From Jews to Syrians, America’s Long History of Rejecting Refugees

Essay by Terri E. Givens, Menlo College

First published in ISSF Policy Roundtable 1-8: Immigration and Refugee Policy in Donald Trump’s America, April 22, 2017

https://networks.h-net.org/node/28443/discussions/176382/issf-policy-roundtable-1-8-immigration-and-refugee-policy-donald

The Trump administration’s Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into The United States,” raised fears about acts of discrimination and potential violence against Muslim migrants and even citizens in the U.S. The first version of the Order, issued in late January 2017, banned Syrian refugees indefinitely.[2] This led to intense criticism, because barring civilians from fleeing a warzone seemed to be a shocking betrayal of America’s moral responsibility, not least because U.S. military efforts in the Middle East were partially responsible for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the breakdown in regional security. The initial order also ran afoul of U.S. and international law by discriminating between Christian and Muslim refugees. A Federal District Court judge quickly issued a temporary restraining order that blocked implementation, which was subsequently upheld by a panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The administration responded by issuing a new order in early March that removed the exemptions for Christians and changed the status of Syrian refugees, who would face a 120-day suspension rather than an indefinite ban.[3] But these changes have not convinced critics, many of whom suspect that the order is broadly aimed at Muslims, and federal judges blocked the revision as well.

Unfortunately, there are many historical precedents for discriminatory immigration restrictions that focus on particular ethnic, racial, and religious minorities. Immigration flows into the U.S. were relatively open, particularly those coming from Western Europe, until the late nineteenth century. Between the Civil War and WWI, the United States shifted from a relatively open country of immigration, to one with restrictions, particularly on immigrants from countries that were considered undesirable.  Immigration policy shifted from the state level to the federal level, making national level politics paramount in determining the direction of policy. In New York and the East Coast the focus was on Irish, and Southern and Eastern European immigrants.  However, the main impetus for immigration restriction would truly begin on the West Coast of the United States.  California became the focal point for immigration restrictions as Chinese immigrant laborers came to fill jobs in the gold fields and mines, as well as building the Trans-continental railway. A coalition of unions, Southern Democrats, exclusionists (i.e., nativists) like the Anti-coolie clubs, and pragmatic Republicans supported Chinese exclusion.  After many years of political wrangling and rewriting of the Burlingame treaty[4] with China, the Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882,1888, and 1892 effectively suspended the flow of Chinese immigrants, consolidated federal control of policy (particularly through the Immigration Act of 1875), and would ultimately lead to broader restrictions at the beginning of the twentieth century.[5]

Nativism was also growing beyond the West coast. Increased flows from Southern and Eastern Europe raised concerns that these immigrants from mostly Catholic backgrounds were less intelligent and would be difficult to assimilate. Many of these immigrants were considered to be of ethnic stock that was not desirable, hallmarks of early 1900s eugenicist thought that there was a hierarchy of races.  Similar efforts occurred to restrict the number of Asian immigrants to California. Nativist groups fought for literacy tests and other restrictions that would keep these immigrants from being able to enter the country.[6]

After World War I, a war weary and isolationist Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1921 and the Reed-Johnson Act of 1924, which established a system of quotas based on national origins. The 1921 Act created quotas based on the 1910 census that limited immigration to 3% per year of each European nationality already residing in the U.S. Some felt that this still allowed too many Southern and Eastern Europeans. The 1924 Act limited immigration to 2% per year of each nationality, based on a decades-old census conducted at a time when there were fewer immigrants coming from Southern and Eastern Europe. The predictable effect was a sharp reduction in the number of new entries from targeted countries. The annual ceiling from the 1921 act of 387,803 was reduced to 186,437. This was a huge reduction in levels of immigration, which previously stood at approximately 700,000 per year. By 1925, Japanese exclusion was also phased in along with the already existing Chinese exclusion policies[7]

These decisions institutionalized racial bias in U.S. immigration policy, which had a major impact on refugees, particularly Jewish refugees, during World War II. The refugee issue became a particularly poignant one for the U.S. during the early years of WWII. As the Nazi government began to persecute Jews in Germany, many tried to escape to other countries, including the United States. Unfortunately, the restrictive policies implemented during the 1920s and anti-Semitic personnel in the State Department kept many Jews from getting the papers they needed to leave Germany and other parts of occupied Europe.  As Daniel Gross recently noted, “Most notoriously, in June 1939, the German ocean liner St. Louis and its 937 passengers, almost all Jewish, were turned away from the port of Miami, forcing the ship to return to Europe; more than a quarter died in the Holocaust.”[8]These refugees were not only turned away by the U.S., however. Other countries also turned away Jewish refugees, many of whom perished in concentration camps during the Holocaust [9]

