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A Great Place To Visit: Washington D.C.

Posted February 28, 2022 at 8:58 am

The original column appeared in the Tribune-Democrat, written by Dr. Steve Nunez. Click here to see original sourced column.

Family vacations were a regular thing in the Nunez household when I was growing up in southwest Virginia. One of my most vivid vacation memories is when the five of us (mom, dad, sister, brother, and myself) traveled to Florida (from Virginia) in a Datsun B210 – a mass-produced, small sedan that was known for fuel efficiency but not comfort.

After driving to Florida and back in that car, I’m sure my parents needed (and deserved) another vacation from their kids.

I still remember the map my father had of the United States where he put pins in places where he or the family had visited. The map was populated with pins throughout – stuck in cities such as Detroit, Atlanta, New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Dallas, Cincinnati, and Washington, D.C., and smaller towns, including Lexington, Wilmington, and Richmond.

Of course, multiple beach towns were pinned, as that was a common destination for the summer. I think my parents thought it was their duty to expose their children to geographic, historic and cultural diversity when we traveled – which helped shape the way we view the world today.

However, my secret is that while I enjoy and look forward to a vacation, I really hate the traveling part. The old saying, “it’s the journey and not the destination” has never applied to me.

In fact, if I could teleport to my destination and avoid the hassles of travel and the hordes of people and cars, I’d do it in a second (unless it is like the movie “The Fly”).

And while I never let my own anxiousness get in the way of my travel plans, I still anticipate and dread the travel. For those who have traveled with me – I’m sorry – I know I am not always at my best.

So, you can imagine my reaction when a month ago I was asked to attend a higher education summit hosted by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in the Hart Senate Building in Washington, D.C.

While I relished the thought of hearing from some of the best minds in higher education and some terrific speakers from the Department of Education, my attention was focused on the journey and not on the destination.

At one point, I even thought to myself that I would rather have the flu than deal with D.C. traffic.

Eventually, I ended up driving toward D.C. the day before the event and staying in a hotel in a suburb. The next morning, I caught the Metro into the city before the afternoon meeting. Everyone I had spoken with told me how convenient and easy the Metro was going to be. I must agree.

I had avoided the worst of the traffic by taking a 25-minute train ride right to Union Station – the heart of D.C.

When I walked out of Union Station, I looked upward to see the Capitol building in the near distance. While I had been to D.C. before, I was just a kid and I have no memories of what I had experienced and had a limited historical context of the architecture anyway.

But on this day, with some additional life experience and a real interest in politics and history, the view of the Capitol put me in a state of awe. I was in Washington, D.C., and while, unfortunately, I didn’t have copious amounts of time to explore the city that day, I walked around peaking at buildings here and there and taking in the sights in the limited amount of time that I had.

It was humbling to be in the seat of power of the greatest of all democracies.

And most importantly, the meeting with the senator, some additional dignitaries, and 25 or more Pennsylvania presidents of higher education institutions was interesting and meaningful. I’m glad I didn’t get the flu after all. It was an honor to be invited by the senator.

Later that evening on my way back home – after I exited the Metro, returned to my car, and entered the heavy traffic flowing north – I reflected on my day (as I white-knuckled the steering wheel). I promised myself to return to that historic town and spend some quality time getting to know Washington a little better.

And until then, I can hope that someone will invent a teleportation device to allow me to avoid that D.C. traffic.

Written By Dr. Steve Nunez, College’s Fifth President. This monthly series appears in The Tribune-Democrat, and will allow Dr. Nunez to provide his perspective on the value of education and of a community college.