Tag Archives: Presidents Day

A royal story fit for these times


Presidents’ Day greetings!

The nation’s history is rich with elegant stories of our leaders who have demonstrated bravery, creativity, honesty, magnanimity, common sense, strategic thinking, business acumen and genuine concern for the good of all Americans. These men (!) have earned this day on which 21st Century Americans honor their contributions to the public good.   Most young Americans have a “day off” – and many of these will be spending some of the day with adults who care mightily about their welfare.

The concerning truth is, on Presidents’ Day 2017, our children are stressed.

As an ardent believer that facts matter and truth will out, I fancied a post about this democracy’s system of checks and balance – or about the First Amendment and the role of the press – or about the logistical fallacy of injecting a “red herring” into otherwise civil discourse…. Though I told myself that truth will out I soon realized that logical arguments, historic concept and diagrams of our tripartite government structure were too logical for young thinkers for whom illogic has been normalized.

The wisdom of Flannery O’Connor called out to me — “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way.” 

The story for Presidents’ Day 2017 is handed down to us by the world’s most iconic storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen – Though we all know both name and message of The Emperor’s New Clothes, today seems the right day to refresh, then share, the story.

Refresh your memory by listening here before you et out to share the retelling with youngsters – or grownups – in your life: https://archive.org/details/emperorsnewclothes_1311_librivox/emperorsnewclothes_01_andersen_128kb.mp3 (It’s better with book in hand, of course.)

Listening is a first step, it’s talking about the meaning of the story that will prompt lines of reasoning for the young thinker. I enjoyed this comfortable approach to talking about the lessons of the tale of the hapless Emperor: http://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/TheEmperorsNewClothes

If, like me, you’re compelled to follow the story of the story, there’s always the source of last – sometimes first – resort. Wikipedia’s entry on The Emperor’s New Clothes offers context and insight on a story that has stood the test of time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor’s_New_Clothes



Dr. Martin Luther King’s Thoughts on Thinking


The quest began with a personal need to get back to writing for Poking Around with Mary, long abandoned when life interfered. Because I have been trying so hard to get a grip on a new job I have lacked both time and spirit to poke, much less to think, much less to write.

Knowing that it’s African American History Month I have longed for a chance to poke around the stories and resources I have gathered in better days.  My head teeming with disjointed ideas I kept trying without success to focus on that special theme or idea that might inspire me and inform others.

Today as I rifled aimlessly through the turgid backwater of paper, emails, post-its, phone messages and minutiae on my digital desk, this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King surfaced:

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking.  There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.  Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

Dr. King’s observation that “nothing pains some people more than having to think” gave me pause.  I posed the question to myself:  Are we as a voting public, am I as a voter, complacently surrendering this democracy simply because we are pain resistant?  Do we the people settle for “easy answers and half-baked solutions?”  Worse, are we relinquishing the power of the people to forces that are only too willing to endure the fleeting pain of thinking for the long-term gain of seizing power?

The corollary lies in another of Dr. King’s prophetic quotes:

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think crtitically.  Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.  (emphasis mine)

Madison, Jefferson, Thomas Paine and others of their ilk enjoyed good educations, amassed impressive libraries, lived privileged lives that afforded them time, skills and tools to think. As men of intelligence and character, they made the most of the opportunity.  Fortunately for us, they thought through the long-term implications of their action. The took time to engage in meaningful dialog.  They weighed their options and considered the consequences of  governing, authority, checks and balances, the public accountability of the government they forged.  They underscored the big ideas, including that fundamental principle that the printing press was a protected public good essential to an informed – and thinking – citizenry.

As we all know, there were some gaps in their thinking about who was qualified to engage in the process, a topic to ponder another day.   Still, their idea of sharing the power with an informed public was both solid and challenging.   The challenge today is to think about how a diverse citizenry with a range of skills, an infinite array of resources, the communications and information tools of the day – can embrace the challenge – and set aside the time – to think.

