On the eve of this New Year, it can be said that Ed Strait’s final, great gift to his beloved City of Falls Church was the memorial celebration in honor of his legacy held at the Community Center last Friday. There, the City’s finest assemblage of its greatest community servants and activists over the last 60 years, issued forth the values that not only animated Strait’s life but, through his legacy, the values that best define the identity of our Little City, as well.
They boil down to the simple notion of “Falls Church as His Athens” that Strait brought when he first moved here in 1958 and began his endless involvement in the civic affairs of our community, not the least of which was his three terms on the Falls Church City Council.
In 2007, as we first reported on the occasion of Strait’s passing in mid-November, Strait wrote a piece for the newsletter of one of his pet causes, the Citizens for a Better City (CBC) in which he recalled the roots of his core “Athenian” values.”
It happened when he was called to hastily craft a short 250-word essay to accompany his application to Columbia University as a teenager, Strait recalled. He wrote simply and succinctly about the “Athenian Creed,” a vow that all 17-year-olds were required to take as a condition of their citizenship in Athens at the height of its glory as an enlightened, democratic Greek city state.
The vow was simple, affirming that, “We will strive increasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
Contributing to making a world “greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us” is a high-minded and noble aspiration for a life, and the point for Strait was not only that he resolved to live his life that way, but that in so doing to cause others to do so, as well.
Thus, it was not a matter of his making that vow and keeping it, but instead for all those who admire and celebrate his life to do likewise.
As our community’s independent, locally owned newspaper of record for 22 years now, we enthusiastically sign on to that credo: that it should be our community’s explicit purpose to elicit from among its citizens such a voluntary affirmation and desire to making a world, and community, “greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
Strait never abandoned the idea that Falls Church was “his Athens.” That is his greatest gift to us all. As with Athens, one small city in ancient Greece, it is not the size of Falls Church that determines whether it will be great. It will be its dedication to the Athenian Creed that will define that, both for itself and the world.