It is important to note that the U.S. diplomatic corps was a key player in keeping Jews from gaining visas to leave Germany. After an investigation by Treasury officials in 1943, the “Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government to the Murder of the Jews” found “the State Department guilty of ‘willful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler’.”[10] Even these highly trained professionals allowed their own racial biases to taint their role in processing visa applications. Today, airlines and border officials play a role along with diplomats in the processes which allow or limit the movement of immigrants into the country. As more people become involved in these processes, particularly airline employees who may not be trained to read the appropriate documents, it is possible that there will be greater reliance on racial and ethnic profiling as people travel across international borders. In fact, the Executive Order may encourage that profiling by targeting specific countries and groups.

The good news, however, is that U.S. allies have not yet followed the U.S. example. Germany has taken the lead in welcoming Syrian refugees in Europe, and Canada has continued to accept Syrian refugees. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have urged continued support of those fleeing violence in the states covered in Trump’s Executive Order, and from other parts of the world. Apparently the lessons of history have not been lost on all countries, even if the United States is suffering from temporary amnesia.

Even after the devastating terror attack on 9/11, the country did not turn its back on its Muslim citizens and allies. More recently it welcomed Syrian refugees, though in comparatively smaller numbers. These individuals have not been a source of terrorism; U.S. vetting processes have so far proven to be robust. In order to avoid potential negative impacts on the security of the United States it is imperative that the U.S. maintains strong relations with its Muslim allies. Doing so will reduce opportunities for groups like ISIS to recruit new followers. It is thus a security interest and a humanitarian imperative that we avoid the mistakes of the past.

2] Donald J. Trump, “Executive Order: Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 27 January 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states.

[3] Donald J. Trump, “Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 6 March 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/06/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states.

[4]A treaty which ensured a flow of low-wage workers while protecting China from external influence. See State Department, Office of the Historian, “The Burlingame-Seward Treaty, 1868,” n.d., https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/burlingame-seward-treaty.

[5] Daniel J. Tichenor, Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).

[6] Tichenor, 2002. See also, Aristide Zolberg. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America (New York: Harvard University Press, 2006).

[7] Tichenor, 145.

[8] Daniel A. Gross, “The U.S. Government Turned Away Thousands of Jewish Refugees, Fearing That They Were Nazi Spies,” Smithsonian Magazine, 18 November 2015; http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/us-government-turned-away-thousands-jewish-refugees-fearing-they-were-nazi-spies-180957324/#62sLBayG6F63ExTh.99.

[9] See David S. Wyman, 1984. Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945 (New York, Pantheon Books), see also Tichenor, 2002.

[10] Quoted in Tichenot 2002, 167, see also David Wyman, ed., 1990, America and the Holocaust: Showdown in Wasington (New York: Garland).

College access: Improving the odds

Also posted on LinkedIn

As I toured the USC campus with my son Andrew, I couldn’t help but be excited for the opportunities that he would have as he entered college. Andrew is a junior in high school, and we began our college visits at one of his top choices. It didn’t disappoint. He was impressed with the resources, the interdisciplinary programs (he’s interested in majoring in History and Film) and the research support available to even first year students. But it was our tour guide who impressed Andrew with her enthusiasm and love of the school. The other schools we visited on that trip were also impressive, and Andrew found much to like in our tour of Los Angeles area schools.

Although I had been telling Andrew for the last year that he would love USC, it was still difficult for me, a Stanford and UCLA grad, to be on that campus. But I hope he continues to do well in school this year and gets into one of his top choices. I’m not worried, I know he will do well no matter where he goes, but as his mother, I want the best for him. I also know that he is getting the benefit of parents who are college graduates, including a mother who is a college administrator. We have gotten a head start on his college visits, we are making sure he is staying on top of all the deadlines for SAT testing, AP tests, and summer classes to show that he is college ready.

