By Forrest Bachner
Addie Alexander came into the world on a freezing March night in 2001 at the George Washington University Hospital. Besides being cared for by her parents, Burleith residents Jane and Chuck Alexander, and the able hospital staff, Addie was well guarded by the Secret Service agent posted outside her room. In the room next to her was Dick Cheney. Welcome to life in Washington. Brother Gabe Alexander waited for a steaming hot night five years later to be born at Sibley. Addie is now 18 and headed to Occidental College in Los Angeles this fall while Gabe, 13, will enter Wilson High School. As life-long residents of our neighborhood, I thought it would be interesting to get Addie and Gabe’s thoughts on growing up in Burleith.
But first a little background about their parents, who also sat in on this interview. Jane, a college counselor, and Chuck, in social change communications, met while working for George Washington University. Jane, a New Orleans native, came to Washington to attend GW and stayed. Chuck, hailing from Johnson City, Tenn., came to Washington seeking a bigger setting than his hometown or his college, Emory and Henry in Virginia. After looking in Mt. Pleasant and AU Park, and with no knowledge of Burleith as a neighborhood, Chuck and Jane bought a house on T Street a few months before Addie’s birth.
Now back to Addie and Gabe.
Q. What are your favorite memories of being small in Burleith?
Addie: The Tot Lot, riding my bike on Flat Street (otherwise known as the block of 38th Street between T and the Green Lot), having a lemonade stand on 39th Street and playing in the front yard.
Gabe: Riding bikes on Flat Street and our annual Glover Park/Burleith football game at the track.
Both: Summer picnics, the woods, sledding across from the French Embassy.
Q. Now, at your current ages, what are your favorite aspects of living in Burleith?
Addie: Driving up T Street and seeing all the trees.
Both: That it is so quiet here but also so accessible to Georgetown, the Mall, etc., our neighbors.
Q. Is Burleith a “cool” neighborhood?
Addie: No, but that’s not bad.
Q. Have you ever wished you lived in a different neighborhood?
Addie: I used to wish I lived in Glover Park, because there are so many kids there, but now I don’t.
Gabe: I wish there were more kids my age in the neighborhood but I like the location.
Q. What were your most unbelievable moments in the neighborhood?
Both: The fire on T Street. (Note: The fire happened around 2010.)
Jane & Chuck: The fire on T Street and 9/11 and trying to get back to Addie at home with her nanny. Also, owing in large part to the efforts of Burleith community members, the Georgetown 2010 Campus Plan negotiations having such a successful impact on lowering student noise.
Q. What do you think would be different about growing up in one of your parents’ hometowns, Johnson City or New Orleans?
Addie: I think growing up in New Orleans I would have been more sheltered, stymied. I wouldn’t be as extreme in my views.
Gabe: If I lived in Johnson City I’d run away.
Q. What are your particular interests in school?
Addie: English literature and history.
Gabe: Math and the bell at the end of the day.
Q. What are your extracurricular activities?
Addie: Theatre (this year we did Twelve Angry Jurors), choir, and I lead a club dealing with social justice issues like gun violence, mass incarceration, and gender equality. We plan walk outs, protests, and have many conversations about social issues; for example, how to talk to a teacher who is biased or the lack of diversity in AP classes.
Gabe: Baseball. I play on three teams usually either as catcher or at first base.
Q. You both have gone to our local public schools, Stoddert, Hardy, and Wilson. What do you think of those schools?
Both: Good. The DCPS schools are good.
Addie: The curriculums at Hardy and Wilson in the eighth and the eleventh grades are not standard. Not the stuff you’re “supposed to be reading.”
Jane: These curricula look at history and literature from an extremely inclusive perspective.
Q. How do you think these schools have contributed to who you are?
Addie: I think we’re [Addie and Gabe] both very politically aware because of the schools, but also from living in Washington, and from our parents.
Q. Where do most of your friends live?
Both: During the years at Stoddert, friends were from the neighborhood. During Hardy years, friends were from everywhere.
Addie: At Wilson most of my friends live in Chevy Chase.
Q. What do you do with your down time?
Addie: Sleep. I also think of theatre as downtime.
Gabe: I get on a scooter or take a bus to Georgetown. Also to the monuments or the Mall.
Q. What would be a perfect day in Washington?
Addie: Start off at Tryst coffee house in Adams Morgan, hang out on our porch, go to the monuments at night, cook dinner at home with friends.
Gabe: Wake up, go to a diner like Silver, hop on a scooter to the Lincoln Memorial, have dinner at Medium Rare in Cleveland Park, go to a Nats game and come home and have a sleepover with my friends.
Q. What are the things that are important to you?
Addie: Social justice. The 2020 presidential election. I’ll be a first time voter.
Q. Do you have any role models?
Addie: The director of a group I’m a member of, OUDC, Operation Understanding DC. (Note from the OUDC website: “OUDC’s mission is to build a generation of African American and Jewish community leaders who promote respect, understanding, and cooperation while working to eradicate racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.” Each fall OUDC selects African American and Jewish juniors from DC area schools to take part in this one-year (Jan-Dec) leadership program.)
Gabe: Mike Trout. (Note: Trout is a center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels.) He works harder than anybody. Athletes work just as hard to get where they are as anyone does. Also they have really good IQs.
Q. You’re both heading to new schools this fall. What are your thoughts going into these new places?
Addie: I wanted a liberal arts school, one centered around social justice. People at Occidental seem passionate and genuine about that. Also, I thought why not explore a part of the country I wouldn’t normally end up in.
Gabe: I’m excited. Ready for a bigger environment. Start a new chapter. I also want to make varsity baseball my sophomore year.
Q. Do you think someday in the future you would consider coming back to Washington to live?
Addie: I might want to live in New Orleans. But I might come back here.
Gabe: No. I like change. After 22 or 23 years here that would be enough. Things get old quickly.
Q. If you could wave a magic wand and make something change in the world what would it be?
Addie: The obvious answer is something like ending world hunger. But I’d have to think about that.
Gabe: That more people could get more money. Maybe like [presidential candidate] Andrew Yang wants to do. And that I’d be old enough to drive.
P.S. Chuck and Jane have been happy living in Burleith. In fact when they needed more space for two children and after hosting a number of Jane’s Katrina refugee relatives, they never considered leaving the neighborhood and were lucky to find a new house meeting all their needs … across the street. Chuck and Jane are now most grateful for their neighbors, the proximity to their synagogue, and the extraordinary location of Burleith amid commerce, a major university, the French embassy, Ellington field, and Glover Park. Looking down the road, when Addie and Gabe are living elsewhere and it’s time to retire, Jane and Chuck think they’ll travel extensively. But they know Burleith will always be home.