Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Maine Bus to the NAR Rally to Protect the American Dream

 How many REALTORS does it take to make a change…?

The last three days have been one hectic run-on sentence, and I wanted to finish up by getting home and showering before trying to put it all together for you.

Wednesday morning many of us boarded a Peter Pan bus (see references to the Land of the Lost Boys later in this blog) in Augusta, picking up more people in Portland and one last person at the York Park and Ride, making a group of nearly 50 REALTORS from Maine, and headed south towards our Nation's Capitol and the “Rally to Protect the American Dream” festivities.

We picked up, in addition to the other REALTORS, a lovely surprise in Portland. Phenix Title and a number of other benefactors had prepared goodie bags with all sorts of treats including homemade pretzels, puzzle books, sandwiches and beverages for us all. How great was that? On our return trip several of our previous state presidents provided us with yet another selection of treats for our trip. We thank all these people very,very much.

A mere thirteen hours later found us roaming around Bethesda in the wee hours of Thursday morning with about eight of the more helpful of our group, GPS Apps in hand, urging our slightly bewildered driver to “Turn right here”, “No, left”, “Go around”, “Now you’ve passed it”, “What was that address again?”

Check-in at the lovely Hyatt Regency Bethesda was, as Cindy (MAR staff) had predicted and as we have come to expect of events orchestrated by her, simple and swift.

We all scurried, well, maybe lurched is a better word, to our rooms, some showering, some just waving a toothbrush in front of our mouths and falling into bed.

After a refreshing four hours of sleep, down we went to the lobby and loaded ourselves onto the waiting bus which had returned from somewhere in Neverland to retrieve us.

The promise of a warm, sunny day and a boxed breakfast spurring us on, we headed toward the Washington Monument and Region 1, designated for New England REALTORS on our maps.

We started seeing blue t-shirts several blocks from the site and easily found our drop-off place. State of Maine flags were passed out as we left the bus, and we were repeatedly reminded that we would not see this bus again until 8:30 Thursday evening. Little did we know.

We followed informational signs and arrows and the growing groups of large white “R”s emblazoned on all those blue shirts.

This was a very well-run event. We entered the grounds and were given signs, fans, sun-screen, backpacks, bottles of water, that boxed breakfast I mentioned, and in the backpack, that all-important blue t-shirt which we all hurriedly put on wanting to be recognized as part of the group.

By the end of the rally it was announced that the park service had estimated that there were 13,800 of us there! It was quite a sight.

The crowd was growing, there was no doubt about that. Hastily eating our breakfast (juice, Danish, and an apple), we found our area and greeted others from Maine who had come down earlier in the week for the Midyear Legislative Meetings and Hill visits and who now joined us to make a group of close to 100 Mainers!

We all waved our flags and greeted old friends and colleagues.

Music was playing with most people singing along and inspirational quotes and short recorded speeches were being projected on a huge screen.

NAR President Moe Veissi, spoke a number of times, exhorting the crowd to chant enthusiastically their feelings about supporting and sustaining the American dream of home ownership.

A number of senators and state representatives were in attendance, and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) spoke eloquently about what owning a home means and has meant in his life. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) spoke about how politics as well as real estate is all local.

Gerardo Ascencio, NAHREP President, reminded us that no child thinks “When I grow up, I want to be a tenant.”

One of the most enthusiastic speakers was Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, who was a real crowd pleaser with his nearly euphoric report on housing prospects for the future.

Finally, President Veissi recalled a man being interviewed, or there being an attempt at interviewing him, on 9/11 saying to the reporter, “Leave me alone. I just want to go home.”

There were more Hill visits scheduled for the afternoon by many delegations from all over the country, but first there was a boxed lunch.

Here again, everything was extremely well-organized with people getting their lunches quickly and easily. In our backpacks was a foam cushion, and many groups were seen seated on these around the grounds eating their lunches and chatting in the warm, late morning sun.