Monday is President’s Day, originally intended to commemorate the contributions of our forbearers. The day also offers a rare opportunity for those of intelligence and character to think long and deep about how best to nurture this fragile democracy.

Dr. King adds this relevant thought:     “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”


Northeasters Love Their Neighborhood – and Their Presidents

In Minneapolis it is a sad fact that most of the street names are logical, but boring.  Still, there are exceptions.  Streets in Southwest Minneapolis, for example, still bear the names of prominent citizens who built the city.  Some neighborhood street names are just plain quirky, often the remnants of the original landowners.  Northeast stands out as the most patriotic of all neighborhoods.  The Presidents’ Streets are legendary, an inspiration to most and a conundrum to those who aren’t up to speed on American history.

Writing in The Northeaster in 1988 Penny Jacobson describes in detail the story of how “many early settlers’ names disappeared from streets for the sake of uniformity.”  It’s a great story of how Northeast streets got their historic names.

Though street names have changed more than once over time, the “permanent” names of today’s Northeast neighborhood streets reflect a burst of Americanism surrounding World War I and welcoming the wave of immigrants coming to the community.  One way to learn the Presidents’ names was to walk the neighborhood itself.

Jacobson reminds residents that Tyler Street Northeast was once known as Clayton; Polk Street was Wilkin; Taylor Street used to be Cummings; Fillmore was known as Eastwood; Pierce was Brott; Buchanan was Wells; Lincoln was Maryland and Johnson was East.  The previous names, with the exception of Maryland and East, were those of property owners in the early era of Northeast development.

And so the street names of Northeast continue, Ulysses (as in Grant)  through McKinley,  until  it comes to Stinson Parkway.   James Stinson donated the land for Stinson Boulevard in 1885; naming rights for the Parkway are the responsibility of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation.

Sometime in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s the city fathers continued the re-naming of Northeast streets.  The Committee on Roads and Bridges recommended and the City Council approved, changing the name of “L” Street to Harding, “M” street to Coolidge, “O” Street to Hoover Street, and “P” Street to Delano.  Delano slipped in because there was already a Roosevelt Street and a Franklin Avenue.  (Delano, by the way, is just North of Hennepin and in proper historic sequence.)

All this comes to mind as Northeasters prepare for the fifth annual We Love Our President’s Walk scheduled for Saturday, February 16.   It’s a tradition!

Participants, walkers, bikers, even pets will gather at 10:00 a.m. at Edison High School (between Washington and Monroe).  The Northeast Urban 4-H Club will lead walkers up Central;  along the way they will stop at designated points to share trivia about the presidents.

After a stop for hoc chocolate at the Eastside Food Coop walkers will head East on 29th for a hot lunch and program featuring a trivia contest, drawing, prizes and a brief presentation.

What’s new this year at the President’s Walk will be some intrepid bikers and a focus on presidential pets.  There will also be presentation of the coveted 2013 Northeast Presidential Seal to the group with the most participants.  A shuttle bus will transport talkers back to the start of the Walk.

For more information or to volunteer to help with the Walk, contact David Warnest with Minneapolis Public Schools Community Education.  Reach him at 612 668 1515 or David.warnest@mpls.k12.mn.us.

Northeasters Walk Their Neighborhood to Honor the Presidents

Question:  Why will families and neighbors  from Northeast Minneapolis spend a Saturday in February  walking or riding the bus from Edison High School to Northeast Middle School?

Answer:  Because Saturday, February 18, 2012, is the 4th Annual “We Love Our Presidents” Walk and Celebration!

It’s a time-honored tradition.

In Northeast Minneapolis most of the North-South running streets bear the names of presidents.  Starting with Washington Street on the West and continuing through Harding Street to the East it’s easy for folks in Northeast who know their nation’s history to check their internal GIS location.

The President’s Day Walk and Celebration is a tradition, a great way for neighbors young and old learn together, to enjoy their community,  and to honor the nation’s leaders.

