John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Get America Moving

Posted on May 12, 2016
Madeline-1939

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines

Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines

In two straight lines they broke their bread

And brushed their teeth and went to bed.

They left the house at half past nine

In two straight lines in rain or shine-

The smallest one was Madeline."

I love reading Madeline to my daughter Molly.

And this morning, I was reminded of this opening paragraph of that children’s classic as I was chaperoning her class's field trip.

We were walking, as a group of eleven 3 year-olds, three parents and four teachers, to DC’s South Capitol metro station, where we were going to Smithsonian’s American History Museum.

And as we walked down the street in rain and shine (it has been raining for two straight weeks here in the nation’s Capitol), we encountered a mass of people, crowded on the sidewalk in front of Tortilla Coast, a local Tex-Mex restaurant.

Parenthetically, it was at Tortilla Coast where Ted Cruz plotted with the so-called Freedom Caucus to shut down the government in a doomed effort to repeal Obamacare.

But today, the crowd was gathered to get a glimpse of Donald Trump, the man who beat Ted Cruz in the Republican primary.

Mr. Trump was meeting Paul Ryan (the House Speaker) and Reince Prebius (the Chairman of the Republican Party), in a high-profile gathering aimed at taking the first steps to uniting the party after a bitter primary campaign.

Tortilla Coast is not in front of the RNC building. It’s on the side. But the smart people who were gathered there (which included the press and not a few curious bystanders), figured that Trump wouldn’t go in the front door. He would go in by the alley.

At the front door, there was also a flank of television cameras and the obligatory anti-Trump protesters, shouting out their protests in stereo.

As we approached the crowd, a pathway was cleared for us and everybody oohed and aah-ed at the little pre-schoolers who were just trying to get on their way to the field trip.

A few of the camera people even snapped pictures. I wouldn’t be surprised if Molly’s face showed up in some newspaper somewhere.

We weren’t there to see Donald Trump. We were there to get on the Metro, which we were able to do successfully (leave no preschooler behind).

When we got on the train in DC’s troubled mass transit system, we encountered a 15-minute delay. Apparently, there was a medical emergency somewhere up the line.  15 minutes seems like an eternity when you are on the train with 11 fidgety 3-year-olds.

The fact we were delayed was no surprise, though.

DC’s mass transit system used to be the envy of the world. Now, it is a mess. Indeed, earlier this year, the entire system was shut-down for a day so that investigators could ferret out any really bad electrical problems before somebody got hurt.

The problems that face the Metro are not unique to DC.  All over the country, public transportation systems are literally falling apart.

Too little money is spent on our nation’s infrastructure at both the local and federal level.

That’s mostly because we are going broke at both the local and federal level, because way too much money is spent paying out retirement benefits and not enough money is spent on discretionary things like transportation and education.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan disagree on many things.

Social Security is one of those things. Ryan thinks we need to reform the system while Trump has promised that he will keep his hands off.

The Trump position is much more popular among the vast bulk of the voters, especially those who are older than 50.

But if we do nothing about entitlements, we are doomed as a country.

One of the things that they both agree on is that we need to spend more money on transportation and infrastructure.

If you look at the DC metro system, what it needs is not only more money, but it also needs better employees and a better appreciation for the safety of its customers.

But money is important too, and the fact is that requires cooperation, not just with the Federal government, but also within the local jurisdiction, the two States and the one Federal District that all kick in to keep the system running.

My daughter’s class was going on the Metro on their field trip to look at the new General Motors “America on the Move,” exhibition at the Museum of American history.

For those of you who have children of any age, I strongly recommend you check it out.

When you are chaperoning a bunch of three-year-olds, you don’t have much of a chance to read all of the material.

But I did glean a few tidbits here and there.

How railroads in the West were built by cheap immigrant labor, mostly Chinese. How trailers were constructed during the 1930’s to house people during the Great Depression. How hard it was to get any political compromise to build any public transportation, but how important those compromises are to move the country forward. How the car was intrinsic to the development of the suburbs and how suburbanization impacted our central cities.

I don’t know if my daughter took it all in, but she liked the big trains and old cars. And I think she liked hanging out with her daddy on her field trip, which was cool.

For guys like Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, they can have all of the personal disagreements or philosophical differences they want, but they need to keep in mind that the country needs to move forward.

We need responsible, rational and reasonable people to resolve our nation’s differences and get things done so that my daughter and her classmates have a better world to live in.

Hopefully one where the Metro works.