Last weekend I took a trip to Washington, DC that was very inspiring. I know, people are all cynical and depressed from this ridiculous election, but you walk around the mall and the other parts of the nation’s capital and it will make you appreciate what we have, and those who have sacrificed to give it to us. I don’t have time to go into everything I saw but I want to highlight couple of new pieces of artwork (new since the last time I was in DC, eight years ago) because I found them very moving.
First is the FDR Memorial, which I got to see both in the daylight and at night. It is laid out like a series of outdoor rooms that stretch over several acres to tell the story of our longest serving President.
It is also the only memorial to a President that features a First Lady statue, for Eleanor, who was our first ambassador to the United Nations and a highly influential figure in her own right.
I know it’s fashionable in conservative and libertarian circles to parrot lines about how Roosevelt actually prolonged the Great Depression and wasn’t all that he’s made out to be. I’ve parroted more than a few of these lines myself over the years. But I also know that my father was on a boat in the South Pacific when he got the news that FDR was dead and half a century later you could still feel how much it affected him. I still think there is some valid criticism of Franklin’s Administration (try reading The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes) but after watching Ken Burns’ seven documentaries on The Roosevelts (2014) – which you can currently find on Netflix – I can’t help but admire them greatly.
The other new memorial that profoundly moved me was for Martin Luther King. You walk in through a mountain with a stone pull from it.
Then you walk around to find MLK on the other side of that stone, looking out at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial across the water.
To either side of the mountain are walls with quotes from King at different times and places where he fought, peacefully, for his beliefs.
It really made me question what it is that I believe (as if I haven’t done enough of that already this year) and what kind of world I should be working for?
One last thing that I saw, both this time and last, is the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknows in Arlington National Cemetery. They have been performing this same ritual every day, 24 hours a day, since 1937. It’s very touching and I highly recommend that you make the extra effort to cross the river and see it for yourself if you are even in DC.