Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dinner with His Excellency

Choosing to move to Williamsburg a decade ago is a decision that we've never had great cause to regret. We live within the city limits, walking distance from the College of William and Mary (great library and fitness center) and Colonial Williamsburg (great no-car zone and just $10 for the annual resident's pass).

Our neighbors are friendly; the taxes are astonishingly low; the climate is moderate, except for a month or so of cold and another month or so of hot-house humidity. And where else would we regularly run into Thomas Jefferson -- yea, that Jefferson -- coming out of the post office?

Last night, we had dinner with George Washington -- yea, that Washington -- at Christiana Campbell's Tavern, our first president's favorite place to dine in town. He seems to tolerate the position of chief executive well, but he complained about the rigors of serving in New York City, where he gets an overwhelming number of invitations to social events. It seems his wife Martha prefers the quiet life.

Washington also mentioned that he has had his fill of sitting for portraits. His favorite portrait, by the way, is this one by William Joseph Williams. A Masonic Lodge asked him to sit for it and he agreed only on the condition that it be as fully honest an image as the artist could make. Apparently, overly-aggressive retouching is a real problem among portrait painters.

During the course of the evening, I got a chance to ask Washington what qualities he thought were important in those who would succeed him as head of our government. He said the most important was the ability and willingness to listen to the counsel of others before coming to a major decision, particularly when that counsel was disagreeable. Towards that end, he is in the process of appointing secretaries who will advise him on the specialized issues of the day. He hopes Jefferson will accept the position of secretary of state. I wonder if that means we won't be running into Tom around town for a while?

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