Related Content: Gwen's Take

Remembering and Reimagining August 28, 1963

Gwen's Take

Two years ago, I wrote this piece about looking back and looking forward. Now, because we love our landmarks, the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington has allowed us to focus once again on a pivotal national event that did so much to shape the way we view ourselves and our nation.

Names have been lost in the popular retelling. Bayard Rustin was the organizer who somehow figured out a way to get a quarter of a million people to descend on the capital for a march that made some pretty radical demands. Walter Reuther and A. Philip Randolph were the labor organizers whose efforts ensured that the crowd was so racially diverse. Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the only woman on the organizing committee, and scolded the civil rights leaders who decided the day's speakers would all be male. She lost that fight.

I'm embarrassed to say I've learned, or re-learned, a lot of this recently as I was preparing for the series of conversations we've been having on the PBS NewsHour and Washington Week leading up to the anniversary. It puts nearly everything we are watching unfold in Washington now in context -- from economic stress to power politics to personal security. And it helps us to look forward, too.

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August 25, 2011

My daily commute takes me south along the Potomac River and past the neoclassical majesty of the Lincoln Memorial, a beautiful drive I try not to take for granted.

But I had been living and working in the nation's capital for more than two decades before I retraced the steps I had taken as a schoolchild, up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Gwen’s Take | Inside the Supreme Court with Sonia Sotomayor

Gwen's Take

There are few places in Washington as grand as the Supreme Court. The staircases sweep; the marble columns soar, and the carved archways inside guide visitors down hushed hallways. The chamber itself, with its velvet drapes, elevated bench and rich history, makes you drop your voice to a whisper once you’re inside.

Gwen’s Take | Happy 100th Birthday, Rosa Parks

Gwen's Take

We know instinctively that not everything we come to believe as history is true. But we want it to be.

We want to believe that a timid seamstress sat down on a city bus in December, 1955 and refused to give up her seat to a white man because she was just too tired.

We want to believe that she was a solitary heroine who single-handedly desegregated public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama overnight.

And we want to believe that she spent the rest of her days comfortably, secure in the knowledge that her meek, nonviolent approach to injustice made all the difference.

Reading Between the Lines

Gwen's Take

Both presidential candidates have been campaigning hard with under a week to go until Nov. 6 (Photo: CNN)

The days tick down to a precious few, and partisans on both sides of the political divide are asking the same essential question: What’s gonna happen?

The Big Straddle: Why Compromise Can Be Hazardous to One’s Political Health

Gwen's Take

“There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”

Jim Hightower, a committed liberal and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner, liked to say this so much that he finally used it as a title for a book.

I was reminded of this tart assessment this week as I watched two skilled politicians attempt to negotiate a growing chasm opening under their feet. One of them, Indiana GOP Sen. Richard Lugar, slipped and fell. The other, President Obama, appeared to leap nimbly to the other side of the sinkhole just before it swallowed him up.

The Advantage of Incumbency

Gwen's Take

Mitt Romney’s May Day plan seemed pretty reasonable for a man who had been systematically and successfully clearing his path to the Republican nomination for more than a year.

Republicans had been quietly dinging President Barack Obama throughout the previous weekend for appearing to be taking a victory lap leading up to the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

When’s a Campaign Not a Campaign? (See Obama, Gingrich)

Gwen's Take

Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside, it turns out the campaign lull we thought had just begun hasn’t occurred at all.

We were assured by the Democrats that the president’s travels to three battleground states this week were absolutely, positively, not about politics. Ignore those arenas full of students shouting “Four more years.” This was all about policy, they insisted.

Target Lugar: Mayhem in Indiana

Gwen's Take

Updated: 4/13/12 10:40pm

INDIANAPOLIS -- On the morning after the season's only Indiana Senate primary debate, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock arose early and headed for a Rotary Club in suburban Noblesville. There were fewer than 20 people there, which meant there was plenty of sausage, egg and waffle casserole to go around.

The club's president announced he was stepping down as the town's top Rotarian. Then he turned to Mourdock, who is attempting to unseat 80-year-old incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and winked. "The time comes for everybody to retire," he said.

Tea Leaf Reading at Its Best: Eavesdropping on the Supreme Court

Gwen's Take

Updated 3/30/12 12:24pm

I was never tempted to go to law school. But I love to parse language and reasoning, so listening to the audio of this week’s Supreme Court health care arguments was -- in its nerdy way -- actually quite enjoyable.

Because the courts remain the only branch of the federal government that still stubbornly bans cameras from proceedings, we rely on audiotapes released later in the day to hear history unfold. It’s there where those of us who don’t get into the room get to listen for cadence, eloquence, and even humor.

Backbone, Consistency and Standing Your Ground

Gwen's Take

I've spent a fair amount of time this week pondering what it means to stand one's ground.

The term has taken on a new, disturbing meaning as the story of the shooting of an unarmed Florida teenager took on a life of its own. I don't know anyone who's ever loved a boy who was not unnerved by this. Florida's self-defense law, known as “Stand Your Ground,” allows citizens who feel they are in imminent danger to protect themselves -- with a gun, if need be.