Simanaitis Says

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INFLATED ESTIMATES of crowd sizes are continuing talking points these days. In countering such alternative facts, I offer here several non-crowd scenes that have presidential associations ranging from James Madison through John F. Kennedy.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is the busiest facility of its kind in the country. Located along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., this venue honors the 35th President of the United States and has some 2000 performances annually, attended by nearly two million people.

Non-crowd scene one: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.

The Kennedy Center was opened in 1971, though its heritage traces back to 1958. That year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Cultural Center Act passed by the U.S. Congress.

The Eisenhower Theater, honoring the 34th President of the U.S., is one of seven Kennedy Center venues, home to many theater and dance performances. It’s the size of a typical Broadway theater, seating an audience of 1164.

My second non-crowd scene: the Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center.

The 1958 National Cultural Center Act requires the Kennedy Center to be sustained through private funds, and it has thrived as a public-private partnership. Its performers have derived support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

However, the current president has proposed eliminating these other public-private entities. That is, expenditures of these two endowments are not all-encompassing grants, they’re typically seed money encouraging private donations.

Madison Square Garden is my third example with a presidential association, albeit a bit indirect compared with the first two. James Madison, 4th President of the U.S., is honored in New York City’s Madison Square at the intersection of 5th Avenue, Broadway and 23rd Street. From there on, the tale gets convoluted indeed.

Non-crowd three: Madison Square Garden I, c. 1879.

The original Madison Square Garden, located nearby at Madison Avenue and 26th Street, traced some of its success to P.T. Barnum, sort of a Reality Celebrity of his era. From 1879 to 1890, the locale served as an open-air venue for boxing, track, horse shows and exhibitions of Barnum’s Jumbo the elephant.

Non-crowd four: Madison Square Garden II. The 1924 Democratic National Convention was held here.

The second Madison Square Garden, 1890–1925, was designed by architect Stanford White; he, later murdered by Harry Kendall Thaw in 1906 because of his affair with Evelyn Nesbit, Thaw’s wife at the time. Another tale; another time.

Madison Square Garden III, 1925–1968, wasn’t anywhere near Madison Square. It was northeast of there on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. No one thinks much of it today; the place had bad sight lines and it was poorly ventillated, back when the swells all smoked cigars.

Madison Square Garden IV, blessedly the final one so far, has the distinction of being built atop the existing Pennsylvania Station, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues from 31st to 33rd Streets, again nowhere near Madison Square. (At least P.T. Barnum had some topographical integrity.)

My fifth non-crowd scene. Image of Madison Square Garden IV from

Imagine Madison Square Garden filled with families benefiting from health care, had the current president and his Republican pals not attacked the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood.

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the U.S., is linked in our discussion with Medicare, Medicaid, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

Golly, a trifecta of health, the arts and science.

Non-crowd scene six: The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.

The current president’s ignorance of science is described in Science magazine’s March 16, 2017, article “A Grim Budget Day for U.S. Science.” Seemingly, everything but nuclear weapons takes a hit; one, the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, is eliminated completely.

Not a non-crowd scene: the 2018 Budget Request. Image from AAAS Science magazine.

Lyndon B. Johnson’s political acumen in advancing Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights is perhaps better remembered than his establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967. Its goal has been to ensure universal access to non-commercial, high-quality content and telecommunication services.

My final non-crowd. Image from

Big Bird and his pals are missing from this rural scene, at least in part because of the proposed elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

PBS’s Paula Kerger explains a crucial difference in big city versus rural funding: “… we have about 86 stations [of 1500 in all] that serve rural communities. It [the PBS contribution] can represent as much as 50 or 60 percent of their budget. And so the reason that we fight for this funding so intently is that those stations would immediately go off the air.”

Kerger offers a tidbit concerning 40 percent of PBS preschool viewers: “In many communities and in many homes that cannot afford cable or broadband, we are the lifeline.”

I conclude by wondering about the current president’s heritage-to-be. Not counting the buildings he’s already named after himself. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017

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