Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

bartonmugTwo events honoring prominent Arlingtonians were held within the last week that dramatized the unique quality of the community in which we live.

Last Thursday, the Arlington Community Foundation gave its William T. Neuman, Jr. Spirit of Community Award to Karen Darner at a packed luncheon high atop the Sheraton National Hotel with a magnificent panoramic view of DC and a large crowd of many community leaders from the business, political, charitable, education, and civic-minded communities in Arlington, all closely interrelated. The award is given to an Arlingtonian who has a long record of working in programs enhancing the life of the community.

Karen Darner is a stellar example. A teacher and speech pathologist in the Arlington County school system for the past thirty years, Darner filled her “spare time” by serving as Chair of Virginia’s Council on the Status of Women; and as member of Arlington’s Planning Commission, Arlington’s Commission on the Status of Women,, League of Women Voters, Mental Health Association of Northern Virginia, The Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Center – and that does not come even close to completing the list.  She even squeezed in time to serve six terms as a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates.  From 1988 to 1990, she took a breather to serve in the Peace Corps. Wow!

Then on Sunday, we attended a dinner honoring Delegate Al Eisenberg, who is retiring after a long career as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and before that, a member and sometime chair of the Arlington County Board.  Eisenberg, too, has a very long list of charitable causes which he spearheaded.  He has been Chairman of the Virginia Housing Fund, Vice Chairman of the Washington Area Housing Partnership, and chair or member of any number of housing-related organizations.  He is also a recipient of the 2001 James B. Hunter Human Rights Award recognizing a lifetime of work on human rights issues.

And, as with Karen Darner, he also held major day jobs on the staff of the U.S. Senate, and as a Government Affairs Representative for a number of distinguished organizations including the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Wow again!

The dinner was also a benefit for The Eisenberg Civil War History Education Fund to be managed by Arlington Community Foundation.  Eisenberg is a major Civil War scholar and has a great collection of civil war artifacts and letters from soldiers. His collection will become a permanent exhibit in Arlington, probably in the county’s Fort C.F. Smith Park on 24th Street in North Arlington.  When the collection opens, you shouldn’t miss it.

He also has a book coming out next Spring – “If I Am Alive Next Summer: The Civil War Letters of Captain Charles Robinson Johnson of the 16th Massachusetts Infantry, ‘The Iron 16th'”  You shouldn’t miss the book either.

Darner and Eisenberg are remarkable Arlingtonians, but they are not the only ones. Arlington is blessed with a dynamic citizenry very active in almost any activity you can imagine – politics, charities, arts, human welfare programs, sports, to name a few. And they all seem to know one another and even get along for the most part.  We are fortunate to live in such a community.