After driving all over southern Virginia and then southern Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) for the better part of three days, we stayed at a Holiday Inn a block away from the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, which made our enjoyment of the National Mall so much easier.
This is truly one of the great places on the planet. Where else can you see George Washington's camp cook set and one of his dress uniforms, the Flag that flew when the Star Spangled Banner was written, the Magna Carta (one of the originals), the Declaration of Independence (the original), the Constitution (an original) the Bill of Rights (original), the Wright Flyer, Spirit of St. Louis, and the space capsule that went to the moon and back, all without even getting in your car? I have always wondered: how is it that a nation made up of peoples from all over the world, with different and often conflicting religions, cultures, and histories, and even speaking different languages, somehow coheres into one common country that achieves so richly?
I don't really know all the answers to that, except that whatever it is, it resides here, on the National Mall, and in this great city. Here is our narrative, our value statement, our place of common pride, which every person should visit and experience as fully as they possibly can. Because this country, for all of its warts and yahoo idiots that can occupy the halls of government, is truly the wonder of the planet. Here resides the beating heart of freedom, side by side with reverence for the rule of laws made by the people, of the people, and for the people. It is the audacious dream that collective betterment comes by and through freedom, rather than in surpression of it. That implies a lot of individual responsibility to fellow citizens--obligations of civility, fairness, hard work, individuality and self-reliance. There is no question that the phrase "the hard work of democracy" should always have the emphasis placed on the word "hard," but all it takes is one trip to the National Mall to know that it is worth it. Here are some highlights from our trip there.
We started at The Air and Space Museum:
Orville in a replica of the Flyer (Wilbur crashed on the first attempt)
Kate, Alden, Wilbur and Orville
Replica of the Wright Flyer -- gives you a perspective on its size.
Now here are the kids and the Apollo 11 Capsule that went to the moon. How is this for a perspective: just 66 years from the Wright Flyer to setting foot on the moon and returning successfully. If that does not drop your jaw to the floor, then nothing will. Our country is amazing. What can the future possibly hold?
From the Air and Space we went next door to a relatively new addition to the Mall -- the Native American Museum.
The Pottery exhibit they had here was amazing. All from central america -- so colorful and intricate in their art.
This papoose was from the Ute Indian tribe, in our neck of the woods.
From there, it was monuments, monuments and more monuments. First up was a lovely little island in the middle of a pond with exemplars of all the signatures from the Declaration of Independence carved into stone. (Keegan is running around the island in the second photo in this post). From there, it was on to the Vietnam, Lincoln, Korean, Martin Luther King, and World War II memorials.
The Vietnam memorial. I was here when President Reagan dedicated it in 1984. It was a rainy veterans day. We all had to pass through metal detectors, and I have never seen so many guns, knives and handgrenades (I kid you not) in my life. It is quite an experience to be with hundreds of thousands of Vietnam Vets.
Keegan really and truly loves his brother, and nothing makes me happier.
There are very few places I know that feel as much like a temple as this spot does. The reverence and hushed voices that pervade this place are amazing considering all the people that come.
Two great girls in a great place.
The Korean War Memorial is very interesting. Kind of like the Vietnam, only not quite. I did love this quote though:
The MLK memorial is new since I was here last. He really is one of my personal heros. It takes so much to go through what he did and not hate. Just amazing. I didn't really like the likeness of him -- too stern and condemning, in my view, but the monument itself is great. One of my favorite quotes of all time is this one:
Such a handsome, good boy.
Last but not least, we went to the World War II memorial. I love the place they gave it on the Mall, but I am not sure the memorial does justice to that greatest generation. They really need a very talented artist to do something amazing. Hopefully one day. That said, there are some favorite parts, such as the quote Kate stands next to below:
This one was also pretty special for Aldy--he has been in love with aircraft carriers lately, and consequently, has devoured everything he can learn about the battle of Midway. He enjoyed sitting in this spot.
And with that, we ended our first day in the Nation's capital city. More to come.