After leaving DC by train on Friday, April 13, I arrived in Wilmington, Delaware. I met up with three good friends who I worked with while at my previous job at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).
One was Chad Kifer, who was my direct supervisor for three years; he is now working in development at an all girls Catholic school in Wilmington. The other was Bill Rivers, who was a high school student in Wilmington when I first met him; he then interned for ISI while in high school and was an ISI Honors Fellow while in college at the University of Delaware. For the past year or so when we met in April, he had been running a pro-life organization in Delaware; at this writing, he is now working in D.C. for Senator Pat Toomey’s office. The third was Tom Schrandt, who is best friends with Bill Rivers, also was involved with ISI, and is now working at my sister think tank in Delaware, the Caesar Rodney Institute. The fourth friend was Joseph Corey, who was an ISI student at Central Michigan University when we first met and he now is in my old job at ISI! Lunch with these guys was great, we reminisced about old times and talked about the prospects for conservatism ahead, among other things.
After lunch, Joe took me by my old stomping grounds at ISI and introduced me to many of the new staff as I also had an opportunity to see some old colleagues. While visiting ISI, I ran into Annette Kirk, the widow of one of my favorite conservative thinkers and writers, Russell Kirk. I got to know Annette quite a bit while working at ISI and she is always a hoot. After touring ISI, Joe, Annette, and I got in a car and headed on to Philadelphia. We were all in town to go to the annual national meeting of the Philadelphia Society (their annual meetings don’t necessarily take place in Philadelphia, just a coincidence this time).
I have been a member of the Philadelphia Society since 2007 and have been attending their meetings since 2004. They have been around for nearly 48 years now. It is basically an organization of conservative academics and intellectuals. Each national meeting has a theme and this one’s was “America and Her Detractors in the Modern World.” America has lots of enemies – whether that be enemies of our Constitutional principles, economic principles, or foreign policy. There was something here for everyone. However, I thought that the most interesting discussion was on economics. Dr. James Otteson of Yeshiva University gave a very interesting lecture over the Saturday lunch on “Anti-Americanism as Anti-Capitalism.” In other words, he argued that since America is the beacon of free enterprise in the world, those who are against this economic system are against America because of it.
After dinner on the previous Friday evening, some of us in the younger crowd (by younger, that could really mean anyone under 50 at a Philadelphia Society meeting, but in this case some of us young professionals and grad students) went out on the town for a bit. The Philly Soc conference was held at the Sheraton Society Hill, which was just a few blocks from where Ben Franklin traversed the streets of Philadelphia and within a short walk of Independence Hall. In this area, there are lots of neat bars and restaurants, including one (name escapes me now) where we were able to try some very unique beers from various European countries.
The next day, after lunch, Joe, Tom, and I walked down to Independence Hall to pay a tribute to where our nation was founded – the spot where the Declaration of Independence was first read, where the Liberty Bell rang out a cry of independence, and later, where our U.S. Constitution was drafted. Today, patriots are still gathering about these founding principles and I am always proud to be a part of that legacy our founders left us.
On Saturday evening, I departed from Philadelphia by train to head over to New York City. I met up with my friend Curtis Waldo, who graciously gave me a place to stay at his apartment, just north of NYU. We then walked down to a restaurant named Cuba Libre, in the heart of the Tribeca area. I had asked a few of my friends to join us for dinner and was grateful they could all come. One of them was a new friend who I had never met before, but who I had corresponded with quite a bit over the past year: Michael Ross – who was on MTV’s The Real World Las Vegas the previous year.
Mike once wrote for The Terrapin Times, the conservative newspaper I founded at the University of Maryland. He wrote for us after I left Maryland and I only learned of him when he landed on MTV’s The Real World. After reaching out to him to let him know I was the founder of that paper, he had told me something like: “Thanks for founding it. Writing for The Terrapin Times was one of my best experience in college!” Now, a year later, after many tweets and texts, we finally met! He joined a group of several other friends, including David Kirby, Peter Milligan, and Eugenio Labadie. Mike also brought along his girlfriend, Taylor. (They are a great match, by the way)
Together, we had some good conversation, which at times delved into politics, the culture, etc. It was enjoyable and Mike was one hell of a nice guy. It was almost surreal at first, after seeing him on TV for so long. He told us a bit about a new company he founded called Greenest Genius. They encourage consumers to donate their old tech products (say, like an older version of your iPod) and donate it – the consumer gets money, Greenest Genius makes a profit, and kids with technological needs reap the benefits. Win-win-win.
After dinner, a few of us went out on the town for some drinks and fun and then the next morning, I headed out of New York City, taking a short commuter train over to Newark Airport in New Jersey. In the past five days I had been in Florida, Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and now, New Jersey. My plane connected in Charlotte, NC before arriving later that Sunday evening back in Tallahassee. What a great trip up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, seeing so many great friends along the way. Between the “First State” of Delaware, the “First Capital” of the U.S., New York City, and then a visit to Philadelphia, the city where our founding principles came to fruition in the greatest human document, the U.S. Constitution, it was great to be among patriots and beautiful spring weather.