As my career has developed, I have become more concerned with issues of access and inclusion in the education arena, particularly here in Silicon Valley where issues of diversity are a constant concern. I feel like my son’s high school is a microcosm of the disparities that plague the area. My son is an example of the advantage that privilege gives on the path to college. It is not necessarily wealth that is a determining factor, but there is a difference in schools and parental knowledge that can impact the choices that students have. Many organizations are working to change the odds for students from less-privileged backgrounds. It has become clear to me that Higher Ed and K-12 need to work more closely together to help bridge the gaps and support all who want and need post-secondary education. Just as important, we need to support those students when they get in, so that they can succeed after they get in to college.

Going forward, I will be expanding on my work with organizations and companies in the area to try to tackle some of the issues that I have raised here. Much needs to be done, and it will take support from educators, non-profit organizations, industry and our political representatives to find answers that will help our students succeed in this very competitive environment. In the meantime, I will also continue to support my son in his college choices, even if it ends up being USC.

See also: OPINION: Changing the ‘narrow and sometimes elitist image of higher education’

Some thoughts as I turn 53…

Turning 50 is a big deal. Turning 53, not so much. However, this has been a momentous year for me. A year ago I was on my way to South Africa. It was an amazing trip, as I have written about in my blog a year ago. When I returned from that trip, I had to prepare for surgery on my left foot. I had found out in September that I was born with an extra bone in my foot. Accessory navicular bone syndrome is a new part of my vocabulary. I am learning to deal with all the wonderful symptoms that come with being a woman over 50. Sleep is at a premium.

I am coming to grips with the fact that I won’t be the runner that I once was. Nearly a year after what was rather complicated surgery, I can run, but it’s slow and sometimes painful. I am learning to appreciate cycling and other low-impact activities. I see a rowing machine in my future.

I have entered my third year as the provost of a small college, living in one of the most beautiful and exciting parts of the country. I have learned a great deal about my capacity for leadership, and my desire to help clear the path for young people of all backgrounds to get a great education. We are not moving the needle fast enough — but I believe we have the capability to improve educational outcomes for all.

As a political scientist, I can’t help but follow politics closely. It has been a crazy year on that front, and promises to get even more complicated over the next few months. I will be writing a great deal as things progress. Immigration, populism, the radical right, discrimination, all of the things I have researched over the past ~20 years is coming to a head at this point in history.

I feel blessed to have great family and friends who keep me going when times get rough and cheer me on when times are good. I have no regrets as I head into the next year, but I will be sure to do what I can to help my community and our country move through this difficult time, hanging on to hope for a better future for my boys.

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Expanding the View of Diversity and Inclusion

[Also posted as an article on LinkedIn]

This week I attended the Tech Inclusion Conference in San Francisco. I can honestly say it was one of the most diverse and inclusive conferences I have ever attended. I enjoyed meeting people from a variety of backgrounds who are committed to increasing accessibility to technology and careers in the tech sector. This issue is near and dear to my heart for a variety of reasons. As the provost of a small college in the heart of Silicon Valley, I want my diverse student body to be aware of all the opportunities that are available to them. It helps my students to see people who are like them working in the companies that surround our campus.

The main takeaway for me from the conference was that I needed to expand my definition of diversity. I was impressed with presentations about indigenous rights, neuro-diversity, veterans, disability, and even invisible disabilities. I was also impressed with the companies who have committed to changing the culture in Silicon Valley to create a more inclusive future. This will be critical to the future of tech, as we need to reach out to the broader community to develop the workforce that will keep the economy moving forward.

I firmly believe that education is a vital component of this effort. Along with running a diverse college, I also support many organizations that are working to get more low-income students into college. For example, the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula works with over 100 high school students to help create a path to college. These students are the future of our state and our country. If we don’t support them, we won’t have the educated work force we need. It is critical that we support an education system that develops the capability of ALL of our students, regardless of socio-economic status, race, religion, disability, or gender-identity.

I truly appreciate the efforts of visionaries like Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler at Change Catalyst who are helping to lead the way to a more inclusive future.20171019_161510

It’s not about the national anthem, Rosa Parks wasn’t protesting the bus.

I posted this on Facebook after reading one too many posts that chided NFL players for not standing during the national anthem. Many people, including veterans, police officers, senators, etc…have stated their support for the right to protest. However, passions have been high – I have seen many discussions turn into rants followed by name calling. What is it about this particular issue that has led to such passionate responses? [a rhetorical question]

For many African-Americans, this is a time of heartbreak. Not particularly because of Trump – we have seen many like him in our lifetimes. No, the heartbreak comes from learning that many we consider friends, even family, have little or no empathy for the situation we are facing today. We cannot ignore the bigotry and racism that are coming to the fore, something we had hoped our children wouldn’t have to deal with.

