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The Independent Man on top of the State House
The truth is I didn't see a lot of Providence, Rhode Island but the little I did see, I photographed. I spent most of my time inside the convention center meeting people and pushing forth a progressive agenda that includes military families. Since there was only one of me, that I know of, I don't know how far the message got but here is a short recap:
  • Health Care is a military family issue - Congress is about to raise rates on retirees, possibly on active duty families, and they are considering cutting budgets to the Veteran's Administration. Fix the entire nation's health care woes and we can also take care of our military and vets. And, guess what? The military community votes. Frame this is as saving their system and you gain a new audience for a progressive health care system.
  • Repealing DOMA is a military family issue - Many of our newly outed GLBT members have spouses (some legal, some waiting on legality) and they cannot be recognized by the Department of Defense. No military ID cards, no base access without special permission, no health care, no Commissary benefits, no BX benefits, no belonging to the Officer Spouses' Club or the Enlisted Spouses' Club. What's up folks? Our military members deserve the best and that includes care for their loved ones.
  • Education is a military family issue - one at the National Level. We move too much to be involved at every locality. Give us a national movement that we can get behind. Repeal of NCLB would be a good start. Getting rid of national standardized tests would be a great follow on.
  • Military Sexual Trauma is a civilian issue - not just a military one. I will be writing more about this in the weeks that follow because a bullet point can't do it justice. In the meantime, please schedule time to go see this film, The Invisible War, which opens June 22nd.

As to Providence, I can't imagine a better place to host a convention. The city was walkable - hotels, stores, restaurants, parks, the river, all well planned and beautifully built smack dab in the heart of the city. Enjoy the photos below!

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Views of the Biltmore and the Westin from the river.

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The Capitol Building as seen from the city streets
Before I arrived to Providence, I had imagined a typical American city with tall office buildings that obscure beautiful views, crowded city streets, and dirty sidewalks. Was I ever wrong. Walking outside the train station, I saw an immediate view of the amazing State Capitol building, shining even in the rain. It's whiteness was stark against the gray sky and the surrounding green trees. I was tired and didn't break out the camera because I felt the shots would not have been excellent and figured I would get them on a sunnier day.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the view from our hotel room and there she was, that beautiful building in the distance. I didn't imagine I would be able to see the city spread out before me much less photograph it from the privacy of my own room! I was able to see the city in all it's glory, late afternoon light, early morning fog, and, on the very last day, with the pinks, purples, and peaches of dawn light. Thank you, 4Freedom, for making that room reservation so early!

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Providence on my final morning, about 5:30 AM
Just the walk alone from the Biltmore Hotel to the Convention Center was pleasant. I passed a nearby park everyday - statues and sculptures joined by park benches filled with people and garden beds overflowing with summer color. The light posts all held flower baskets artfully arranged and several intersections with a riot of color. This city does not hold back on bringing nature into the world of concrete and pavement.
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A quiet Sunday morning in downtown Providence
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If only my campfires could look so neat.

But the highlight, by far, took place at night and you have no doubt heard mention of it's name, Waterfire. Comedian Elon James White, our emcee for the closing keynote, said the name alone could have come from Game of Thrones. I don't think he was far off.

The entire city came out for the event. The walkways, the low stone walls, the steps, were covered with people of all ages, enjoying the cool evening, listening to the rich music, many sipping wine from bottles that they had brought with them for the occasion. I love seeing mixed groups of people together and this did not disappoint. There were little kids escaping their parents grasp, pointing at the never ending line of firepits; young lovers that had eyes only for each other, obviously seeing the reflection of the firelight in the eyes of their partner; bands of teens just hanging out, having a good time; and throngs of convention goers who hadn't even taken the time to remove their name tags. CABerkeleyWV and I had a great time walking up one side of the river and coming back down the other.

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Firepits and their reflections went on forever.
And it wasn't just the fire pits reflecting in the water that caught our attention. Boats were cruising back and forth: flat-bottomed tourist boats that could fit a crowd, gondolas with romantic couples and their gondoliers decked out in the traditional red and white striped shirts of Venice; boats lined with women paddling at good speed and well lit by torches at the stern. The boat restocking the fires wasn't half bad either. It was an acrobatic act for the captain to pull in close enough so that each of his crew could toss on a log as he cruised by.
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Women paddling smooth and sure down the river.
Alongside the river were paths that hugged its sides, sidewalks up high that led to historical statues and colonial buildings, and parks filled with luminaries both on the ground and hanging from trees. There were booths selling food and impromptu restaurants offering meals. Oracles camouflaged as statues handed out fortunes to those willing to part with a dollar. And the night brought out the lit toys from China, swords and Trojan head pieces sparkling in multicolored hues, and the ever present glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets adorned both children and adults. All of it was tied together by those fires reflecting in the water and the smell of woodsmoke on the wind. It was a night that might never end.
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Young women enjoying the view.
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Real live statues.
My first Netroots Nation will be one I will remember and treasure forever. I didn't do everything and as I see all the great pictures, I wish I could have done more. But I can't regret my choices in hindsight. A Netroots Nation newbie is bound to slip up and make some poor choices or get overwhelmed and decide to take a break and miss some of the action. When I go next year (yes, I think I can fit it in before we leave for our next military assignment... after all, California is home), I will show up a day or two early. I will learn to sleep in past 5:30 am so that I am well rested from late nights. And I will meet every one that I possibly can and give them un beso argentino and remind them that military families are a part of the progressive community.
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When ever I hear Blue Star Families, I will remember Providence, RI

Originally posted to A Progressive Military Wife on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos, Netroots For The Troops®, and Mojo Friday.

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