The Chief in Spring

President Obama with Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. | Bill Starrels

On Easter weekend in Washington, the president became an avatar of spring, a burdened man who still led the way, like a pied piper, to greet spring with joy and a burst of activity.

In Washington, the tourists, too, are our avatars of spring, dropping out of the sky as the cherry blossoms did their magnificent thing.

But President Barack Obama showed the way, taking himself and his family not across the traditional way to St. John’s Episcopal in Lafayette Park but out to Southeast and Allen Chapel AME Church for an Easter service.

The visitation at a church, very much like the one he used to attend in Chicago, moved the congregation, the ministers, deacons, women, men and children there to the core. This is an area of the city where shootings are a regular part of the daily diet of woes that includes astronomic unemployment and a feeling that political leaders, from the mayor on down, had forgotten them.

But the president had not, and by attending and interacting, although not speaking, he brought with him — besides the circus of Secret Service and gawkers that go with him everywhere — some measure of renewed hope and energy. “This is a monumental moment for us as a community,” Church pastor Rev. Michael E. Bell Sr., said, as reported in the Washington Post. Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, a frequent visitor, and Mayor Adrian Fenty, not so much, sat quietly.

The president, like us, like the tulips, like the tourists, embraced spring, and dove into its duties with gusto — jump-starting egg hunt races at the White House were thousands of guests brightened up the lawn and the day afternoon on Sunday. No doubt, he forgave the children for getting a bigger kick out of teen rock star Justin Bieber, who sang and performed.

Later, he headed to the Nationals Ball Park, donned a red suit, and threw out the first pitch, a lob to the left, proving again that basketball was his game. On YouTube, you could hear a lone boo somewhere, but this was no tea party. This was baseball, the season initiated by the president, and the fans, who bring hope and begin their spring-summer-early-fall-to-October daily ritual of perusing the box scores as if they contained the baseball equivalent of Bible verses.

And that was spring in Washington, where the president lives by our leave, as do we. The Nationals, by the way, lost the opener 11-1, which does in no way diminish the fact that many, many games remain.

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