Many who have protested the protest say that players are being disrespectful to those who have given their lives for the US and the flag. Others argue that players are privileged and don’t have a right to complain. My nephew, Anthony Givens, captured my and many others’ thoughts on this:

If you ever speak to me, or have posted about these “ungrateful” athletes disrespecting a piece of cloth, but you have never once spoken to me about the disrespect shown to the founding ideals of America by literal nazis in Charlottesville, or you have never once spoken to me about the murders of young black men that were handcuffed, on the ground, unarmed, and executed by those who we have entrusted to protect all Americans, or never once called out the systemic racism and fear that all minorities must live with everyday in a country that has a president who is the embodiment of privilege and a constant reminder of the promises that have been broken…if this is you, a person that I know, then we are done. We are and cannot even be acquaintances, much less friends anymore. There cannot be middle ground on racism and misogyny. #TakeAKnee

Whatever happened to the “Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave?” When and where are we “allowed” to protest – if it doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, what’s the point? I grew up in the military, my father was a 20-year man, who was greatly disrespected during his time in the military, but never lost his love for this country. We protest because we want America to live up to it’s promise. We want a country where I don’t have to worry about my boys being stopped by the police because of the color of their skin. We want a country where we can truly live free.

 

Normandy and Paris 2017

 

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Our original plan for our family vacation this year revolved around a trip to the Normandy WWII landing beaches. I was excited to return after 31 when I was there for my first time abroad as a study abroad student at Stanford. My husband Mike had never been, and my son Andrew is a military history nut.  We had also gone to an exhibit of Monet paintings at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco that focused on his early career that included many paintings in the Normandy region.

We also decided to spend a few days in London as described in my previous blog, and a few days in Paris to end our vacation. After leaving London, we took the Chunnel train to Calais where we had planned to rent a car Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately we missed our train and had to stay in Calais a couple of nights because we arrived Saturday night after the rental car agencies were closed and they wouldn’t be open again until Monday morning. Fortunately, we were able to find a nice hotel in the center of town and our unexpected day in Calais turned into a pleasant visit.

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The Burghers of Calais – in Calais!

Monday morning, we picked up our car and headed to the city of Rouen, known for being the home of Joan of Arc and where she was martyred. It is also home to the stunning Cathedral of Rouen which was a subject of several paintings by Monet, which we had seen in the exhibit in San Francisco. The old town has many half-timbered houses and along with the cathedral there is also the Church of Saint-Maclou which is in the “flamboyant” gothic style.

The Cathedral of Rouen has many impressive memorials, including one to St. Joan of Arc, who I consider a real “Amazon” and who is memorialized throughout the city of Rouen. There is also the femur of the original Duke of Normandy, Rollo, who was a Viking leader. The town, as most of the towns in Normandy, was heavily damaged in the war, and the cathedral is under nearly constant repair, from storm damage as well as age and pollution.

After leaving Rouen, we headed to Caen, where we met my nephew Alfonso, and his husband Joris, who were joining us for our time in Normandy from Rotterdam. We spent some time at the castle of William the Conqueror that evening, which is in the process of reconstruction. We headed up to our house rental, a very cute home in the town of Benouville, near a war memorial, the Pegasus Bridge featured in the film “The Longest Day.” The house is near the beach town of Ouistreham, which is also worth a visit. We ended up using the two bikes at the rental house and renting two more so we could bike along the beach one day, which was a lot of fun.

Our second day in Caen, we went to the town of Bayeux to see the famous tapestry that depicts the Battle of Hastings between William the Conqueror and Harold who had taken on the throne of England in his place. The tapestry is impressive and we also enjoyed visiting the nearby museum about the WW II landings. After the visit to Bayeux we went to Omaha Beach and walked up to the memorials on the hill above.

On Wednesday, we made our way toward Brittany and the famous Mont Saint Michel. The day started off foggy and our first glimpse of the mount and it’s abby was in the fog. The day cleared some and we did get some sun as we made our way through the narrow streets of the fortress that has had many purposes over the centuries. I was happy to return to this place, as I felt we hadn’t been able to spend much time here when I was a student and our guide had seemed in a hurry to usher us through. We worked our way up through the crowds to the abby where we did the audio tour. It was very impressive and they have added some modern artwork in many of the rooms.  The tide was at a high point when we arrived so we were able to watch it go out over the hours that we were there.

