Anne and Emmett

John McCaslin

3/21/2008 10:14:58 AM - John McCaslin

How ironic, Janet Langhart Cohen observed yesterday, that it is a black person, Barack Obama, who has been called up to the podium to answer to the deep racial divides that have existed in the United States for centuries.

"Think of the irony of that. Only in America," said the playwright, author, former TV journalist and wife of former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Mrs. Cohen will expand on the race issue as it pertains to the presidential election in Monday's column, but we wanted to first report that she adds yet another title to her name, "Queen Esther, Hadassah," when she marches today in the Purim parade through Washington.

Born with Jewish roots, like her husband, Mrs. Cohen is using the honor of being selected Queen Esther to draw attention to the racism and anti-Semitism that remain so prevalent throughout the world and in this country in particular.

She notes that Queen Esther successfully appealed for Jewish people to be spared from massacre on the 13th day of Adar. Jews celebrated on the 14th day, and the walled city of Jericho rejoiced on the 15th day when the news arrived there. Thus, the three-day observance.

Similarly, Mrs. Cohen pointed out, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution abolished slavery, granted citizenship to former slaves and gave black men the right to vote.

All of which segues to her latest project, a one-act play titled "Anne and Emmett" that draws historical parallels between the lives of Anne Frank and Emmett Till, teen victims of anti-Semitism and racism. The play has its first U.S. reading at Emerson College in Boston on April 10, during Holocaust Remembrance Month and shortly after the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

"It's an amazing play, it really came through me," Mrs. Cohen told Inside the Beltway. "With all the recent cases of anti-Semitism, Mel Gibson's derogatory comments, the whole issue of race in America and what is now coming out in the [presidential] campaign, Anne and Emmett couldn't be more timely."

Boxers for Barack

Supporters of Barack Obama are coming up with some unique party themes when hosting fundraising events for the Democratic presidential candidate, such as playing "Barack Jeopardy," "Running With Obama," "Wine Tasting With Obama," even "Praying for Obama."

Michael Romelotti, a member of the Washington-area boxing community, now is planning a "Boxing for Barack" exhibition — in Clinton, Md., no less — featuring several amateur and professional bouts.

"Washington, D.C., is a hotbed of boxing talent," he notes. "Several professional boxers are current title holders or ranked in the top 10."

Worth noting

Extend congratulations to Christopher Hunsberger of the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown for winning the Stars of the Industry Awards' "Outstanding General Manager of the Year" honors.

Mr. Hunsberger has been the Washington general manager for more than eight years, also serving as regional vice president for the luxury hotel property.

'Aunt Wijtska'

Opening our mailbag we find readers commenting on the Democratic infighting, particularly after the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign accused the Barack Obama campaign of voting irregularities in Texas — from locking Mrs. Clinton's supporters out of caucus sites to filling out precinct convention sign-in sheets during the day and submitting them as completed vote totals.

A woman who asks to be identified by her initials, T.D., writes: "As a Republican Party election judge in Fort Worth, Texas, on primary day, I can attest that the Democratic Party judges were nothing short of incompetent. Indeed, as a sworn election official, I spent much of my time helping them because they didn't know how to conduct a legal election. ... They have only themselves to blame for any problems with the election."

Meanwhile, hours after we posted our "Trace your roots" item yesterday — observing that the National Archives for the first time is making available online more than 5.2 million records transcribed from original ship manifests of some of the passengers who arrived during the last half of the 19th century at the ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans — we received this note from Joe Brouwer of Bainbridge Island, Wash.:

"Thank you so much for the heads up on the Web site. Manifest No.'s 4, 5 and 6 — Grampa, Grandma and my Aunt Wijtska. As I looked at my family, I started looking down the list noticing families and individuals from different countries, pondering on that moment, their past and future. Very touching indeed."