“I wouldn’t necessarily travel to Washington, D.C. for the fourth of July, but since you’re here it is quite the experience!” This is what the woman at the front desk of our Hampton Inn hotel said when we asked about the possibility of taking in the fireworks show on the National Mall on the 4th of July. She told us she had witnessed the spectacle multiple times and it was something to behold. At this juncture, some twelve hours before I cannot share my opinion, but I am looking forward to building my own experience.
Today America will celebrate it’s two hundred forty-first birthday since the brilliant statesman that gathered in the thirteen colonies decided to form a nation. Say what you will about the current state of the U.S.A., but it seems to have made a very positive impact on our world. Yes, I am 100% an American and believe in what makes my country great.
As we took in the sights of half of the nation’s capital yesterday I cannot deny there is a certain pride and appreciation for what a certain farmer by the name of Washington helped begin. How could he ever have imagined what is known as America now. On our last journey here seven years ago we visited Mount Vernon and while it is impressive there is nothing any more profound about that place than any other. What I mean is he was a great man not for any reason other than he took on an unknown job and did fabulously.
There is other monuments to honor presidents besides the imposing Washington monument, including the Jefferson Memorial, but perhaps the most striking is the Lincoln Memporal. For as much work as Washington, Jefferson and the others put in trying to tie a nation together, one of my favorite chief executives nearly saw it disintegrate during his term.
Abraham Lincoln was another man of few qualifications faced with a task of immense difficulty. Within the Lincoln Memorial the words of the Gettysburg Address and the second inauguration speech are etched into the walls. Everyone understands the lasting and cultural significance of the Gettysburg Address and the emancipation of slaves. But the feelings expressed in the second inaugural address, while the war was not yet decided show just how heavy the burden was on this man’s shoulders.
Politics can be a divisive subject. I am not here to add to that divide. You can choose to like a president or oppose them. That is the beauty of the American dream. Many fine men fought and died for our freedoms. That is commemorated here in the war memorials. We visited the World War Two, Korean and Viet Nam Memorials. There is a certain impact to those that may be heightened due to the fact that this is our nation’s birthday and without their brave sacrifice this whole idea may have been just that.
We also made our way over to catch a glimpse of the presidential residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We were not alone. I can’t remember just how many folks were around when we visited seven years ago, but it seemed there were far more yesterday trying to get their glimpse of the White House. It matters not who is in it when you come, it is the symbol more than a single person that is of interest.
I think another visit we made reinforced the significance of the freedoms we have in our country. We visited the Holocaust Museum, where the atrocities of the Third Reich during the 1930s and 1940s were described in excruciating detail. I am no stranger to this piece of world history, but I found myself wondering if this could happen again. In fact is did in Cambodia in the 1970s as the Khmer Rouge repeated the practice. It also happened in Rwanda in the 1990s. Surely the countries of the world would not let that happen again, right?
As we return to the National Mall to take in other sights, such as the Capitol, library of Congress, the Smithsonian Museums, the huge fireworks show and possibly Arlington Cemetery I am excited to be in our Nation’s Capital. A country is only as good as its people and so far the people I have met in my years here give a great account of the U.S.A.