After touring the abby we made our way down along the ramparts, checking out the cannons and having lunch in one of the rooms above the tourist shops. We were lucky that the weather was nice during most of our visit.

Our next stop was St. Malo, and I was very excited to revisit this town, it was one of my favorite stops from 31 years ago. I had written in my diary then that I wanted to visit the town in the summer someday (my previous tour had been in April, when it had been rather cold) and so my wish was finally being fulfilled. It was as I remembered, the high walls surrounding a medieval town, although it had clearly

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become much more commercial in the center part of the town. We made our way all around the ramparts, enjoying the views of the various forts, and the sea. I bought a water color painting at the marketplace to commemorate our visit.

The next day we went to the American Cemetery, which was very sobering. The monuments in general have changed a great deal since my last. They have all been improved with first-person stories from survivors. I was particularly impressed with the visitors’ center at the cemetery, which was built in 2004 and recently renovated. The center did a very good job of providing context and telling personal stories of individual soldiers. I felt it was important to pay my respects for those who gave all to protect democracy, and I hope that I can show even a shred of the courage that they did to help protect the future for my children.

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Our next stop was Pointe du Hoc. This memorial has also been improved since I was last here. There is a new visitors center where survivors tell their version of the story. In fact, the story we were when I was a student was incorrect and I heard a more accurate version of the story more recently.  The rangers climbed up the cliffs at this point to take out a gun battery the month before D-Day to keep it from being able to attack ships during the invasion.

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Friday was our day at the beach with biking and we finished our day with a seafood dinner in Ouistreham. Saturday morning, we were up early to drive back to Calais to drop off our rental car and take the train to Paris. We stayed at an apart-hotel near the Gare de l’Est that had two bedrooms so the boys had their own bedroom, and we had a little kitchenette. That afternoon we walked through the Marais and stopped at Places des Vosges. The Marais has become much more commercial as well, I was surprised to see more chain stores and high-end shops. We then walked by Notre Dame and had dinner at a bistro. The weather was very nice in Paris, warm but with cool breezes.

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Sunday, we started off with a visit to the Cluny museum which has medieval art, and is in one of the oldest buildings in Paris, with ruins going back to the Roman era, it was originally a Roman bath in the Roman city of Lutetia. It is also the home of the tapestries called the Lady and the Unicorn which are stunning in their color and vibrancy.

I took a break while the boys went to the Musee D’Orsay to check out the Impressionists in the afternoon. That evening we went to a chamber music performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the Sainte-Chapelle. Both the music and the surroundings were stunning.

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For our last day, I spent a few hours in the morning doing a little shopping, then met the boys at the Louvre museum – pro-tip, skip the lines by buying your ticket online. The only reason you have to stand in line is to get through security and the line is shorter if you can show them that you already have a ticket. The Louvre is wonderful as always and we focused on the Denon wing which is always the most popular. It houses most of the paintings, including the Mona Lisa, as well as the most popular sculptures, including Michelangelo. Andrew was particularly interested in the Romantic and Neo-classical art.

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We concluded our last night in Paris at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves, Bofinger, at Place de la Bastille. It’s in an art deco building, and the food was very good. We had the seafood platter which included lobster, prawns, shrimp, whelks, crab, etc…we had a very enjoyable evening overall.

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Paris is wonderful, but I like London better. My big complaint about Paris is that it really smells of urine during the summer, and I don’t mean dog urine. We actually came across a man peeing in a park as we were leaving the Cluny Museum. Men seem to think it’s OK to pee just about anywhere, in the Metro, streets, alleys, etc. Since it’s summer and hot, it smells everywhere. This is not something I have noticed in London. Then there’s the typical problem of Parisians who don’t clean up after their dogs. You have to be constantly vigilant to avoid stepping in dog poop.

Despite the smells, I do enjoy Paris, and overall, we had a great trip. It was my first time going to Europe that I didn’t have to do any work. People were very friendly, my French came back fairly quickly, and the boys got to practice their French, too (they’re both taking French at school). Although the security was high, it wasn’t oppressive. I look forward to visiting again, soon.

