The past 22 years have been full of wonder, exploration and discovery with my wonderful friends and family. Here’s to the next 22 years! Cheers, everyone!
Or: “This Is What Happens When You Have Very Patriotic, Very Nerdy Friends.”
So how does one go about celebrating President’s Day, anyway?
A few days ago, Liv, a former RA friend from college, invited me to a Facebook event titled, “YOU ARE AMERICA AND SO ARE WE”. She proposed visiting 3 locations in New York in honor of our nation’s forefathers and former presidents, and, while there, reading the works and speeches of these great men.
This is exactly the kind of zany idea I love, and I immediately announced my desire to attend.
So Liv, Joe and I met in Harlem at the corner of 141st and St. Nicholas Ave, where Alexander Hamilton’s house now stands.
That’s Hamilton’s crib in the background.
We took turns reading various Amendments from the Federalist papers. (The Federalist Papers, penned by Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, were written in order to support the ratification of the Constitution in the late 1700s.)
You might be wondering: Why are the Federalist papers so important? Well, I asked Liv that very same question. Apparently the Supreme Court still refers to the Federalist papers today, alongside the Constitution, when interpreting laws, particularly when it comes to matters of big government and foreign affairs. Today you learned.
As Joe triumphantly read the final paragraph of Federalist No. 6, Liv reached into her bag and pulled out two brightly colored kazoos. Nonplussed, I took one from her and followed her lead as we quietly kazooed the Star Spangled Banner, providing a patriotic undertone to Joe’s words.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate a few subtle differences in this picture. Liv is like, “Oh my gosh this is such an important amendment I’m so glad we’re reading it on President’s Day which is my second favorite holiday of the entire year” and I’m like, “A kazoo! I’m on BROADWAYYY”. Anyway. Back to the story.
We said goodbye to Hamilton’s house and hopped on the D train. On our way to the next stop of our tour, we broke into the cookies Liv had baked for the occasion: “Partisan Peanut Butter Maple Bacon Cookies”. (Yes, bacon. And maple. They were delicioussss.)
Our next stop was 123 Lexington Avenue, the former home of Chester Alan Arthur, arguably our nation’s most forgettable president. (His biggest accomplishment was the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. I think I fell asleep just writing the title of that Act.)
Arthur was sworn in as our nation’s 21st president on this very site, shortly after the death of James A. Garfield was announced. (Fun fact: Garfield was the first US president to ever be assassinated.)
And so Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: The former home of Chester Alan Arthur!
Either Chester really liked Indian food or this place has undergone some changes since he lived here.
A few moments after this picture was taken, a man exited the apartment building. “Are you aware that President Chester Alan Arthur once lived here?” Liv asked excitedly. “Yeah, I know, I’ve lived here for 3 years,” the man grumpily retorted before dashing from the scene.
While the people surrounding Arthur’s house may not care much for the history of the place, Liv, Joe and I honored Arthur’s legacy, and the legacy of the office he held, by taking turns reading from Arthur’s short acceptance speech.
And then we were off for our final stop of the day: Cooper Union, where Abraham Lincoln gave the stirring Cooper Union Address, in which he condemned slavery and the southerners who supported it. Some say this oft forgotten speech is the reason Lincoln got the nomination for President. We positioned ourselves on the front steps of Cooper Union and proceeded to read every word of the 13-page speech aloud, earning us many an odd look from passerby.
We were joined by a friend of Liv’s halfway through!
At one point, the security guard from Cooper Union stepped outside for a cigarette break and stopped several feet in front of us, just as I was reading aloud a section that gives a particularly scathing review of slavery.
“Those are some powerful words,” the man said, after listening for a few minutes. “I just had to stop here because those words are so powerful.”
We finally finished the speech, all chilled to the bone (it was COLD today). It had been a good speech- incredibly well-argued and inspiring. We’d cheered each other on. We’d laughed when Lincoln had inadvertently used modern slang phrases, making us wonder if he was truly ahead of his time (direct quotes from his speech include, “That is cool” and “Invasions and insurrections are the rage now”). And, ultimately, we’d learned a lot about the United States as it was 150 years ago- a nation divided by slavery.
We made our ways to the 6 train, where we separated: Liv and Joe to get drinks with friends, and I to my apartment where I had (still have, in fact) a pile of homework to plod through.
As I stomped my feet to get the blood circulating, I found myself considering the future of our country, and the Presidents we’ve chosen to lead it in the past. And then I found myself wondering: What role can I play in the future of my country? Sometimes, the future seems so uncertain, so hopeless. I can’t really create change, can I?
And, perhaps, this is what President’s Day is really about. We look to our President to set an example. But maybe the presidents of recent years have let us down in some way or another. Perhaps we are angry, or disillusioned. I know I am. It has been easy for me to stop caring about political issues and talks of reform. It has been easy for me to tune out the endless debates circling the topics of economy, gun control, corporate greed and budget cuts. In short, it’s been easy to stop caring about issues I was once so passionate about.
And if you don’t care, how can there possibly be ideas for improvement?
So on this President’s Day, we look to the past- to presidents of irrefutable wisdom, for direction.
Abraham Lincoln ended his Cooper Union Address with these stirring words:
“Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care… LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.”
Happy President’s Day, everyone.
A fan drew this lovely picture of Kristen and now it
looks at melives on my desk. Next to the Booty Jam album cover. In front of a life size cardboard cutout of Iron Man. Probably my 3 favorite things.
Hey, that’s me!! :D
Hello, and welcome! I'm Kristen. You may have seen me on YouTube acting in some ridiculous video for The Key of Awesome. Or maybe you're someone from grammar school who is creeping, wondering whatever became of the girl in the horrid striped turtlenecks. Whoever you are, I hope you find this blog amusing.
Check out my personal YouTube channel, KristensReality: http://www.youtube.com/user/KristensReality