‘The time is right’ to honor helpers, says former congressman

Brian Baird, of Edmonds, is working to establish a National Museum and Center for Service in D.C.

Brian Baird, a former congressman who lives in Edmonds, hopes to create a National Museum and Center for Service in Washington, D.C. (Contributed photo)

Brian Baird, a former congressman who lives in Edmonds, hopes to create a National Museum and Center for Service in Washington, D.C. (Contributed photo)

Brian Baird, a former congressman, remembers Lewis County’s devastating floods, including the historic 2007 deluge that closed I-5 for days.

Now living in Edmonds, he recalls going out in a boat with rescuers during those hard times in southwest Washington. In the disaster’s aftermath, he saw people come together — religious and civic groups, American Red Cross volunteers, and those with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It united the community,” said Baird, who represented Washington’s 3rd Congressional District from 1999 to 2011.

Baird, 65, now hopes to recognize all kinds of helpers. He’s spearheading an effort to create a new National Museum and Center for Service in Washington, D.C.

“This can easily take a decade or more, but the time is right now,” he said Tuesday.

A video being used to introduce the project explains the concept: “Our nation has many war memorials and monuments to military service, and that is fitting,” it says. “But there is no signature place in the nation’s capital, or anywhere else in the country, to honor and tell the stories of Americans who give of themselves in other ways to serve our nation and the world.”

Still in its infancy, the project is Baird’s baby. Already, “a really great group” is on board, he said, offering volunteer and pro bono help. A website will soon be launched and non-profit status for a National Museum and Center for Service organization is in progress, he said.

Help has come from the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington; from Olson Kundig, a Seattle-based architectural firm that has done artistic renderings of a possible museum; and from the K&L Gates law firm, Baird said. “They’re stepping up to help. There’s real resonance in the idea.”

His hope is that a museum will be built, or established in an existing facility, at or very near the National Mall.

“That’s where people go,” Baird said. Along with the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the mall has sites honoring those who served and lost their lives in conflicts — the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the National World War II Memorial.

“The military is wonderful,” said Baird, who also wants the new center to be a model for creating state-level museums honoring other types of service. “We haven’t created these places,” he said.

Baird sees the project as complementary to the Biden administration’s Serve America Together effort promoting a year of national service.

In 2017, Baird, a Democrat, teamed up with former Washington Republican Party leader Chris Vance in a push to recruit independent candidates. They were seeking solutions to political gridlock and ideological divisions that keep us from even talking to each other.

While those problems haven’t been solved, Baird sees service as an idea that transcends partisanship.

Recalling those destructive Chehalis River floods, he said, “in an emergency you don’t ask party affiliation.”

“In the past year, with COVID, millions of frontline health care workers have left their homes and gone to work — and 3,000 have died,” said Baird, adding “there will be other pandemics and disasters.”

The introductory video shows images of people handing out food, repairing homes, fighting wildfires, providing medical care and beautifying their communities.

Around the world and at home, Baird has seen people risk their lives to help those in need. He encountered members of Doctors Without Borders in a dangerous zone in Iraq. After a 2009 tour of the Gaza Strip, he told Seattle Met magazine that he’d seen human suffering “shocking and troubling beyond words.”

With a doctorate in clinical psychology, Baird was head of Pacific Lutheran University’s psychology department and was later president of Antioch University Seattle. In the past year, he has done webinars for congressional staff, first in coping with pandemic-related issues, and more recently related to trauma tied to the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.

He imagines a center for service as “an experiential museum,” perhaps using technology to livestream helpers in the field. School groups and other visitors could “learn what it’s like,” he said. “How do you get vaccine across a desert? In an earthquake, how do you transport food?”

Scientists, farmers, even journalists may be among those honored, he said.

Baird recently received a coronavirus vaccine at Arlington Municipal Airport. It was a cold, wet day.

“They were out in the rain, the National Guard, firefighters and other volunteers,” he said. “We have to celebrate that.”

To contact Brian Baird about the National Museum and Center for Service, email brianbaird@nmcfs.org.

Julie Muhlstein: jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com

Talk to us

More in Local News

Josh Otusanya, 27, former Lake Stevens high soccer star turned comedian, has 4.6 million followers on TikTok for his inspirational videos from his family's home. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
A funny local TikToker with 5M followers offers life hacks

Josh Otusanya, a Lake Stevens soccer star turned New York comedian, reinvented himself in his family’s basement.

Crews contracted by the Washington State Department of Transportation for pavement work on the U.S. 2 bridge over the Pilchuck River are set to close one lane this weekend to replace and install expansion joints. (WSDOT)
Backups likely during U.S. 2 bridge work near Snohomish

The Pilchuck River bridge east of Highway 9 will close to one lane with alternating traffic.

Deborah Rumbaugh (left), Jay Jordan (center) and John Boyd are finalists for the Stanwood School District's superintendent position.
Finalists for Stanwood schools chief are coming to town

Each will visit the district this week to meet staff and take part in a virtual community forum.

Herald Street Smarts columnist Ben Watanabe and Edmonds City Councilman Luke Distelhorst tour planned new bike lanes on Bowdoin Way on Tuesday morning in Edmonds. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Edmonds will add more bike lanes, reduce some street parking

The city will use a $1.85 million grant from Sound Transit to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections.

Aquasox's Julio Rodriguez hits a two run homer as the Everett Aquasox beat the Tri-City Dust Devils in a home opening game at Funko Field on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
GALLERY: Aquasox beat Tri-City in home opener

Aquasox’s Julio Rodriguez hits a two run homer as the Everett Aquasox… Continue reading

Jeffrey Phebus is sentenced to over 31 years in prison for the murder of his wife Rebecca Phebus, on Monday, May 10, 2021, at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
‘No words’: Arlington man sentenced for killing wife at work

Jeffery Phebus, 61, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 31⅔ years in prison Monday.

The Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry route will only have one vessel until late June, Washington State Ferries announced after an engine fire on one vessel and ongoing crew shortages. (Emily Gilbert / Whidbey News-Times)
Coupeville ferry route down to one boat through June 27

Another delay in two-boat service means Coupeville ferry riders should expect long waits until June.

The design concept for the public plaza outside the Marysville's new civic center set to debut in spring 2022. (City of Marysville)
Former community hub in Marysville set for demolition

Built in 1949, the Ken Baxter Community Center will be removed to make way for the new civic center.

Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Arlington and local Cub Scouts planted trees at Stormwater Wetland Park on May 1. (City of Arlington)
Scouts, Rotarians collaborate to restore an Arlinton park

Rotary and Cub Scouts plant trees in Arlington Stormwater Wetland Park has… Continue reading

Most Read