A few months ago, my good friend, Mark Sohmer, wrote a hilarious parody of a typical day in the life of The White Rhino. The account I am about to chronicle for you comes eerily close to Mark’s tongue-in-cheek diary and veers perilously close to self-parody, but reflects the actual events, thoughts and feelings that I experienced during a full and memorable 4th of July in Boston and Cambridge.
Having had some wonderful recent opportunities to spend time with family, this 4th of July celebration for me was to be spent with friends. I began the day early by stopping by my office in
Happy Fourth of July! Don't know where in the world you are, but I hope you get to celebrate with family and friends. I've come to realize that although Christmas and Thanksgiving were tough to miss, I think this holiday will be the hardest. There's something about beer, burgers, fireworks, the meaning behind the holiday, and the
There it was – at the beginning of the holiday – a poignant reminder that the gift of freedom is never free, and men and women in our military continue to pay the bill for the Bill of Rights.
Then I opened an e-mail from my friend, Rasul Damji, whom I would be meeting shortly for breakfast. Rasul had passed along a link to a mesmerizing YouTube video of Morgan Freeman emceeing a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence from Independence Hall, offered as part of an article in The Leaders Notebook:
I watched the video and then had to sprint down Broadway in
As soon as I had greeted Rasul and his three children at the Residence Inn and we had settled around the table to share breakfast, I asked him the question that had been percolating in my mind since I had watched the video from Independence Hall:
“Rasul, as someone who has had to fight hard to become a citizen of the U.S. and make a life for yourself here, what kinds of emotions do you have today as we celebrate our nation’s birthday?”
Rasul’s sons and daughter joined me in listening to Rasul’s response, recounting his days as a student at
As we were finishing up our breakfast, I noticed that the woman clearing our table was from Eastern or
“I am from
“Yes,” she answered with a broad smile.
She was pleased and shocked that I was able to greet her in her language. On this 4th of July morning, I had encountered yet another person who values the liberties many of us take for granted, for she had escaped a war-torn land to immigrate to the Land of the Free.
When we finished our breakfast, we still had an hour before the gates would open at
I asked, “How shall we travel – by T or shall we walk?”
Rasul was eager to walk – his children a bit less eager at the prospect.
I decided to have some fun.
“Rahim, go on your iPhone and pull up the GPS and tell us how far we will have to walk.”
In a flash, he was able to proclaim: “It’s only 1.8 miles; let’s do it.”
“Great idea,” I said. “It is a gorgeous day, we will be able to walk through the MIT campus and you can show your brother and sister all the sights of where you may be coming to school in a year. We will cross the
Our peregrinations brought us through the heart of the MIT campus and up
“Rahim, please go back on your iPhone and Google to find out what a Smoot is.”
Based on Rahim’s on-the-fly research, we learned that during an iconic period in MIT history, a student project/prank led a group of undergraduates to take one of their classmates, a young man by the name of Smoot, and turn him into a unit of measure. They laid him out on the bridge, and measured the length of the span using his body as a yard stick - or rather – a “Smoot stick.” Young Smoot stood a Dustin Pedroia-esque 5’ 7.” So, a Smoot measures 5.58333 feet. By the time we completed our Smoot research, we had gained the
“I said, ‘Go Sox’!”
“Oh, I am not from around here. I am from
"What brings you to
“I was just drafted by the Red Sox, and I am here trying to figure out if I should sign with them or accept the scholarship to play in college.”
“When do you need to decide?”
“Here is my card. As a life-long Red Sox fan, I think I represent Red Sox Nation pretty well. Will you promise me that before you make up your mind, you will give me a call and let me have the opportunity to tell you – from the vantage point of the Red Sox fan base – what it means to play baseball in this town?”
As Luke headed off in the direction of the players’ entrance, I turned to the Damji family, who had been listening in on the conversation.
“Remember I told you at the hotel that we would probably meet someone interesting?”
Although Rasul and his family live in
We saw an exciting game, but one which the Red Sox ultimately lost in the 11th inning to the Seattle Mariners. After the game, we separated – the Damjis headed for a dinner engagement in
As we chatted about the work being done by a group of energetic young officers and veterans, we talked about my friend and protégé, LT Rajiv Srinivasan. Rajiv and his unit from Ft. Lewis Washington are only days away from deploying to
So, during dinner, we spontaneously decided to call Rajiv to wish him a “Happy 4th.” The immanence of his upcoming deployment served as another reminder on this holiday that the 4th of July is about much more than fireworks and burgers.
It is getting late and I am running out of steam, so I will “cut to the Chase”! John and Susan invited me and the Damji family to join them on the roof of the
What a day – one of reflection, celebration, fellowship, fun, friendship – and lots of sobering reminders of how blessed we are to live in the comforting shadow of those who so many years ago put their names on the parchment and put their lives on the line.