London – 2017

When we started to plan our trip to Normandy, I knew we had to make a stop in London first. I have been traveling to Europe regularly for 22 years. In fact, our honeymoon anniversary (August 1995) marks my first research trip to Europe after my first study abroad trip in 1986.  This trip is my first real vacation only trip to Europe – no classes, no interviews, no library research, just fun with my family.

London is probably my favorite city in Europe, although it’s very hard to compare to Paris, Rome and Berlin. I also love Vienna and Brussels for different reasons. But I love the underground, and the theatre, the parks and the shopping (I didn’t get to do any with the boys around on this trip), the food and the people-watching, the politics and the attitude.

We landed on the 4th of July, definitely not a holiday in London. We started off by trying get over our jet lag with a lot of walking. We did allow ourselves a nap at our apartment. We rented a two-bedroom place right next to Paddington station through VRBO.  Our first stop was to grab some sandwiches so we could enjoy lunch in Kensington Gardens. Then we walked through Hyde Park and St. James Park, before checking out the West End. The weather was very warm the whole time we were in London, mostly in the 80s.

We met my friend, Glyn Ford, at his club, the (in)famous Groucho Club, for a drink before dinner. Glyn is a former MEP from Manchester who has been a Labour Party stalwart since the 80s and worked on antidiscrimination policy. He was the focal point of my book, Legislating Equality, and we have been friends for many years, he has hosted me in Brussels many times.  We didn’t get into talking about Trump or Brexit much, those topics are too painful for both of us, we talked more about recent household moves and family life. I hope to start working on Glyn’s biography soon…we found a good Indian food place for dinner nearby and tried to sleep in our non-air-conditioned apartment that night….

Wednesday morning, we met my friend Steven Erlanger, currently London bureau chief for the NY Times, soon to be in Brussels as the diplomatic correspondent. I met Steve about 10 years ago when I started going to the Brussels Forum and we have kept in touch over the years. We did talk a lot about Trump and politics, which wasn’t very encouraging. He was headed to the G20 meetings, so I’ll have to check in with him this week to get his personal perspective, but I can read all about his professional perspective in his most recent articles.

The next stop was Westminster Cathedral. Very beautiful and majestic, and a reminder of the schism between Protestants/Anglicans and Catholics in England. We then moved on to Westminster Abby, which is overwhelming in scale with the amazing number of tombs and monuments to historical figures. The audio tour was very helpful in giving context to the many chapels, and we were lucky to have access to all of chapels, sometimes they are closed for various reasons.

After lunch, went the British Museum and saw the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon. We picked up some tickets for a comedy (Tapeface) for Thursday night at the half-price ticket outlet in Leicester square and headed off for dinner at an Italian restaurant (Wildwood) in the West End.

Thursday morning we went to the Churchill War Rooms which were much more extensive than I expected. We spent a lot of time in the Churchill museum section, which had a lot of interactive sections and excerpts from his speeches. It made it easy to imagine being down there during the war and the courage the people must have had to be there during bombardments.

After another quick lunch, we made our way to the Imperial War Museum on the other side of the Thames river. We didn’t have much time there, so we focused on the World War I section which had been recently updated, and also had many new interactive exhibits. It was very sobering to think of the millions of lives lost, and the huge transition from cavalry to more modern styles of warfare including tank warfare. After a quick dinner at Pret a Manger, we made it to our show, Tapeface, which was very funny – the boys really enjoyed it, and it’s nice that they are now old enough to take to these types of shows.

Friday, we stopped at Leicester square and picked up tickets for the show, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery for Friday night before heading back to the British Museum to see the special exhibition on Japanese wood block prints. We also checked out the rooms about the Anglo-Saxons and British history. We then had a nice dinner at a fish restaurant before going to our show, which was also very funny.

Saturday, we made a quick dash to the Victoria and Albert Museum before heading to the train station, but unfortunately we missed our train, so we had to take a later train to Calais, but that meant that Andrew, Mike and Brandon had a chance to visit the British Library and see the Magna Carta and other documents. Then we were off to Calais through the Chunnel!

I must comment that my boys, Andrew (16) and Brandon (13) have been a joy to travel with. They have been traveling with us to Europe since they were infants, and they have always been troopers, but now that they are older and can appreciate things like the theatre it’s really great to see them becoming young men, hear their opinions and see them develop their own ideas. I was so surprised when Andrew wanted to go to San Francisco on his own with some of his friends a few weeks ago and visit the De Young Museum, but it makes sense given that he has spent his life visiting great museums in Europe. They make me proud 🙂

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