Generations before ours kind of came to a full stop at a certain age. Baby boomers are different. We keep working, we keep playing, we keep thinking, we keep learning. That’s what communications specialist Larry Checco of Silver Spring, Maryland, writes about when he tells us of one of his favorite ways to spend time: at Chez Mitzi’s.
From the audience, we both asked questions of expert panel members who were speaking at a Washington, DC, event. We’d never met before, but afterwards we spoke briefly.
“I’d like to invite you to my salon,” she said.
I ran a hand over my baldpate and laughed. But I knew what she meant.
“Salons,” at least the kind that bring people together to discuss art, literature, politics, and the like, date back to 16th Century Italy and flourished in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.
During the first half of the 20th Century, American ex-pat Gertrude Stein hosted a salon in Paris where she gathered people who would eventually become some of the world’s most popular writers and artists, including Picasso, Hemingway, and others.
Unfortunately, since that time, such gatherings seem to have gone out of favor.
But not for longtime Washingtonian Mitzi Wertheim. Among many other career highlights, Mitzi was the Peace Corps’ first hire in 1961, as well as the U.S. Navy’s first female political appointee. She worked for the Navy from 1977 to 1981. In 1984, she founded MIT ‘s Seminar XXI for future leaders of the foreign and national security policy communities.
This woman understands the power of ideas, asking questions, story-telling, and networking for action.
Over the past ten or so years she has brought together a dynamic, fluid, and intergenerational group of people who gather in her home about once a month to listen to speakers and to discuss and debate timely topics— from environmental to national security issues, globalization, education, and governance, to the cultural and social justice challenges of our time.
Many of the speakers are noted Washington movers and shakers. Many salon participants are interesting and interested young twenty-somethings who Mitzi nurtures by inviting them to join in the discussions.
Since joining the salon about 18 months ago, I’ve met and spoken one-on-one with the current director of the National Security Agency (yes, that NSA), a female astronaut, noted authors, current and former government officials, and others who have enriched and expanded my thinking.
So what does all this have to do with me being an aging boomer?
An evening at the salon is like giving my mind an oil change. It lubricates many of my worn and tired axons and synapses, reduces some of life’s friction, and gives renewed energy to old thoughts. In short, it offers an opportunity for life-long learning.
Mitzi’s litany of mottos include, “Conversation leads to Solutions….If you don’t know, ASK….We all LEARN together….Keep your antenna up!”
These are thoughts worth pursing— and the salon concept is worth replicating.
At the very least, it would help to keep our aging brains exercised. Better yet, it might help us to focus on the complicated and perplexing issues of our times that need some focus— and perhaps some change!
© 2016 Larry Checco