Dr. Mednicov’s Modern Art Class, by Staci Antu
Mr. James Reston had a busy day planned at SHSU. With back to back events scheduled for the day, the LEAP Ambassadors were prepared to help Mr. Reston provide meaningful insight on his latest book “A Rift on Earth.” The book talks about the famous Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall located in Washington, D.C. and its controversial history.
Mr. Reston had the opportunity to speak about the Wall to Dr. Melissa Mednicov’s class, where the students proved interested in knowing more about the Vietnam Era and about how the memorial got started.
Afterwards, students were able to ask questions and were lucky enough to receive signed books by Mr. Reston.
We were thrilled to have shared this experience with the art department but our day was by no means over.
Lunch with Reston, by Bianca Saldierna
Following James Reston’s busy morning, we met for lunch at one of the LEAP Center’s favorite local restaurants, Carbonero Rotisserie. We did not have to go far to give our guests the opportunity to try a different cultural cuisine, authentic Salvadorian food! Joining us was former Mayor of Huntsville, Mac Woodward, and the News Director of KSAM, Larry Crippen. We all began by sampling El Salvador’s most notable dish, pupusas, as well as, some sweet fried plantains. As lunch continued, a myriad of conversations resonated across the room. One of the most interesting discussions was about the famous Watergate scandal and James Reston’s role in helping journalist, David Frost, prepare the televised interviews with Richard Nixon. Mr. Reston also gave us an overview of his unpublished book addressing the tragedy of 9/11, which we are looking forward to seeing in the bookstore shelves. With the great company and the great food, time flew by, and finally it was time to head on to Houston.
Brazos Bookstore Booksigning, by Kaitlin Tyra
Although traveling to Houston can be a bit of a drive, especially during rush hour traffic, the LEAP Ambassadors eagerly traveled to Brazos Bookstore in Houston for Mr. Reston’s book signing. Thankfully our drive down was uneventful and we had a few minutes to browse Brazos’ unique collection of books before the talk began.
A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial was published only a month ago. The book discusses the process of creating the Vietnam War Memorial, the submission contest, the controversy around the design of the Memorial, as well as the art and architecture behind the Memorial. The LEAP Ambassadors were eager to learn from Mr. Reston about such an important piece of our nation’s history.
Interestingly, the architect that won the submission contest, Maya Lin, was a twenty-one-year-old undergraduate student at Yale. Mr. Reston spoke highly of Ms. Lin and of her courage throughout the vetting process of the Memorial. His book details the controversy behind not only the design of the Vietnam Memorial, but also the Memorial itself.
The War created divisiveness in the United States and the Memorial starting what Mr. Reston calls the “Second Vietnam War”. Some did not think the United States should memorialize a lost war and such a horrible blemish of American history, while others wanted to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice of the 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in service.
Mr. Reston’s description of the Memorial throughout the book provided vivid imagery to the reader. He explained some of the hidden symbolism of the art like the reflective quality of the black granite which allows the Memorial visitor to imagine themselves in the place of the names on the wall through its reflective nature. The audience truly felt the importance and impact of the Memorial through his words.
Ultimately, the Vietnam War Memorial stands as a symbol of unity today; unity in a time of divisiveness and turmoil in the country. The Memorial reminds us not only of the lives lost fighting this specific war, but in all wars. The names inscribed in black granite remind of us the toll war takes on a country, and serves as a poignant reminder of the tragedy Americans endured. Although Mr. Reston’s book is a reminder of the tragedies of war, it also gives the reader a sense of pride with the emergence of the Memorial.
Mr. Reston concluded the book talk by visiting with the audience and signing guest’s books before we departed off to dinner.
Dinner at Azuma Sushi, Brian Aldaco
With a very successful book signing finished, we thought it was time to have some dinner making the short drive to Azuma Sushi and Robata Bar. As we have visited this place before, it has now become a LEAP favorite and we wanted to show Mr. Reston the delights of this sushi restaurant.
As always, we ordered a little bit of everything. Ranging from raw sushi for the curious, some fried sushi for those who did not appreciate the raw sushi, and kabobs for everyone to enjoy. Regardless of which group you were in, the Crazy Irishman Roll was the favorite. This yummy roll of salmon, tuna, and avocado wrapped warmly together by green soybean paper, flash fried, and then covered by spicy mayo, unagi sauce, green onions, and masago was a mouth-watering joy to feast on. But if one amazing culinary experience wasn’t enough, the grand finale was dessert time. Not knowing what to expect, we were intrigued by the dessert options that they had. Tempura banana with ice cream, fried red bean ice cream, and Mochi (a confection made with pounded sticky rice and stuffed with an ice cream filling).
It was with a sigh of satisfaction that we moved away our empty plates and continued our chatter about the day’s successes. With a busy week still ahead of us, we appreciated this moment to relax and enjoy our conversations with Mr. Reston.