There were plenty of portable toilets, ample shuttle buses, helpful red-shirted NAR staff, and I saw only a small amount of litter, and that was mostly where trash barrels had overflowed. People were certainly trying to be tidy and respectful. Lots of good cheer and a distinctly upbeat atmosphere prevailed.

Shuttle buses would take those who were interested back to the conference hotel which was near the Woodley Park Metro station. From there people could take in some of the trade show at the conference, go to the National Zoo or meet their transportation to other sites.

There were other options, of course, as there always are in Washington, DC.  Many chose to visit some of the attractions around the Mall. The Smithsonian, The Capitol, The White House, National Gallery of Art, and some chose the popular trolley tour. One group of enterprising folks from our group, so I hear, even commandeered a rogue shuttle bus and had their own private tour of the local sites.

Ah, we REALTORS are a creative lot!

Several of us opted for the zoo, not realizing that there was a private event scheduled, and it was closing at 3 pm. We did manage to wheedle our way in by saying we just needed to check on the status of the new elephant habitat. The docent waved us by.

Someone questioned how the zoo could just kick out the public like that in favor of a private event. The response to that was that, while all the public places in DC have free admission, if some person wants to actually pay to rent the space for a private occasion, they’ll gladly take the money. Funding for these institutions being what it is these days.

Dining out for dinner Thursday was on an individual basis; so people scattered to favorite spots or to venture into some new area or dining preference.

We headed for Chinatown, having had good luck there on other occasions. My friend and I were quite hungry by that time and while a restaurant called “One Big Wong” looked inviting or, at least, curious, we opted for a terrific Japanese sushi bar/restaurant next door. It was spectacular! The sushi was exquisite, and the shrimp and scallops in garlic sauce that I had was wonderful. To say nothing of the two passion fruit martinis.

Back to the hotel we went, full of great food, warmed by the setting sun of early summer, watching fireflies, remembering the speeches of the morning and thinking of, perhaps, catching a little more sleep than last night (or was that this morning) on the bus.

We were told to be at the entrance to the hotel by 8:30, ready to board and that the bus would leave at 9pm sharp, whether we were on board or not. We were there. We had snacks. We had anything we had accumulated during the day. We had eaten dinner, we had walked many miles today. We were tired. We had said goodbye to new friends and old. What we did not have was a bus.

Eight-thirty came and went. Then eight-forty-five. Here is where the Land of the Lost Boys comes in. I firmly believe that is where the driver and bus were. Nine-fifteen and people were beginning to repeat the mantra that was heard so many times at the rally this morning in stories about the American Dream. “I want to go home. I want to go home.” At nine-forty it pulled up and off we went into the night.

We had an uneventful trip home with but one stop before York. We took a 10-15 minute break at 4:06am somewhere in CT for restrooms and tea.

I remembered a quote that I have read and always thought of when dealing with homebuyers. This is from another president: “Look well to the hearthstone; therein all hope for America lies.”—Calvin Coolidge.

We are safely home again and wish sincerely that someday, due largely to our unselfish efforts this week, anyone who wishes to will be able to say the same.

Written by REALTOR Mary Kuykendall (pictured below) ... comments are those of the author.


Eleanor Carolan said...

Good job, Mary. Didn't we all have a blast! What a wonderful organization we have, particularly our MAR staff. We will miss Cindy so much. Ellie Carolan

Dplourde said...


Great job and yes it was quite a hectic few days. It was really nice to reconnect wioth old friends on the bus and meet some new ones. No one can ever say we are a shy bunch! It was a long ride home, but it was a really great feeling to have been part of this rally. I had never ween Lawrence Yun speak so passionatly about the future. It was really great! At the end though, everyone remembered, "I just want to go home" It was great! Don Plourde

Jo Ann said...

Those of us already in DC kept wondering our cohorts, "The Bus People," were fairing on their trip. We really appreciate the extra effort they made to join us! I have never been to such a rally before. NAR and MAR did a great job! You can see the videos of the presentations at includig many Mainers on the opening page. A special thank you to Mary for suggestion the passion fruit martinis!