Editor’s Note: Pandas and Patriots

Reader's Digest Editor-in-Chief, Liz Vaccariello tells a touching story from her family vacation to Washington, D.C.

Liz VaccarielloPhotographed by Melanie Dunea/CPILiz Vaccariello

I’ve traveled to our nation’s capital a handful of times, and I delight in noticing new things each visit. This spring’s revelation: Pandas poop yellow. In sixth grade, my heart melted at the National Zoo to see Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, the panda bears gifted by China. This time, I was eager to meet Tian Tian and Mei Xiang and passon some panda love to my seven-year-old daughters. Sophia and Olivia were charmed, watching the bears lick their apple ice treats. When Tian Tian stood, walked a few steps, and defecated, the place went crazy.

Early the next morning, we spent a few quiet hours at the National Mall. We walked over to Maya Lin’s haunting Vietnam wall. Sophia struggled to grasp the numbers: “So there are 58,000 people who go to every war?” she asked.

“No, love, 58,000 people died just in the Vietnam War. Many more went, and some came back different.” Sophia started noticing hands. She gazed up at the Lincoln Memorial and saw that our 16th president sits with one hand clenched, one flat. “I think part of him is angry, part of him is calm,” she said. “Like there’s mean, and there’s nice.” Yeah, you gotta be both to be president.

Tian Tian and Mei XiangPallava Bagla/CorbisTian Tian and Mei Xiang

Later, we stood before the Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts six men planting the American flag over Iwo Jima. “Their faces are calm, but look at their hands,” said my husband. “That’s where you see the struggle. Their fingers are gnarled. Their veins are popping out.”

That was our last monument. Sophia picked a dandelion and closed her eyes. “I wish for no more war in this world,” she said, blowing the seeds in a swirl. “And that I can get a panda.”

—Liz, @LizVacc, Liz@rd.com

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.