lincoln memorial, where King gave his "I have a dream speech" reflected today that dream as people of all races sat together. Finding some shade they enjoyed an ice cream or cold drink on a hot day, while their children ran and played.

I ran by the WWII, Korean and Vietnam memorials, places of stillness in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, a somber reminder of lives lost. Yet just a couple blocks away, a barbeque festival was going on with bands and music, people living into the freedom and joy of this country.

The joke of course this week is, why go to D.C. to learn about leadership, there isn't any there! Perhaps. But there are, as our trip leader reminded us this evening, quoting Hebrews 12:1, a great host of witnesses around us. This is a city full of life and history and even hope. That this nation, with all its crazy diversity, fears and anxieties, still is a great hope for the world. A place where flawed leaders like King, Washington and Lincoln can rise and lead. I am excited about being here, it is encouraging my soul.

Tomorrow we worship at the National Cathedral.  A couple Lutherans, some Baptists, non-denominationals and others.  We will go together to an Episcopal Cathedral, to be preached to by a Methodist woman. Only in America!

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