I will admit I was raised a Celtics fan, and will further admit that I didn’t watch every game of the NBA Championship series. But I woke today to news that the new champion Golden State Warriors may decline the ceremonial visit with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I get the show of solidarity, of protest, of resistance. But like so many of us who have made Washington, DC our home, I hope the Warriors might see that this is in fact the most important time of all to come to Washington. So I issue this invitation, from a city, its proud and determined denizens, and the capital of a shaken but vital ideal.
People get all mixed up when it comes to Washington. Where many envision the halls of power, currently packed to the stinking fish gills with cowardice and myopia, Washington is in fact the home of the struggle itself. Its streets tell a history of the fight for equality and dignity. Its schools and theaters teem with the life force of a diverse and joyful community. Look beyond the sheer grandeur of the monuments, and you will see that they are less about lionizing our founders and our fallen than they are about capturing the American story that was handed to each of us in a different way. That story is why they marched and fought and wrote and sang and gave all they had.
Don’t let that story die. And don’t pass up this part of your victory lap.
Come to Washington.
Come to U Street, to Duke Ellington’s birthplace and the storied clubs and stages graced by Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong.
Come to the World War II memorial, and take in the sight of a now elderly veteran making his way past the columns that mark the theaters of a war that saved the world but claimed his youth, his innocence, and so many friends who never left Omaha Beach. Those heroes won’t be with us much longer. Come now.
Come to the Frederick Douglass house in Anacostia, where a man born into slavery added his voice and his brilliance to the struggle for justice. Read his speeches again, or better yet, catch a reading by one of DC’s young people at the annual oratory contest.
Come, and stand on the rooftop of the Kennedy Center as it marks what would have been the 100th birthday of a young leader who called on us to give rather than take. You’ll see the sculls of crew boats pulling their way through a glistening Potomac. It all looks pretty peaceful from up there.
Come to Dupont Circle, which at this moment is still sweeping up confetti and streamers from Pride Weekend. Stop by the Whitman-Walker Clinic, named for Washington native Walt Whitman and Mary Walker, a Civil War era nurse who fought for women’s rights. Whitman-Walker opened in 1978 as one of the first health centers to address head on the scourge of AIDS and care for those afflicted.
Come to the Holocaust Museum, and experience in the most tangible and profound way the horror we will never finally extinguish unless we face it with resolve.
Come to the Washington where life plays out daily for hundreds of thousands of tax paying citizens denied a vote in Congress. That disgrace aside, come to where 94% of a polity cast its ballots for the woman who would have made history and spared us this present.
Come to Charlie’s Place, a homeless program in St. Margaret’s Church. Share coffee with its clients, and hear how many left their homes in New Orleans after Katrina, never to return. Chat with volunteers young and old who give up a few hours of sleep to be among their forgotten neighbors.
Come to Washington – not despite the moment we find ourselves in, but because of it.
Sit at Lincoln’s feet, not because he would be stunned at the splintering of our shared house, but because he foretold it. And history tells us he steered a tattered nation through much worse.
While you’re there, peer out at the never more aptly named Reflecting Pool. If Dr. King could look out on the cluster of hypocrisy and contradiction and still see hope from where he stood, then so must we. That team photo would stand as a far greater rebuke than the one you issued today.
Please come, because Washington has never been about which mortal commands the presidency for a snippet of time. Come because you bested every other team in this country – your country – and while we love our Wizards, I’m guessing they’d join us in helping to throw you a good party.
And I’ll be honest: we could use a boost.
By the way, if a presidential encounter remains the added lure, well, I have a feeling Barack and Michelle’s new backyard could host a hell of a cookout.
The place we call home actually belongs to you.
Come claim it.