Here’s the 2012 agenda:

10:00 a.m. Walkers gather at Edison High School, 700 22nd Avenue, between Madison and Monroe (if you don’t count Howard….)

Walkers proceed along a route walking East on 22nd Avenue to Central Avenue (don’t ask – there was no President Central) then North on Central for a Cocoa Break at the freshly-painted Eastside Food Coop on 25th and Central.   Along the way walkers will stop at each corner where members of the Northeast Urban 4-H Club will relate a few interesting facts about that President.  Neighbors will be encouraged to share their memories of the neighborhood.

Next the intrepid walkers, warm and refreshed, will head East to Northeast Middle School, 2955 Hayes Street NE, just in time for lunch

Noon – Walkers and visitors will meet at Northeast Middle School for lunch and program.  Keynote speaker during lunch is Ginny Zak Kieley who writes and publishes stories about the neighborhood.  Ginny’s books, including three about Northeast, will be on sale.

The President’s Day Walk will wrap up at Northeast Middle School with a steaming hot chili lunch (donation requested), a trivia contest, awards for winners of the coloring contest, and the presentation of the distinguished Northeast Presidential Seal for the group that has gathered the most participants for the Walk.

For those who want to be mentally as well as physically prepared for the Walk, here’s a refresher President-named streets that walkers will travel on February 18.

  • Madison St NE is named for James Madison
  • Monroe St NE is named for James Monroe.
  • Quincy St NE is named for John Quincy Adams
  • Jackson St NE is named for Andrew Jackson
  • Van Buren St NE is named for Martin Van Buren
  • Harrison St NE is named for William Henry Harrison
  • Tyler St NE is named for John Tyler
  • Polk St NE is named for James K. Polk
  • Taylor St NE is named for Zachary Taylor
  • Fillmore St NE is named for Millard Fillmore
  • Pierce St NE is named for Franklin Pierce
  • Buchanan St NE is named for James Buchanan
  • Lincoln St NE is named for Abraham Lincoln
  • Johnson St NE is named for Andrew Johnson
  • [Central Avenue is just an anomaly]
  • Ulysses St NE is named for Ulysses S. Grant
  • Hayes St NE is named for Rutherford B. Hayes
  • Garfield St NE is named for James A. Garfield
  • Arthur St NE is named for Chester A. Arthur
  • Cleveland St NE is named for Grover Cleveland
  • Benjamin St NE is named for Benjamin Harrison
  • McKinley St NE is named for William McKinley
  • [Stinson Parkway is named for a member of the Park and Recreation Board because it is part of the city’s Parkway system.  If you get to Stinson you’ve walked too far.]

Generous sponsors of the “We Love the Presidents Walk and Celebration” include Eastside Food Coop, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis Public Schools Community Education, Minneapolis Park and Recreation, Northeast Bank, Northeast Minneapolis Royalty, Northeast Urban 4-H Club, NEMplsOnline.com and The Northeaster Newspaper.










Windom Park Report – Presidential Walk

Most folks know that the history of the Presidents defines the street order in Northeast – reason enough to celebrate President’s Day with a walk through the neighborhood that bears their names – in chronological order (with exceptions.) Saturday, February 19, marks the third annual “We Love Our Presidents” walk and celebration through what may be the most presidential neighborhood in the U.S.

The walk begins at 10:00 at the Firefighters Hall and Museum, 664 22nd Ave. NE. Trekkers will take a break for hot cocoa at Windom Park (Johnson and Lowry), then continue to Northeast Middle School for a hot chili lunch and short program.

A free shuttle bus will tote walkers back to the Firefighters Hall after lunch.

Families can prepare by participating in the Paint the White House coloring contest – details and graphics online.

It’s all free, donations gratefully accepted. Walkers from non-presidential hoods are welcome to walk and learn more about the presidents and the neighborhood. Questions? Call 612 668 1515.