Mini-Reunion XVIII, Washington, DC, May 1-4, 2003
We have two reports on the Washington Mini, by Don Oberdorfer and, as an expanded version of his PAW Class Notes column, by Secretary Dan Duffield. Both are below.
The Washington Mini-Reunion from May 1 to 4 was a great success in the overwhelming consensus of the participants. It was not just a gathering of old and dear friends (though it was that) nor simply a touristic sampling of Washington sights and sounds (also that). It was also, as some remarked, among the mini-reunions that made the participants think the most and provided greatest opportunity to learn first hand about some of the important institutions and issues of our times.
According to the record keeper (Steve Rogers), 96 classmates, three associates (widows of classmates) and 88 wives or friends attended the event in whole or part. It was quite a crowd, but the extraordinary detailed planning by the host committee made it all work with hardly a hitch.
There were many highlights, but by my lights (and those of several others who expressed themselves) the top of the top was Friday, May 2, when we began with remarks about regional and global concerns by three senior State Department officials in State's well-appointed conference room. It went on (following lunch at the Capitol Hill Club) to the U.S. Supreme Court and an extraordinary meeting and personally guided tour by Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Topping off the day was a dinner cruise on the Potomac River including an impromptu dancing exhibition by some classmates and spouses aboard the Odyssey III. More than one classmate was heard to say this was the single most fascinating day of any Mini-reunion he ever attended.
The State Department officials, who were introduced by Bob and Phyllis Oakley, were John Wolf, Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation; John Evans, Director of Russian Affairs in the Bureau of European Affairs; and David Satterfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Each spoke and answered questions for more than 30 minutes..
At the Supreme Court, we were met by retired Major General William Suter, the loquacious Clerk of the Court, in the chamber where arguments are heard and great decisions have been handed down, and then by Justice O'Connor, who is generally reputed to be the "swing vote" in many of the closely decided cases before the exalted body. Skip Nalen, who was unable to attend, had recruited O'Connor to speak to us. Answering our questions in the chamber where she customarily asks questions of attorneys, she came across as a direct and straightforward person with a keen intelligence and ready wit. George Towner, who was an instrumental figure in planning for the Mini, remarked that it would be no easy feat to tangle with her in the private conferences when the justices
informally discuss their reactions to cases and issues.
After spending close to a half hour with us in the chamber, Justice O'Connor took us on a tour of the two conference rooms where those discussions take place. Pointing to their paintings on the walls, she commented on the life and times of each of the former chief justices of the historic court from the first, John Jay, through Earl Warren and Warren Burger, the most recent predecessors of the current Chief Justice, William Rehnquist.
After seeing the high court from the inside Friday, it was fascinating to read in Saturday's newspapers of the lower court judgment in one of the most important contemporary cases, involving the constitutionality of the campaign funding legislation, and to know that it will soon be headed to the courtroom we had just visited.
Some other highlights:
-- The special orange-and-black and miniature tiger favors at the dinners on Thursday night at the Hotel Washington and Saturday night at the atrium adjoining the Old Ebbitt Grill. The sponsors arranged for the opening soup Thursday to be an orange-colored tomato bisque flecked with bits of black pepper, and for the tables Saturday to be decorated with orange and black M&Ms.
-- The remarkable musical performance by former Congressman Jim Symington and his wife Sylvia at the Thursday night dinner.
-- The Saturday morning tour of the National Gallery of Art, introduced via a slide show by Lynn Russell, director of the education division of the Gallery and the spouse of Bill Russell '69.
-- The optional Saturday afternoon activities including the Forum on Americans' Role in the World, conceived and arranged by Hal Saunders, which attracted 42 participants; the tour of Hillwood museum and gardens, the estate of Marjorie Post, heir of the Post cereal fortune, which attracted 37; the tour of Washington National Cathedral, guided by Alan Kirk '50, Roger Kirk's cousin, and of Dumbarton Oaks (24); the new International Spy Museum (8); tour of the Phillips Collection galleries (7); the Holocaust Museum and tour of Mall area monuments (5 each). As one participant, I found the Forum particularly thought-provoking.
