Friday, April 3, 2009

Washington Social Diary

The annual rite of the blooming of the cherry blossoms in Washington needs no captions. The flowers speak for themselves.
By Carol Joynt

The calendar doesn’t have to tell me the season of the birds and the bees has arrived in Washington. A dove made her nest, as she does every year, on the back porch. My teenage son rolls his eyes when I remind him that his focus on books and sports should not be fully overthrown by the irresistible appeal of girls. And the cherry blossoms, the city’s great rite of spring, invite everyone, tourist and old-timers alike, to find an hour or more to walk among the pale pink beauties that line the Tidal Basin.

A few things you need to know about the cherry blossoms. First of all, they are worth the trip. Second, they are both joyous and sad because, like a bloom in the stock market, they are fragile and gone in a week. The third point, though, is enduring.
Shoes off, paperback beside him, a man catches a Tuesday afternoon snooze by the Potomac.
That’s the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It’s hard by the Tidal Basin, handsome, proud and interesting – like the man himself – and is a dazzle of stone, water features and thoughtful bronze sculptures. A stroll among the blossoms and the FDR Memorial is an ideal way to play hooky – and possibly catch a picnic/nap during the day – though a lot of locals go at night when the lights of the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and the FDR Memorial are particularly beguiling.

President Obama is out of the country until April 8 and Congress is about to begin an extended spring break, but when they return maybe they should consider the inspiring force of a visit to FDR. Also, they could apply a couple of the 40 life suggestions sent to me today by a friend who makes an art of living well, Jeffrey Pfeifle. For example, “Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.” Easily done while looking at the sculpture of men in a breadline during the Great Depression. Another was, “Take a 10-30 minute walk daily.” And that doesn’t mean from the office to the House or Senate floor. Try it outside, in the sunshine, among the birds and bees and FDR’s engraved words of wisdom.
Visitors touch FDR's forefinger for good luck, keeping it constantly buffed to a bright shine. What do they wish for? Rescue from a second depression?
The Roosevelt Memorial is an extravaganza of water.
A child contemplates a bronze sculpture of men standing in a depression-era breadline at the Roosevelt Memorial.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) held its annual awards gala at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium Tuesday evening.

Founder and Chairman Bonnie Carroll welcomed supporters of TAPS as well as many of the family’s served by the organization – family’s who have lost a loved one during military service.

“To date,” she said, “TAPS has assisted more than 25,000 surviving family members, casualty officers, and caregivers.”
Mrs. Bonnie Carroll, Founder and Chairman of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Mrs. Deborah Mullen.
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released).
The honorees included Virginia Sen. James Webb, who received the TAPS Honor Guard Congressional Award, and Army Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who was presented the TAPS Honor Guard Leadership Award. Gen. Graham, who lost both of his sons during military service, one to suicide, praised TAPS as an essential organization for the grieving.

“They touch lives,” he said. “I stand before you as proof of that. It’s an organization you never wanted to be part of, but it’s an organization you need. They help you to breath again.”
The proud if grieving face of TAPS, 7-year-old Jack May, whose father was killed during "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Standing at attention.
CNN anchor Kyra Phillips introduces U.S. Army Maj Gen. Mark Graham, commanding general Division West, First Army, Ft. Carson, Colo. and recipient of the 2nd Annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Honor Guard Leadership Award. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released).
Keynote speaker Tom Brokaw: "It's so important that we find ways to bond together in public." (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released).
The dinner guests listen to Tom Brokaw.
Lin Higgins of Greenwich, CT., with her sister, Christine Rales of Washington. The dessert: yummy chocolate mousse.
TAPS survivors, and brothers, Billy and Joey Ruocco on the stage with Navy Lt. Andy Baldwin, star of "The Bachelor" TV series.
White hydrangeas were the centerpieces at the TAPS dinner.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in his Naval careeer commanded two guided missile vessels, as well as the U.S. 2nd Fleet, said, “No one should have to go through grief alone.”

Tom Brokaw
was the keynote speaker. He focused on what he considers the important support civilians should feel obligated to give the military. “We on the civilian side must make greater effort to reach out to the military side, to ask, “how can I help?’”

One of the youngest guests was 7-year-old Jack May, who lost his father during Operation Iraqi Freedom and who is TAPS poster boy. We caught up with Jack as the dinner wound down and he fooled around in the lobby outside the auditorium, behaving very much like a little boy. He said, “I’m acting famous right now but at home I still have to clean up my play room.”

For more informtaion on TAPS, please visit:
Besides being a social splash, the TAPS gala carried a second theme by moving suicide out of the closet and into the forefront. One general publicly characterized those soldiers dying from this tragic form of death, and whatever circumstances brought it on, as “heroes, too.” In this clip, CNN's Kyra Phillips interviews a heroic family of a Marine after his suicide.

Cuteness was the order of the evening Saturday at the Italian Embassy, where the Washington Humane Society hosted their annual “Fashion for Paws” runway show, featuring affordable and appropriate Washington-type fashion and lots of adorable dogs, many of them up for adoption. The human models were volunteers, most of them very young, thin and blonde. I point that out because I was the model who was the exception to the rule, except for Leo, my 9-year-old Bichon Frise, who was the best accessory a woman could hope to have. All eyes were on him as we made our way down the catwalk.
Fashion for Paws runway emcee, Pamela Sorensen. Michael Saylor. Fashion for Paws organizer Tara de Nicolas.
Victoria Michael and DC Councilmember Jack Evans. Italian Ambassador's wife, Lila Castellaneta, with her own dog.
Being a “model” meant spending most of the evening backstage – fussing with make-up and hair; herded with other models, dogs, ice trays brimming with champagne - and which means I missed much of the party out front. But I do know the evening raised $240,000 for the WHS, according to Tara de Nicolas, who organized the evening. Publicity shy playboy Michael J. Saylor was the event’s chairman. The honorary chairs were actor Val Kilmer, Luke Russert (son of the late Tim Russert), Animal Planet’s Victoria Stilwell, and DC Councilmember Jack Evans. The very good news is that by the end of the evening adoption applications had been submitted for all the dogs brought to the event by the Humane Society.
Photographs by Carol Joynt & © Vithaya Photography. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.