Setting Sail With the Obamas

Washington Crossing The Delaware by Emanuel Leutz
Washington Crossing The Delaware by Emanuel Leutze

Whether or not Barack Obama is ready to guide this country through perilous waters remains to be seen. Unfortunately the quality of leadership is always determined by an individuals ability to deal with those events that occur after one takes up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Age, life experience, Beltway savvy, good intentions and a stunning resume just don’t matter for this position. The presidency is like parenting – your children will have the final say as to the level of your success.

On the other hand after listening to Michelle Obama address the convention in Denver, I can say unequivocally that she is as qualified as any woman in our history to become this nation’s First Lady!

After the speech the pundits engaged in the predictable chatter about race in America, and about how far we had come as a society since the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.  During that political discourse I recalled a time standing on the banks of the Delaware River at McConkey’s Tavern. It was there that I first learned about the heroics of Colonel John Glover’s 14th Continental Regiment. This amphibious unit from Marblehead Massachusetts had on more than one occasion rescued and resuscitated the American cause.

On August 29th, 1776,  Glover’s Marbleheaders staged a bold nighttime evacuation of Washington’s army to Manhattan after the British victory at the Battle of Long Island. And on Christmas night of the same year, these brave seafaring New Englanders would safely land troops, horses and artillery on the east bank of the Delaware above the Hessian stronghold at Trenton.

Few Americans know of the exploits of Colonel John Glover or of the many black soldiers that served under his command. One cannot discern a single person of color in the well known depiction of Washington’s crossing by Emanuel Leutze. The face of history and the reality of history are seldom painted with the same brush.

But as I watched Michelle Obama and the faces of so many other Americans in that hall last evening, I could not help but feel that we are on the threshold of realizing our national potential. We may have finally reached that moment in time where any man or woman is deemed worthy of taking the helm, and the rest of us will gladly crew – knowing full well that we are all in the same boat together.  

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher

Phelps shows us history

For most of my life I have loved sports.  It’s an addiction.  When something important is on, like a playoff football game, the World Series, or even the World Cup, I can not be disturbed.  (Lucky for me my wife is the same way!)  Some people don’t understand it all the time, but there are those moments when everyone seems to get it.  This past weekend was one of those moments.

I live for those moments in sports that seem to transcend the competition or even the result.  The real sports addict waits around for those instances when they know they are witnessing not just a great competition, but a piece of human history.  We all have Michael Phelps to thank for giving us one of the greatest and most historical of these moments we may ever see in our lifetime.

Besides writing for the American Public House Review, I am also a professional musician.  This past Friday I was playing a restaurant in Secaucus, New Jersey.  It is not a sports bar by any means, in fact it is mostly a place where people come for a quick bite to eat and maybe enjoy a drink or two.  This night it was crowded and noisy, there were even a few rowdy birthday parties going on.  It seemed nobody was paying any attention to the televisions showing the Olympics, or even my playing for that matter.  But I timed my evening perfectly so that I took a break during Phelps’ 100 meter Butterfly.  (I told you I was an addict)  I just knew I needed to see this.  Whether he blew the competition away or not, this seemed like something worth watching live.

As the crowd bustled, Phelps was at the ready.  Just before the gun, someone at the bar told another patron sitting a few seats down that the race was about to start.  He needed to yell to get over the crowd noise, but it seemed everyone in the entire place heard him anyway.  As the swimmers splashed into the pool, people began to turn their attention to the televisions hanging over the bar.  From all over the restaurant people stopped what they were doing and headed for the bar area.  Entire families left their meals on the table and crowded into any space they could find with a view of a TV.  It was oddly quiet as people stood entranced.

As Phelps hit the first turn, it was obvious he was not winning.  Could we really expect perfection?  Would this be the night the dream ended?  Instead of being cynical or disappointed, the crowd began to urge him on.  From all over the building people were yelling “Come on Mike!” and “Let’s go Phelps!!”.  It almost seemed as though he could hear them, because you could see him starting to swim faster and faster and creep closer and closer to the leader.  As he swam faster we all yelled even louder.

When he miraculously touched first and his name came up as the winner the crowd exploded in jubilation.  A deafening roar of clapping and hollering filled the room.  Many people milled around for a few minutes, laughing and smiling, exhaling together and wondering to total strangers how Phelps pulled off such an amazing finish.

I looked at the bartender and said, “Could you believe that?”

He asked, “Which, the crowd or the race?”

“Both”, I answered.

He smiled and shook his head.  “No, man.  I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Neither had I.  In all my years of watching sports, and I believe there is no better place to share these experiences than at a good pub, I had never seen an entire place unite their collective wills to pull for one man.  And a man they probably couldn’t have named three weeks earlier.  That is what is so special about the Olympics.  Despite all it faults, it still produces a certain something that brings people together who normally would not even consider watching a swimming race.

Later that night, as I was packing up, I heard an announcer on a broadcast say something like “the whole country was pulling for Michael Phelps.”  Normally, I would pass off such a line as a silly cliché, but not this time.  This time, he was right.

Many, many years from now we can all sit down with our grandkids and tell them how we watched and pulled for the greatest Olympic athlete of all time pull off his most amazing finish, and how we did it with a few dozen of our fellow Americans.  That’s why I love sports.

Posted by: David McBride, Marketing Director

Published in: on August 19, 2008 at 7:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Georgia On Our Minds

As I heard the reports of Russian Armor rolling into Georgia, I could not help but think of their attacks on Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. In both instances the bitterness and bloodshed was mirrored in the behavior of the athletes from both countries as they competed in the Olympics during those years. The politicians at the Kremlin who had promoted the carnage had also effectively destroyed the intent and spirit of the games. But in the midst of this renewal of old tensions and old tactics there may be some new hope for mankind. Apparently this time around the athletes will not be the puppets of their respective governments.

The editors and staff of American Public House Review salute Nino Salukvadze from Georgia and Natalia Paderina from Russia who, ironically after receiving their medals  in the women’s 10mm air pistol competition, embraced on the podium. 

It is interesting to note that while these athletes may not reflect the political reality of the situation, they do reflect the military reality. The Russian took the silver and the Georgian took the bronze. Both of their countries would be wise though to remember that the Chinese took the gold. 

Postedby: Chris Poh, Publisher

The final resting place for a Continental Soldier

In the article entitled “Merci Beaucoup Bon Marquis” in the American Public House Review, I spoke briefly about the actions of the General Marquis de Lafayette at the area that surrounds the tavern which now bears his name.  In May of 1780, Lafayette and his force of over 2000 continentals and militia were frighteningly close to being captured.  But he was to escape the Battle of Barren Hill to fight another day with little loss.

Just up the street from what is now the General Lafayette Inn, the Marquis climbed the steeple of Saint Peter’s Church.  As the story goes, this vantage point gave him the ability to see his escape route.

The original church, founded in 1752, is long gone, but the cemetery is home to some very old and largely illegible gravestones.  After learning about Lafayette and thinking of the struggles of the Continental Soldiers during the American Revolution, it can be a haunting and somewhat sobering experience to pass through this cemetery and see the colonial flags that assumingly mark the final resting place of a brave someone who served during the War of Independence.

Posted by: David McBride, Marketing Director

Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 11:37 am  Comments (1)  
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