Reason 205

#205: : Kennedy Center

I have gone on about four or five tours of the Kennedy Center. I did this not so much because it’s fun (it’s medium fun) but because in my previous job I took groups of college students there to try to instill some love of arts and culture in them. It worked maybe 5% of the time, mostly they complained that I had made them wake up early on a Friday.

I liked the Kennedy Center tour because I spent all of it judging countries’ gifts to the Center. The Kennedy Center is a living memorial to JFK (kind of like how the Wilson Center is a living memorial to Woodrow Wilson), so lots of countries felt they wanted to give something because they really loved president Kennedy (I assume). The things countries gave though, vary dramatically. At the high end, Italy gave $1.5 million worth of marble, from which they made the whole thing. Austria gave a gorgeous chandelier. On the lower lots of countries gave artwork that I don’t think relates in any obvious way to the Center or JFK. Some gifts are not as expensive as the gifts from Italy and Austria but are very, very cool. My favorite is a wooden sculpture titled “Asase Due” (“Mother nature condolences to you”) which was a gift from Ghana.

Ghana wins for coolest gift ever.

Ghana wins for coolest gift ever.

In addition to being a beautiful place and a fun place to judge countries’ gift-giving decisions, the Kennedy Center is of course an important cultural center and a great concert, ballet and opera venue. I go to the Millenium Stage performances when I can because they are free and free is one of my favorite things. I also go to performances when my dad visits. The first time we went to see Shear Madness and Spring Awakening. Last year we went to see Don Giovanni. It was my first opera and I loved it.

This year I got fancier and went to the opera with my friend Jake to see Florencia of the Amazons. Then this week I am going to see Evita with other fancy friends. I love that I have such a great venue so close to me, that I have great friends and family to share it with and that I have a whole new audience for my “can you believe such-and-such country gave us this as a gift?” stories.

My dad looking fancy at the Kennedy Center.

My dad looking fancy at the Kennedy Center.


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