-- The invitation to all classmates and associates extended Saturday night by Ted Nicholson to join the next Mini, planned for May 2-4, 2004 at Scottsdale, Arizona, with optional side trips to the Grand Canyon and Sedona.
-- The final buffet breakfast on Sunday morning at the J.W. Marriott Hotel where more talk among friends was held, common experiences were discussed and goodbyes were said.
It was a superb series of events made all the more so - as ever - by the opportunity to share them with so many great friends, associates and spouses from Princeton's greatest class.
- Don Oberdorfer
P.S. to the Supreme Court visit: George Towner has brought to our attention an interesting article about Justice O'Connor, "A Cowgirl's Sense of the Constitution and the Court," from the May 5 Washington Post.
MINI XVIII: A CAPITAL AFFAIR
- Dan Duffield
MARVELOUS MINI. Class president Hal Saunders, concerned that at our advancing ages we would lose track of our many mini-reunions, has decreed that, like Super Bowls, they will be identified by Roman numerals. Hence the mini in Washington, D.C. on May 1-4, 2003, goes into the books as Mini XVIII. For the record, it was a rousing affair, as good as any the class has put on. There were 96 classmates on hand plus three associate members (widows of classmates), and 89 wives, companions and family for a grand total of 188.
Dan Wilkes, from Great Britain, and Reinhard Loosch, from Germany, were unofficial distance winners, overseas division. John Peak, from San Diego, was the apparent distance winner, U.S. division. For shortest distance traveled, it was a draw between Washington residents Chips Chester (Connecticut Ave.) and Tom Leary (Capitol Hill).
The whole thing was put together in just eight months by a committee of 22 classmates and their wives who covered the District of Columbia like a blanket to assure the success of the event. Overall management was in the capable hands of Jerry Canter, Barry Loper, Steve Rogers, Hal Saunders and George Towner.
KICKOFF. On Thursday afternoon, May 1, we gathered at the Hotel Washington to register and go up to the rooftop terrace to meet and mingle. As they took in the spectacular view of Washington's buildings and monuments, Jim Simpson and Dick Kazmaier reminisced about freshman year as roommates at 16 Dickinson Street, a room assignment dictated by the shortage of dormitory space on campus.
Then it was across to the Washington Room for a lovely dinner and pleasant listening to the songs of Congressman Jim Symington (Yale '50), accompanied on the piano by his wife, Sylvia. Naturally, the songs were interspersed with a few irreverent digs at Old Nassau. All the same, the couple earned the standing ovation we gave them.
During the evening, conversation with Peggy and Poss Parham revealed that their daughter, Tally, an F-16 pilot in the Air National Guard, had been called up in February, sent to the Middle East, and then flew combat missions over Iraq during the late unpleasantness there. Asked what her plans were for Sunday evening after the mini, stalwart organizing committee member Kent Rogers said she would take her shoes off, put her feet up, and then decide.
SECOND QUARTER. The mini-goers split Day Two (Friday) between a morning session at the State Department, arranged by Phyllis Oakley, and an afternoon tour of the Supreme Court. At State, there were three briefings from deputy assistant secretaries, filling in for their immediate superiors who had left town in a hurry to accompany the Secretary on an urgent trip overseas. Considering their short notice, all three did remarkably well in reviewing current areas of interest, particularly the Middle East. The talks elicited some lively questioning, but we all applauded when Allan Sloan stood up and declared that what he heard gave him "new hope and new faith" in the conduct of our foreign relations. About two dozen people skipped the briefings and toured the eighth floor diplomatic reception areas furnished with priceless American antiques. Included are gifts from the families of Liz Atwood and Lydia Boyer.
