Snow Day/Snow Play

Today’s snowstorm in Washington (and the DMV area) is a fun treat for our California-bred kids. For them, snow is something to visit in the mountains in the winter, not a reality to live and play with every day. This morning Joshua and Caleb dragged me to the park to enjoy the magic of the freshest hours of a snowy weekend morning.

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A Second Civil War?

After witnessing this week’s mob takeover of the US capitol building, I’ve been thinking a lot about the fate of our nation. Is a second civil war inevitable? Can our union survive the challenges of the moment? Seeking answers, I went to see President Lincoln. This afternoon I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial reading Jon Meacham’s excellent book The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.

The Lincoln Memorial is one of my favorite spots in Washington DC. The words from the Gettysburg Address on one side and the speech from his second inauguration on the other speak to a time of national division, and have never failed to move me. President Lincoln’s visage in the middle is strong, but not stern. It’s not an attractive face, but it’s compelling. It manages to convey both an unyielding nature, as well as malice toward none. It’s an exceptionally good piece of art.

Today I gazed at Lincoln’s face and asked him what kind of character it took to hold together a nation so intent on tearing itself apart. It certainly took the last ounce of his devotion and, in the end, his life.

After Lincoln’s death the country had to go on without him. Others rose to take his place. President Johnson, by most accounts, was terrible. The union may have won the war, but Johnson did his best to lose the peace. But our institutions and Lincoln’s legacy were enough to hold the country together until better leadership arrived.

When President Ulysses S. Grant was elected he brought with him not only the fighting spirit of a victorious general, but convictions powerful enough to lead others in knowing what to fight for. President Grant continued to fight for the principles of the Civil War. A Republican president, he created the Department of Justice to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan, pushed for ratification of the 15th Amendment, and enshrined our American values of equality into law.

At the risk of making a bold comparison, we find ourselves today in Lincoln’s shoes. We have the treble task of holding our country together, shoring up her institutions, and making our children ready to assume leadership in the future.

“If you can do those three things,” Mr. Lincoln whispered to me, “the next Grant will be ready to take up your unfinished work.”

Photo of the Day: Arlington Window

One of the things I love about living in a high-rise apartment building is the play of the light across the cityscape. On this day, the shifting clouds gave us an ethereal little light show whose pattern may never be replicated. But seeing it once was special, and I’m grateful to have had the chance.

New Adventures: The US Foreign Service

Editor’s note: This was originally posted to Facebook on February 24.

Friends, I’m excited to announce the start of a new adventure. I’ve accepted an appointment to be an economic Diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service. This means that I’ll be representing my country overseas. Lisa and the kids will be moving with me.

I’ve walked away from two previous jobs that I loved: one with the U.S. Coast Guard and one with Shinn Photography. Now I’m leaving another. I’ve loved Fresno Pacific University and the community here. Teaching has been a growing and fulfilling part of my life. I can’t say enough good things about this institution or its people!

In the near term, we’ll be moving to Washington D.C. We leave on March 18 for a road trip across America. After some training in DC (6 months to a year depending on language), we’ll head to another part of the world. I’ve agreed to serve anywhere my country requires, and I don’t have any indication about where that’ll be; other than the fact that it’ll be somewhere with a U.S. Embassy.

The mission of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad. I’ll do economic diplomacy, advocating on behalf of US companies and US interests. My policy portfolio will probably include areas like trade treaties, energy policy, health, science, and technology policy, and other random bilateral and multilateral policy areas that don’t fit cleanly into other categories.

If you want to read a bunch of stories about exactly what US Diplomats do, check out America’s Other Army: Another really good, systematic approach to the topic can be read here: If you want the movie version, see this recent documentary: If blogs are your thing, here are a bunch of them:

We’ll be wrapping up everything in our lives in California over the next three weeks. We are selling a LOT of stuff (including two vehicles) at several garage sales and online. In the meantime, we’re also trying to connect with many of the people we love and see in our California lives. If you’re in Central California, we’d be happy to hang out (if time permits). If we don’t see you, it’s only because time is finite, while our love for you is less so.

Thanks to those of you who have supported us on this journey so far! We began the application process in 2013, so your patience with us has been long.

Prayers, of course, are appreciated!

Washington Day 1 pics

These aren’t all that exciting, but here are the first day pictures. We had a wonderful meal last night at McCormick and Schmick’s with some of the folks from the Fresno Council of Government. It’s a really fun group, and I think they’ll make this a very enjoyable and productive trip.

Today (Sunday), we have an almost entirely free day to do sightseeing. Should be fun!