Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Conference Logo: A Special Meaning

We knew we would get questions about the conference logo. We didn’t try to trick you, but the logo designer, Chuck Provancher, and the Conference Committee did want to see if you would ask about it! A modern bridge – what does it have to do with genealogy? You have asked and we are explaining.

The Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge that spans the Charles River connecting Boston and Cambridge is
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a part of the “Big Dig” project that is transforming travel in the city of Boston. The Zakim Bridge itself is the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world - 1,457 feet long with towers reaching 270 feet high. The bridge is a terrific example of what can be done through careful planning and analysis, teamwork, and patience.

Ah, sounds like our genealogical research work and also like planning a genealogical conference. But this trivializes the man and the battle for which the bridge was named. The towers reflect the Bunker Hill Monument. The bridge cables are suggestive of a sailing ship like those that brought many of our ancestors to this country. Boston has a long history as a center of shipbuilding.

Lenny Zakim was the Anti-Defamation League's New England Director. In this and other endeavors he sought to build bridges between groups of people no matter their ethnic group or religious conviction. He was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement and a humanitarian and philanthropist who funded projects that helped to teach tolerance, awareness, and racial healing.

He died at age 46 from a brain tumor and during his short life affected many. His goodness was infectious to the down-trodden, the average citizen, politicians, religious leaders, and his efforts were infectious far beyond his own Jewish community and family. The naming of the bridge in his honor reflects the bridges Lenny Zakim built in the community.As Boston Mayor Tom Menino said at the 2002 dedication of the bridge: "The dedication of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge will showcase the diversity and the unity of race, religion and personal background that exists in Boston today because of the work of community leaders like Lenny Zakim and because patriots fought long ago in Charlestown to make our country independent."

In genealogy we do a lot of bridging. We don’t judge our ancestors or fellow genealogists on their ethnicity, religious, political, or other beliefs. We don’t shun each other because of the deeds of an ancestor. Genealogy is a great equalizer. So was Leonard Zakim.

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