Then on to lunch at the Capitol Hill Club followed by a short walk to the magnificent Supreme Court building. There, we listened to introductory remarks by the Clerk of the Court who then presented us to Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The Justice took time for us at the request of her friend and our classmate, Skip Nalen. She gave us a fascinating - at least to laymen - inside look at the workings of the Supreme Court with emphasis on the collegial atmosphere that exists among the justices. She answered our questions succinctly and with a dose of humor, then led us on a brief tour of the building. Here we had the opportunity to see the official portraits of every Chief Justice except the incumbent whose likeness will be hung when he leaves office.
Dinner Friday evening was served aboard the luxurious riverboat Odyssey. We had a fabulous meal, very much haute cuisine, and watched the Washington waterfront glide by. Dancing after dinner drew a fair number to the floor. The music was soft or "classic" rock, but the fifties crowd managed it well. Stars were Barbara and Bruce Coe and Carol and Don Malehorn. Both classmates performed gallantly, Bruce despite arthritic knees and Don barely two months after a skiing accident at Sun Valley in which he broke his collarbone and cracked half a doz- en ribs. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, one of our few World War II combat vets, Chappie Wagner, sat and talked with Reinhard Loosch about how things were in Germany in the weeks right after VE Day.
THIRD QUARTER. Saturday morning found us at the National Gallery of Art's East Building for a lecture by a senior official of the gallery. This charming and knowledgeable lady brought us from the early Renaissance to the 20th century as an introduction to exhibits by l8th and 19th century artists. After that, many people stayed at the gallery while the rest divided up in smaller groups to visit various attractions around Washington.
At "Hillwood," the gorgeous estate of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, we saw the palatial home and extraordinary gardens of mid-century Washington's storied hostess. Nonetheless, Setsuko Orr and a couple of classmates who had traveled in Japan agreed that Mrs. Post's gardeners overdid her so-called Japanese garden. Meanwhile, classmates visiting the majestic National Cathedral found themselves in the middle of a medieval May Day celebration.
The International Spy Museum drew photography magnate Olan Mills and Linda and Bob McLean, among others. The McLeans claimed that the museum's many interactive exhibits were superior to Play Station 2. Yet another group sat down at a forum led by Hal Saunders to discuss Americans' Role in the World. Perhaps because no one can see very far down the road, and everyone senses an unfamiliar environment, the consensus, according to Ed Tiryakian, seemed to shade toward the pessimistic.
In the evening, all gathered for dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a Washington institution. Afterward, President Saunders recognized the efforts of the organizing committee and passed out mementos to all its members and their wives. Then Priscilla Hildum reported on a project that she and Grace Brush have undertaken to compile the stories of the women of '52, in parallel to those of the men assembled in The Book of Our History. So far, they have only a few returns, but every journey worth taking begins with a single step. In time, there will be a publication to take its rightful place on the shelf next to George Newlin's masterpiece. Finally, we heard from Ted Nicholson about his plans for Mini XIX to be held in exactly one year at the luxurious Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona. (In the wings, Walt Culin has begun to sketch the details of Mini XX in Savannah, Georgia, in 2005.)
FINAL GUN. Sunday was departure day but not before we had a sumptuous brunch at the Marriott Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. As always at multi-day class affairs, one has a chance to see people for the first time at the tail end of the proceedings.
So it was that Ed Tiryakian and Reinhard Loosch tried to resolve the future of U.S.-German relations before going their separate ways. Meanwhile, Tink and Joe Bolster were telling a group that three of their sons (Joe III, Tom, and Dick if you're keeping score at home), all veterans of the entertainment business, are trying to put together a TV sitcom based on the story of the Bolsters and their 14 kids. It may be some time before the show's debut, but don't bet it won't happen.
Then it was time to leave. Phil Hill, maitre d' for the brunch, closed the doors, and Mini XVIII became a memory.
Daniel M. Duffield, Jr.
Manteo, North Carolina