Building Amazing Cities
Jim Hunt – Author, Speaker, Consultant
I was recently driving to Washington, DC to do a workshop for the National League of Cities and it got me to thinking about my frequent trips to our nation’s capital.
Without a doubt, I have spent more time in Washington, DC than any other city besides my hometown of Clarksburg, West Virginia. Starting at a very young age and continuing throughout my life, Washington has been an Amazing city and one that everyone should visit at least once in their life.
My first trip to Washington, DC was as a Patrol Boy at Linden Grade School and we took the train from Clarksburg to Union Station, right next to the capitol. We left around 5:00 in the morning and got back well after midnight, which made for a tired group of kids and an even more tired group of chaperones. As a 12-year-old, I was impressed with the beautiful buildings and sights like the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. It was also exciting to be on a trip without my parents and we did our best to spend our $10 allowance on candy and a felt hat with a feather.
One memorable visit to Washington was when I played freshman basketball at West Virginia University in 1968 and we stayed at the DuPont Plaza Hotel on a trip to play the University of Maryland. I can remember waking up and looking out the hotel window and seeing half a dozen police cars on the street below and they were loading up someone on a stretcher. This was a time when the city was known for being a fairly dangerous place.
Most of my trips were to the National League of Cities conferences and we had the opportunity to visit dozens of places throughout the city. We usually stayed at the Washington Hilton Hotel which is along Connecticut Avenue and is the hotel where President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley in 1981. We got to know the neighborhood well and always looked forward to visiting our favorite restaurants. One of the best was named Café Petitto and was owned by the son of Roger Petitto, who lived in Clarksburg. We always enjoyed seeing the pictures of Clarksburg that lined the walls of the restaurant.
When I became an officer for the National League of Cities, I had the opportunity to visit the White House on several occasions and was awed by the history of this famous residence. I can still remember looking out the window of the Oval Office and thinking about the people who occupied this office and had the very same view. During the Obama Administration, I had the opportunity to meet the President and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. There was a group of NLC officers standing in a reception room and suddenly the President appeared in the doorway and came over and shook hands with us. He then invited us to the Oval Office and we took a picture in front of his desk.
Washington, DC has changed a lot over the years but it remains one of my favorite cities. I love the history and the fact that it houses the center of our democracy. It also has some of the most important museums in the world and continues to expand and improve each one. The new African-American museum and the Holocaust museum are powerful examples of how far we have come as a country. I look forward to my next visit to this Amazing city!