12 July 2007

A working holiday

Our family just returned from travels to the US, where I managed to visit 5 states, one territory and three airports in the space of slightly more than a week. Two weekends ago we drove from Hamilton to Chicago, passing through Michigan and Indiana on the way. We visited family on both sides. On monday, 2 July, we visited the Brookfield Zoo with my sister-in-law and her young family. I had not been there since 1983. It's definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the Windy City.

On tuesday through thursday I was in Washington, DC, to speak to the annual Civitas Summer Leadership Seminar, sponsored by the Center for Public Justice. The title of my talk was "Beyond Ideological Thinking," in which I spoke about liberalism and its alternatives. It was an enjoyable and stimulating event.

Speaking to Civitas Leadership Seminar

The following day our group was privileged to tour the White House, which I found to be far smaller and less impressive than I had long envisioned it in my mind. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating place, with portraits of various presidents and first ladies covering the 2-century-old walls. There were portraits of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, prompting me to wonder whether these would have to trade places if the latter becomes president.

The White House

I did not visit the Capitol building, home of the United States Congress, but I was able to photograph it from a distance. This was taken from the roof of the building housing the CCCU's American Studies Program.

The Capitol

Wednesday was, of course, the Independence Day holiday, so in the evening our group walked down to a spot where we were able to view the fireworks on the National Mall, which had been temporarily evacuated earlier in the evening due to a tornado warning.

Licence plates typically carry a state motto, such as New Hampshire's notorious LIVE FREE OR DIE. The District of Columbia is not a state, and as such it has no voting representatives in Congress. Thus the DC plates carry this slogan in protest:

Taxation without representation

When I first told Theresa I would be going to Washington, DC, she heard Washington, BC, assuming I was travelling once again to Canada's westernmost province. When I corrected her and she asked what the DC stands for, I responded: "the District of Columbia," to which she retorted knowingly: "I thought the C must stand for Columbia!"

Thursday afternoon I returned to Chicago and family. While in the air, my plane grazed the top of a terrific storm, which we saw from above. The thunder clouds were impressive, but the turbulence was a bit unnerving.

Thunderstorm seen from above

At the weekend we drove to Hillsdale, Michigan, home of Hillsdale College, a small undergraduate university well known in politically conservative circles in the US.

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale sells bricks to alumni, parents and supporters for $150 each to be placed in its Alumni Walk, which extends through the centre of the campus. Here are some typical examples:

Stopping Socialism

A Pox on Big Government

Outside the Dow Center on the Hillsdale campus is a plaque containing a selection from Thomas Paine's Dissertation on First Principles of Government. Paine was anything but a conservative, but he somehow managed to slip by Hillsdale's gatekeepers with an extremely unBurkean sentiment:

Thomas Paine's political ideas

We arrived home to Hamilton on monday. As usual, it's good to be back.

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