Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Today I am speaking to the luncheon meeting of the South Arlington Kiwanis Club, an excellent group led this year by the estimable Andres Tobar.

My main theme is the remarkable nature of Arlington’s civic culture, one of the principal themes of this column I hope you have noticed.

The rest of the nation’s view of those of us who live inside the beltway is that we are all transient, with our real roots elsewhere, that we are myopically ruled by politics with little or no understanding of how the “normal” person functions. The sobriquet “inside the beltway” is certainly not intended as a compliment.

I now have lived in Arlington for forty years and married an Arlington girl forty-three years ago. My children were born in Arlington (well, at George Washington Hospital in the District, but I can count that since Arlington was once part of the District of Columbia), attended Arlington schools and moved back into the area after college and law school. My son actually bought and remodeled his grandparents’ home right across from Wakefield High School, where his mother graduated in 1959. All of Jean’s and my children live and work in the area where they were born and grew up.

My experience is certainly not unique. I know of dozens of Arlington families with similar experiences. And I know of dozens of families whose roots in Arlington run deep – through many generations. Eleanor Monroe, about whom I wrote last week, was one of those.

This is hardly a picture of a transient, unconnected population.

But even more important is the remarkable diversity and depth of Arlington’s cultural, philanthropic, and, yes, political life. Literally thousands of Arlingtonians are involved in a multitude of charitable causes ranging from Meals on Wheels to the Red Cross. Our arts community is the envy of communities throughout the region as is our vibrant theatre culture, both professional (Signature Theater, for example) and amateur (The Arlington Players). Our churches are legion – covering almost every religious faith known to man. (My own church – The Unitarian-Universalist Church of Arlington – is one of the largest and richest U-U churches in the world, for example. Even our political life is conducted by people who are deeply imbedded in our community’s life.

Throughout the many civil rights battles in Virginia during the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s, church members from Rock Springs Congregational Church, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, the Unitarian Church, and several synagogues joined together to build a fine school system, to fight the building of a wide I-66 through the heart of our community, and work for equality across the board. These and many other congregations are still working together today on quality of life issues.

I could go on and on – but you get the point. Arlington is a great place to live, even if we are “inside the beltway.”

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Last week I wrote about the life and death of one of our great community leaders, Eleanor Monroe. Her daughter-in-law, Barbara Ridley Monroe, contacted the FCNP with the following information. “Please be advised that the family will be holding a reception in Mrs. Monroe’s memory on April 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hendry House in Ft. C.F. Smith Park in Arlington, 2411 24th St. N.” We certainly plan to attend.