Saturday, September 03, 2005

Work starts

August 29, 2005 (Monday)
Wyndham City Center
1143 New Hampshire Avenue
Washington DC
6 p.m.

Today was the first day of my International Visitors Leadership Program. It started with a meeting at 9:30 a.m. with a representative from the State Department and Sheridan Bell, the program officer of Meridian Center, the organization that manages my stay in the United States.

The meeting took place at Meridian House in Crescent Place NW, Washington DC.

The Meridian House and its neighbor, the White-Meyer House, are historic places and the “jewels of the residential architecture of John Russell Pope," who also designed the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery and the National Archives.

The Meridian House, named because of its location on the “New World meridian line,” one mile north of the White House, was built by Ambassador Irwin Boyle Laughlin. He bought the land in 1912, two years after his friend Henry White, former ambassador to France and Italy, bought the adjacent site. Laughlin delayed building until after his retirement in 1920.

After the house was built, Laughlin filled it with his collection of 18th century French drawings and Oriental porcelains and screens.

Architectural Forum described the house as:

“Perhaps as fine a piece of work of its kind as this country can show…Certainly the manner of this house has not in this country better done, not only in terms of stylistic authenticity, but in terms of pure architecture, meaning good taste in selectivity, in elimination, in execution. It cannot from its nature do otherwise than set a standard which should endure permanently.”

Whatever that means, I don’t know.

Here’s another interesting trivia. Over both the front and rear doors are Latin inscriptions. “Quo habitat felicitas nil intret mali (Where happiness dwells, evil will not enter).” Over the rear courtyard door, the inscription says: “Purior hic aer: late hinc conspectus in urbem (Purer here the air whence we overlook the city).” It’s supposed to be the same inscription on a house at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

The adjacent White-Meyer House, also part of the Meridian Center, was where Katherine Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post spent her childhood. The author Thomas Mann, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, the Kennedy brothers and numerous foreign ambassadors spent some time in the house and sat on the same chair I sat and discussed issues in one of the rooms I entered.

I would have wanted to take out my camera and ask my hosts if I could have my picture taken, but I forgot all about it sharing stories with Sheridan who talked about his experience eating balut in Baguio, how he rode the rapids in Pagsanjan, Laguna, his experience with Asian delegates to the World Conference of Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, which I attended, and his adventures as a diplomat in China.

I returned to the Meridian House in the afternoon for a lecture on federalism by Prof. Clyde Wilcox of Georgetown University. He talked about the federal system of the US government, how the national, state and local governments function, the strengths and weaknesses of the US style of governance, the limited power of the US president, the role of Congress, how the judiciary works and how political parties operate.

If only my professors during college were half as good as Wilcox, who talks with wit and passion, I might have been inspired to finish my education.

I had coffee late in the morning at the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation with Carol Knopes, RTNDF director for educational projects. It was an interesting sharing about diversity in the newsroom and the empowerment of minority journalists. Ms. Knopes and her colleagues expressed interest in my book and my work as a journalist in the Philippines. They are trying to arrange an interview with me over the National Public Radio and maybe over television over the plight of journalists in the Philippines.

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